Deciding how and when to repeat information is a common problem people face when writing policies and procedures. Obviously, being concise is important. Repeating detailed information throughout your content increases the length of your employee manuals and makes updates more difficult. However, judicious repetition is necessary to emphasize important facts, instructions, and warnings and improve clarity and results. It’s a dilemma.
How do you know when you should repeat information when writing policies and procedures manuals and when you are just being redundant?
Start by asking yourself some basic questions:
Is the task dangerous or risky? If so, it is wisest to repeat warnings and repeat detailed step-by-step instructions wherever they apply to ensure the reader does not miss them.
What is the procedure or manual's main purpose—to instruct, summarize, or describe in detail for quick reference? Most quick‑reference manuals work best by employing cross‑referencing to other sections instead of repeating discussions.
How many different levels of readers will use the procedure? Repeating some information may be necessary for each audience if the procedure is geared toward multiple audiences. Keep in mind that you may have to cover the same information in different ways for different audience levels. For example, some readers may require more detail, while others just need a summary. Providing “drilldown” access to detail is a good way to serve multiple audience’s needs effectively.
One of the best ways to avoid repetition and still provide the right level of information for multiple audiences is to use hyper-linked cross-referencing that provides “drill down” information access.
Cross-referencing can be very challenging using MS WORD or most Web authoring tools. Maintaining document links can become a nightmare. Zavanta software makes content cross-referencing and maintenance simple. Zavanta’s built-in structure helps you get the best of both worlds: content that is concise and easy to maintain as well as clear and adequately detailed.