A Guide to Writing Instructional Texts
This piece teaches you the ins and outs of writing a how-to essay, a skill that will serve you well in practically any career path and earn you money regardless of your work type. I’ve made a solid living for decades by showing others how to do things, but I’ve never seen a compilation of all the components of a good how-to before. Instead, I analyzed the most well-known, efficient, and fruitful cases to develop this concise set of guidelines. It takes cues from subtle sales tactics, applied psychology, and the design principles behind massively successful products from firms like Apple and Microsoft.
Guarantee Something. Bring it on. Define Its Meaning
Your English professor probably isn’t a well-paid writer for a reason. No one’s time would be wasted listening to her ramble on. Preparing your audience by outlining, delivering, and summarizing your remarks. Bull. I’ll tell you what you ought to do.
Tell them you will make their lives better, and explain how.
Exhibit something to them methodically.
Please explain it to them.
Promising to better their lives and detailing how you plan to do so
A “how to” article promises a solution to an unpleasant problem. You may tell your audience that you’ll be helping them construct a self-managed website in minutes rather than explaining how to install WordPress.
Don’t Make It Any Longer Than Necessary
Make sure your how-to is as brief as feasible. Do not treat your job as though you were paid per word, no matter what your compensation structure is. Today’s busy society leaves no room for leisure activities. Quickly and thoroughly find a solution to the situation. Use short, powerful sentences and avoid unnecessary punctuation. Use simpler language. Your English professor praised them. It only makes your audience more agitated.
Take the 5-Step Rule.
The average person’s memory can only hold about five items. Group your writing into threes, fives, or sevens. You should probably rethink the order if you need to complete more than seven steps in a sequence or remember.
Get the Sale Going
Please do not assume they are aware of their arrival. If a visitor was referred to this page, they should be given some context on what they may expect to learn and why it’s a good thing inside the first paragraph. You could assume they’re up to no good just by their presence. You’re mistaken. They could have followed a link from a friend or colleague. They may have received a printed document from their superior and be at a loss regarding how to proceed.
Encourage people to read your words by making them feel good about it. That starts with putting people at ease in the first paragraph; if they’re questioning why they’re even reading this, they won’t relax. Good salespeople are known for not trying to force their wares on customers but rather for helping them understand the issue and how their solution may help. And nowadays, everyone is in sales in some capacity. Branding yourself and your company is something that requires constant attention.
Before you begin writing, list the steps you need to cover. Then, repeat the steps yourself and include any information you missed. Introduce each section by briefly outlining the key points and demonstrating how they relate to the theme. Separate the instructions into manageable chunks.
Shots Fired…to The Brain.
You can trust bullets. Whenever possible, use a heading. These days, hardly anyone reads a book. The scan. (By the way, today’s usage of the word “scan” is the exact opposite of its original meaning. In the past, it meant taking in whatever a document or book had to provide, much like a scanner. But that’s not how it’s used, so I’m going with the flow begrudgingly. Without realizing it, readers will skim from headline to headline before getting to the content.
Your writing instructor likely intended you to produce a massive wall of text with little to no organization. One hundred and fifty years ago, made Dickens, very wealthy, joined the modern world. Headings (a line of text set apart from the material using a different size, typeface, or style) allow the reader to skip over the fluff and get to the meat of the topic more quickly.
An example of a heading’s use follows. You should use a title and anything from a sentence to a paragraph to summarize your idea whenever it stands on its own. Depending on how challenging the topic is, you may also want to explain how your reader will benefit from understanding it. Word processors and online document editors like Google Docs typically provide a menu option for selecting different levels of headings. Don’t hesitate to put them to use. When written for the web, they are usually transformed into HTML instructions. Both search engines and human readers will benefit from these guidelines.
There is a simple rule for employing bullets, but almost no one follows it. Use one for each stage or major idea. To avoid the following three-part explanation:
Toss the carrot gratings into water that has been brought to a boil.
You would outline the process in the conventional order:
Get some water to boil.
Chop the carrots finely.
Submerge them in hot water.
Bullets, like headers, help readers keep ideas organized in their heads. Readers can skip right to the bullet points when they need to return to your writing because they didn’t grasp something. They can preserve their mental stamina for the task if you don’t make them read a lot to find their spot.
3. Explain its significance to them
This is perhaps the only thing I’ve ever written that’s genuinely original. Your instructor was incorrect in his or her summary. What you say shouldn’t be repeated in the summary. Of course, they understand what you said; they read it! Instead, it should explain what they learned and how it will improve their life. Therefore, it must detail how you fulfilled your original assurance. That’s not easy.
It’s simplistic to declare, “We’ve learned how to install WordPress on your website, write blog posts, and create pages.” Say something like, “It’s simply not feasible for a single person to build and manage a sophisticated website from the start. WordPress takes care of all the work, making it as simple as using a word processor to add anything from a blog post to an entirely new section. There’s always more to discover, but these articles gave you a head start on creating a professional website in a day or less. Please update it periodically for security reasons, and read on for our further articles on creating an event calendar and backups to ensure that you never experience the devastating loss of data at an inopportune moment.
Everything, from user guides to sales collateral to a website touting your expertise, must be explained in today’s complicated environment. The written word is more vital than ever, and the same ideas may be used to learning via videos. The structure, the promise, and the delivery are the same regardless of the medium.
In that regard:
Use a summary at the beginning, subheadings, bullet points, and short, declarative sentences to make your point. If you stick to those guidelines, you can’t go wrong with your how-to article. What’s more, your next potential employer will see undeniable evidence in your work that you are an expert in your subject and can write a how-to guide better than anyone else.
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