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Tip -- Be SPECIFIC when Writing Step by Step Instructions

If your goal is writing policies and procedures that get read and used, pay special attention when writing step by step instructions. Tell the reader exactly what to do when you give instructions. Do not assume that your readers will know what you mean. Chances are they won’t. Vague instructions only confuse and frustrate people. For best results, provide a verifiable outcome right in the step instruction.


Poor: Stir the solution until thoroughly mixed. (What does “thoroughly mixed” mean?)
Instead be specific: Stir the solution for 2 or 3 minutes. Or, Stir the solution until no powder remains at the bottom of the flask.

Also, be sure to include quantities and measurements in the instructions.

For example:
  • Don’t just say “Cut a long piece of rope.” Say, “Cut a 12 foot piece of rope.”
  • Don’t say “Add sugar.” Say “Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.”

For more tips, check out our other Writing Tips Posts and our webinar series.