Instructions are a step-by-step explanation of how to do something; they make difficult tasks easier to understand. It may seem that writing instructions woule be easy, especially when writing about a task you are already familiar with. In actuality, writing instructions can be a very difficult and overwhelming task once you get started. Extreme preparation and maintaining your focus is of utmost importance in writing instructions. Make sure you stay on target and pay attention to detail, including everything, even menial steps. Do not assume your reader knows anything about the subject, unless instructed. It's always better to have too many steps, than not enough.

Types of Instructions

Sample Documents

How to use MS Word's Track Changes - Shyla 1 Tzvetin 1

Instructions Checklist

In-Class Exercise

  1. Create an outline for instructions on how to make a pot of iced tea. This is just an outline, specific details are not needed. Be sure to include how much water and how many tea bags to use.
  2. Bring in an example of instructions and critique it. Include in your critique the high and low points of the instructions, and if the Instructions checklist has been followed. If there are points in the checklist that have not been addressed be sure to include them, as well as an example of how they could have included the missed point(s).

Sources and Links

Writing instructions (Technical communication)
by Sue Mehlich

Successful technical writing;: Technical articles, papers, reports, instruction and training manuals, and books
by Tyler Gregory Hicks
Provides examples of written instructions

Creating Technical Manuals: A Step-By-Step Approach to Writing User-Friendly Instructions
by Gerald & Cunningham, Donald H. Cohen

Online Technical Writing: Instructions

Introduces five basic principles to address when writing Instructions

Interactive site on writing instructions providing quizzes and examples

How to write clear instructions

A guide to writing instructions with an instruction checklist


For more examples of in-class exercises see: