1. Make sure that you have read Chapter 14: “Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions” in Practical Strategies for Technical Communication.
2. Find some common object, substance (preferably legal), or tool around the house or wherever for which to complete this assignment.
3. Think of a practical purpose for its safe use by the average consumer. For example: making a particular recipe in an Instant Pot, changing a bicycle tire, using an approved insecticide to kill fire ants, using a charcoal grill to cook steaks, using a blender to make the perfect margarita, making a face mask from an old t-shirt, using a stud finder to locate the best place to hang something. These are just random ideas, but hopefully, you get the point.
4. Create a document of no more than two pages (preferably one page) in which you state the task you are describing and provide step-by-step instructions, being as thorough as possible while keeping it as simple as possible. Keep in mind that the average reading level for the best instructions is about 4th or 5th grade. Depending on geographic region, the average consumer’s first language might not be English.
5. Make your document as attractive and easy to follow as possible. You can use graphics as long as you do so ethically, observing rules of copyright and fair use. Chapter 14 provides some good examples, but feel free to go outside the scope of the book.
6. As best you can, test your instructions to ensure that they are both complete and effective. Inadequate instructions often result in personal liability and even class action lawsuits. Most of a technical writer’s job is to keep her/his employer or client out of court.
7. Proofread your instructions to make sure that they are grammatically correct and that everything is spelled correctly. You don’t have to use complete sentences. Doing so can often bloat a document or make the instructions appear overly complicated. If possible, have a friend or family member (a school-age person is ideal) to look over your document and make suggestions as needed.
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