Your purpose is what you hope to achieve by writing your document. Keeping your purpose in front of you as you organize, write and revise helps you focus and make decisions about what to put into the document and what to leave out.
Inform and explain -- The reader knows something after reading this document. This is the sharing of information.
- Provide or request information
- Explain decisions or actions
- Document events, results, actions, decisions, etc.
- Plan or evaluate performance
- Communicate policies
Instruct – The reader knows how to do something after reading this document. This is instructional.
- Use numbers for a series of steps; otherwise, use bullets
- Use imperative sentences for action steps
- Write one action per step
- Identify main steps and provide detail in sub-steps
- Identify the person who will perform the step if other than the reader
- Start conditional steps with “If” or “When”
- Use bold and/or all caps for conditional steps that are critical or safety issues
- Limit branching, cross-references, or hyperlinks to action steps
- Test the steps with end users
Persuasion – The reader is persuaded to do something after reading this document. This is persuasion.
- Grab the reader’s attention
- State the reader’s need, desire or problem that you can meet or solve.
- Stress benefits, not features, to appeal to the reader’s self-interest
- Rely on facts, statistics and authorities to prove your case.
- Tell the reader what to do and why they should do it now
- Anticipate and answer the reader’s questions and objections
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