Information on Technical Communication

 Reader Analysis
 Formal Report
 Analytical Report
 Typography Hints
 Instruction Basics
 Memo Format
 Oral Report
 Progress Reports
 Letter of Application
 Simple HTML

Instructions Basics

The basics for putting together an effective set of instructions include these:

  • Know your information well
  • Consider audience (motivation, age, educational background, etc)
  • Include preparatory steps
  • Describe equipment and supplies
  • Include warnings and/or cautions
  • Use a logical sequence of steps
  • All the paradigms regarding technical documentation of that other communication applies as well. You should know your audience and make the document accessible to them. You should use graphics, white space, type sizes, and fonts that make your document easy to read. Be sure to use visuals in situations that warrant visual over verbal information.

    Remember that instructions shape attitudes about a task, so the tone you use, the visuals you incorporate, and the visual design of this document will be very important.

    The conventional structure of a set of instructions breaks down into these areas:

  • introduction


    -aim- purpose or outcome of the procedure

    -intended readers



    -usage- how to use the instructions

    -motivation- why readers should use these

    -background- helpful or necessary info

  • description of equipment/forms etc. -Be specific, detailed, and accurate. -Visuals may help guide your readers.

  • theory of operation Knowing why something operates as it does or how equipment works can be helpful to a reader who is unfamiliar with the procedure. For example, explaining how a pick and roll functions in basketball can help the learner understand how to use the pick by driving close by while going to the basket.

  • list of materials and equipment Include cleanup materials, safety equipment (money for food during the registration process) etc.

  • directions

    -Present the steps in a list.

    -Give one step per entry.

    -Use headings and titles to indicate the overall structure of the instructions.

    -Use active voice and imperative mood.

    -Use illustrations to show where things are, how to perform steps, what should result, and to identify equipment and supplies.

    -Place warnings where readers will see them before performing pertinent steps.

  • guide to troubleshooting

    -Tell your readers what to do in case of a mistake or unexpected result.

    -Where alternate steps are possible, help your readers quickly find the one(s) they want.

    -Provide enough detail for your readers to do everything they must do. (Assume they know nothing.)