6 tips to quickly write a good instruction


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What is good instruction? One that is used ... That sounds easy, but can be quite difficult. Especially if the writer knows a lot about the subject, there is a great temptation to transfer as much knowledge as possible. That makes it difficult for the reader to know what to do, especially in case of urgent malfunctions or problems.

That is why we will give you 6 tips to quickly write an instruction manual that is immediately applicable to solve unwanted situations. For example, a malfunction in an installation, quality deviation of the product or a problem with automation (“The start-up malfunctions again in step 21!”).

1 – Pick a good title

The title is the first thing that is visible. The title indicates to the reader in which situation the instruction is relevant and must be carried out. So describe that situation. Clear and concise.

A good example: Startup gets stuck in step 21.

A bad example: A detailed description of the start-up procedure and possible causes of problems that may arise.

2 – Step-by-step

Describe the actions to be performed as a numbered list. This helps the reader to output and communicate to colleagues: "I'm at step 3!".

3 – First: check!

It is often not immediately clear what the solution is to an undesirable situation. The instruction then starts with a number of checkpoints: are the setpoints set correctly? Are the guides clean? Is the tray against the stop?

Depending on the expected basics, these checkpoints do not need to be further specified: the reader can then hit their forehead with the palm of their hand, think "Oh yes, of course!", And solve the problem without anyone noticing. A reference to another instruction or series of actions is of course also possible.

4 – Then: adjustments?

If the verification steps were completed and all were correct, the reader may need to make adjustments. Describe as concretely as possible "what" must be adjusted and "how", i.e. which actions must be performed. You can also describe why this is necessary, but keep it as short as possible!

That "how" requires some explanation: which increments? How far? How do I determine the effect of the adjustment? So, give more information here, but in a concise way: “Increase the temperature in steps of 5 °C to a maximum of 90 °C. Check the density after each step and stop when it reaches target value. ”.

5 – Finally: the why

The explanation, motivation and background information is very important to make the difference between "teaching monkeys a trick" and teaching the reader something valuable about the operation and principle of the process. But only give this knowledge at the end: first the checkpoints and actions so that the situation is under control, and then the explanation.

6 – KISS

"Keep It Short and Simple". Keep the instruction short, specific and simple. This is more difficult than it looks!

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain

It forces the writer to think very carefully and concretely and exposes the difficulty of the undesirable situation. And that is exactly why the reader needs an instruction, otherwise he would have solved it himself.

Of course it is advisable to write the instruction together with the reader. Are the steps clear and doable? Are there still steps missing? Is the order correct? If the reader can apply it directly the first time, it is a good instruction!

With these 6 tips, hopefully it will take less time for both the writer and the reader to create good instructions!

Would you rather get help? You can!

Contact us for more information  and we'll look at how we can help you get knowledge out of the heads of experts!