People hate reading instructions, and will only glance at them after they are already frustrated and behind schedule.

I already bought the thing, and I’m only looking in the manual because I can’t figure out what’s wrong with the non-working piece of junk, so I don’t really want to read a chipper note congratulating me on my purchase.

People hate reading instructions, and will only glance at them after they are already frustrated and behind schedule. Write for busy grouches who want to jump directly to the section that they think will help them solve their specific problem. (Omit the warm and fuzzy introductions.)

This document introduces five basic principles about writing instructions. Any professional writing textbook will have a long section on writing how-to guides, checklists, and manuals, but the basics are:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Provide a brief introduction.
  3. Write each step as a command.
  4. Use numbers for commands, bullets for options.
  5. Plan to test and revise.