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Writing Instructions Manuals Writing for Industry Shannon Phillips
Introduction In the workplace, you will find times when you are asked to develop a process, or set of instructions, to improve productivity or to describe a process to a new employee. The most common process descriptions will relate to • troubleshooting an issue • constructing or creating a piece of machinery or product • performing a crucial function • Conceptualizing or representing how to improve productivity within the organizational structure. The location of activities or concepts will change from assignment to assignment, and a writer must be ready to accommodate any audience in a short amount of time.
Introduction (cont.) The next paper will be an instructions manual. Pick a process that relates to your major. • For example, if your are a telecommunications major, your could describe the purpose behind and how to process about setting the tones on a Nokia cell phone. Think about that narrowing process: Subject: Telecommunications Topic: Cell phones Narrowed Topic: Nokia Cell phone functions Final Topic: How to set the tones on a Nokia cell phone
Brainstorming Brainstorm a process within your field about which you would like to write. Try to narrow quickly and get to the details by using multiple brainstorming techniques. Brainstorm the details, not just the broad topics.
Your Background with Instructions Manuals Think for a moment about what you like to see in an instruction manual if you were browsing for one in the library, bookstore, or in your shop. • State three items you like to see in a manual. • Why do those items matter? • Do the best manuals provide instructions, specifications, or visuals? • What qualities are the best and for what purpose?
Outlining When you have come down on a topic, begin to outline the process, using a formal outline approach (Roman numerals, letters, and numbers ). When it comes to structure, consider the large process and the many tasks the entire process involves. These terms often become the headings for the body of the paper, or the content.
Instructions Manual Sections Use the following sections to set up the structure of the instructions manual. • Title Page (Regular APA Title Page) • Table of Contents • Abstract • Introduction • Background • Equipment and Supplies • Content/Discussion of Steps (revise this heading to reflect the content) • Conclusion
Table of Contents The Table of Contents cites the section and number of the information. If the paper contains subheadings (usually found in the content section), then the subheadings are indented and entered into the document, too.
Abstract The abstract of a paper is a brief overview of what the paper will discuss. The abstract is similar in nature to the introduction, but it contains a few major details from the paper and any significant points or research items about which the audience should be thinking before reading the paper.
Introduction Section • Subject or focus of the instructions: What is being explained in the manual (Purpose and Thesis) • Task/Product Description: Brief description of the task or product discussed in the paper • Audience: Indicate prerequisite skills or knowledge • Overview/Objectives: Description/listing of the contents (e.g., refer to headings)
Background Section The background section clues in the audience as to the purpose and need for the paper. • Think about why this particular paper would need to be written. • What does this manual offer that others do not? • What background information, or prerequisite skills, should the reader have before trying to complete the task?
Equipment and Supplies Section Listing, description and pictures of • Equipment: Tools or machinery, including specs on the materials (e.g., size, gauge, etc.) • Supplies: Consumable/Non reusable products that
Content/Discussion of Steps Section Write in an imperative writing style: “You” understood commands are acceptable in the steps being performed , but not in the introduction, background, equipment and supplies, any narrative areas, or the conclusion. For example, you may use the following description in the steps • Press the Record button and speak into the microphone to record your message. • Release when finished.
Content/Discussion of Steps Section (cont.) • Frequency of Task: Will the task be performed once or daily to get the most out of the product? • Supplemental Information • Special Notices: Notes, warnings, caution, and danger statements may be provided in a specific section prior to the discussion of steps or in the steps. Be sure not to interrupt the flow of the reading with warnings too often. The Notes or warnings will lose their emphasis if overused.
Graphics: Used to enhance instructions. Illustrations do not take the place of written descriptions, require numeric and verbal headings/descriptors Format: Consider how to use white space, format diagrams or charts, and whether to use paragraphs, lists or both Headings: Section/task specific, action (verb) and object (noun) oriented (i.e., Measuring ) Content Formatting White Space and Illustrations
Conclusion Section The conclusion should, again, bring together the information offered in the instructions manual. • Offer the reader a sense of accomplishment. • Direct them to other resources that would help them get a more complete or advanced understanding of the product or concept from the paper. • Remember to cite the sources in APA style in the text and in the Reference page. See the APA section in Raimes to see how to cite the sources, 134-70.
Get Started Use the questions from this presentation to begin writing your instructions manual. Also see the Writing Instructions page to help pace the assignments. Open up an APA template, and place the section headings into the paper and begin writing.