How to make work instructions compelling

You’ve got process that workers need to perform or a product that people need to use, so you have been tasked with making it easier for them. The usual approach is pretty straightforward: provide clear instructions and let people know what they are supposed to be doing. But just because you’re able to write down the steps doesn’t mean they are easy for your readers to follow and understand. If you want your work instructions to be successful, check out these tips on how best to put together a set of simple, concise and compelling directions that will help your customers get the job done effortlessly.

Two people writing compelling work instructions

Write for the person who is going to read your instructions for the first time to make it compelling for them

When you’re writing instructions, the person who’s going to read them is going to be someone who’s never used your product or service before and will need clear instructions on how to use it.

Use short sentences and words to make your work instructions easy to understand

The most common mistake people make when writing instructions is using long, complicated sentences that end up being confusing and difficult to understand. There’s an old saying that goes, “Don’t use long words to say simple things,” and it’s true.

Sometimes we want to say something immediately without outlining thoroughly: For example, let’s say you want to write down all the steps a new runner must do to get ready for a race. Using short, simple sentences gives the reader immediate, actionable advice, which they can quickly apply to their running.

For example, “Run two miles every day for three months to build endurance and strength.”

That might sound simple, but it’s extremely difficult to understand because it has lots of moving parts. You don’t see one step right away: How do you know to “build endurance and strength?” There are a lot of details.

Use pictures, graphics, and charts without overwhelming your reader with extra stuff that they don’t need to know yet

It’s important to use pictures, graphics, and charts to help your reader understand what’s happening in your story. You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with too much information, but you also don’t want to leave out any vital details that will make your story make sense.

Even a well-constructed table of contents or chapter headings is helpful for this.

Be thoughtful on what should and shouldn’t be included to make your work instructions compelling

Leave some steps out of the instructions if you think it is going to confuse people more than help them get started right away, not knowing what you are talking about or how it works yet.

When it comes to instructions, it’s best to give people the right amount of information so they can finish the job. You don’t want to give people too much information because then it could be confusing for them.