Have you been given the task of writing a manual for your employer or about a machine, but you have no idea how to go about it? Then read on in this article about the steps you need to take when writing superb work instructions.
Step 1: Determine your target audience.
Ask yourself the question: who is this guide intended for? It makes a difference whether your manual is intended for experienced, highly educated users or for less educated or new readers. The first group will use the manual primarily as a reference for problems. In a case like this, not all concepts and functions need to be explained in detail. In the case of less-educated or new readers, additional explanations may be useful. A target group analysis is therefore a wise thing to do.
Step 2: Determine the structure of your instruction manual.
A reader of a manual wants to be helped quickly and is therefore very impatient. So, apply a clear structure to the manual. This can be done in several ways.
For example, you need to make sure that the main layout of the manual is logical and thoughtful. The information that belongs together should be together. In addition, use headings and subheadings with relevant titles.
A headline is nothing more than a brief summary of the text that comes after it, making it easy for the reader to scan a page and see if it is relevant to them.
In addition, it is also wise to make references within the text if, for example, more information can be found elsewhere in the manual.
Step 3: Formulate the text.
How will you write the text? Which way is appropriate? It is recommended to write the texts in an active way. That is what makes texts clearer. So the imperative is the way to go. If you choose a different form, it will cause ambiguity.
If you write: ‘The lock is released by entering the correct code and by pulling it loose,’ the reader doesn’t know whether to pull the lock himself or whether the device does this. Do you write: ‘Type in the code and then pull the lock loose.’ This way it is immediately clear that the reader must perform these actions himself.
Step 5: Double-check your work.
After you’ve completed writing, go through your copy to see if there are any possibilities to cut out unnecessary words, clarify difficult phrases, or increase readability. Here are a few tips:
Correctly abbreviate: On the first usage, spell out complicated terms and include abbreviations in parentheses next to the first phrase. The abbreviation may then be used throughout the document.
Assemble a glossary: Consider including a link to a glossary of terms if you frequently use acronyms.
Last but not least, put your plan to the test.
Finally, assess the effectiveness of your task instructions before distributing them to the rest of the organization. Ask a colleague or employee to follow the instructions and perform the task. This exercise will reveal any instructions that need clarification. Observe and take notes on how your colleague performs the task so you can edit the document afterward.
Begin implementing the instructions in the corresponding SOPs and work orders once you have determined that they are easy to read and follow.