Writing Non-Technical "How-To" Documents, Reports, or Manuals to Give Advice
This section is not on writing about how to operate your VCR, or how to use your washing machine, or even how to make lemon pie. Nor is it on how to use the photocopier at work. But rather, deals with how to write some of the more intangible types of "How-To" reports and advice such as writing about how to make quality home videos, how to make sure your clothes are washed well, how to become a good baker, or how to delegate effectively so that you do not have to photocopy.
Include many useful pointers in the advice manual. What seems to be particularly effective in writing "how-to" reports that give your advice is to talk about and explain as many points and techniques as possible. For example, the articles in this website have aimed to pack each page with advice and just a little bit of mumble jumble. The articles in this website have aimed to do the same. Therefore, try to keep the mumble jumble to a minimum, but at the same time, you must elaborate enough and give examples to clarify and solidify the concept.
Choose high-quality advice for the manual. Of course, in your aim to provide as many points as possible when giving advice, try only to provide points and techniques that will really make a difference. Sometimes, you may need to be more explicit and explain points more if you are writing a more introductory type of article. At those times, you do need to be comprehensive and include many points. However, still try to include only useful information.
Do not provide advice that will not produce useful results and effects. Everything you write should be something that you would really like to pass along to others, not something that you write just because you have to. In other words, speak from the heart. Speak from the soul. These are points that should you feel strongly about, and that you would like to tell the world. In other words, do not be afraid to be brief. If you would like to just say a few words, then just say a few words. There is no obligation to say more than you really have to. Spend some time weeding out all those extraneous details that will not enhance the outcome after someone reads it.
This note would also be relevant when you are at working and sharing pointers to your coworkers. Often, people at work just want a simple explanation and description of what to do and how to do it, and not some long-winded advice that is taking up everyone's time and not being productive.
Carefully consider the presentation style for your advice. Choose the most appropriate format to lay out your information. If you are writing a report for work, you may have no choice but to follow the guidelines and regulations. However, if you are just writing a normal piece of information for some friends to read, or for your students to read, there is nothing wrong with providing them a table, a bulleted list of items, or even a diagram. Not every "how-to" document needs to be comprised of neat little sentences and paragraphs. So, do take the time to think about which way to present your material in a way that will be best absorbed by others.
Divide your instructional advice guide into digestible sections. Each piece of advice you choose should have the property of being able to summarize them in simple phrases or sentences. Perhaps divide your document into simple phrases and subtopics. Italicize them or make them stand out in some way. Another way to do this is to summarize all the main ideas at the end of a document, as we have done here in the set of life skills articles on this website. In other words, you are essentially giving a theme to each paragraph or each section of your report. This makes it much easier to retain, use, or to review the information later on.
"How-to" documents, reports, or manuals can serve an immense purpose to the reader. They can gain much helpful advice. However, only if the information is carefully chosen and presented, will the reader really benefit from it.
In summary, to write useful "how-to" documents, reports, or manuals with advice that people will come back to revisit, remember to:
A. Include many useful pointers.
B. Choose high-quality advice.
C. Carefully consider your presentation style.
D. Divide your advice guide into digestible sections.
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