Creating Simple Instructions

In the workplace, experienced employees are subject matter experts at what they do, and they are often called upon to provide help or training to new employees or colleagues from other departments. For example, a human resources generalist might need to show colleagues how to change their health care benefits, an office manager might need to show employees how to clear a paper jam from a copier, or a supervisor might need to show direct reports how to set performance goals and enter them using a new software program. In such cases, it is often more efficient to create instructional documentation to show people what to do rather than to provide individualized assistance repeatedly.

For this assignment, you will create a brief set of instructions to perform a simple workplace task that you are familiar with but that most people know little about. Ideally, these instructions will be based on a task that is relevant either to your current career or to the career you are pursuing. In addition to the examples shown above, here are a few more ideas.

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· How to safely operate an important device or piece of equipment

· How to download, install, or use a certain type of software that your company uses

· How to navigate a complicated website or program to locate an important resource

There are numerous possibilities for this assignment. Your choice will most likely reflect either your past, current, or future occupation. If you have military experience, you may choose to create instructions for a duty you perform regularly. If you are computer programmer, you may provide instructions on how to debug a program. If you are an engineer, you may show how a device you designed should be operated correctly.

How to Create Useful Instructions

Generally speaking, it is better to show people how to do something rather than just tell them. As such, effective instructions are highly visual. A side benefit of making your instructions visually oriented is that you’ll have less writing to do. Here are two ways to create engaging, visually appealing instructions.

1. Screenshots: Screenshots are especially useful when showing someone how to perform a software or programming task using a screen. Take one screenshot for each step of the task, and then provide a brief caption, such as “Next, click on ….”.

2. Photos: Photos are great for instructions related to operating equipment or devices. As above, take one photo for each step in the task, and provide a brief written description, such as “Next, push the blue button that says….”.

Formatting and Length Requirements

You may format your instructions using either a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, or a presentation software, such as PowerPoint. The assignment should consist of between 6 to 10 steps. If the assignment is submitted in Word, it should be about two to three pages long, including the screenshots or photos. If the assignment is submitted in PowerPoint, it should be between 6 to 10 slides long.

See the Assignment Connection in this week’s lesson for more tips and advice.

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