Copyright

Analyzing Procedural Text Objectives for Clarity

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
The text used in consumer publications can often be confusing! This lesson offers tips to help you clarify, analyze and understand these publications and offers ways to reduce your confusion.

Following Directions

Surely you've heard the old adage to read the directions before starting anything. On a similar note is the sage advice to read the warranty or any other publication before you need it. There's just one problem though.

Sometimes these documents don't make sense!

However, while it is of little comfort when you're trying to get your new TV hooked up to your retro gaming console, companies put a great deal of time and effort into making their technical writing as clear as possible. In fact, some have built an entire business model off of it.

Clear Writing

First of all, make sure that the instructions, whether they be requirements for a warranty or how to install a dishwasher, are as clear as possible. But what does 'clear as possible' mean? It means that the instruction manual's structure, or organization, should be such that it is easy for the consumer to quickly pick up, read, and find a clear answer to their question. After all, you don't want to have to read a novel to put together a TV stand.

Additionally, the tone, or character, of the manual should be straightforward - don't get bogged down in entertaining the consumer. Frankly, the best thing that can be done for the consumer's entertainment is allowing them to complete the project as quickly as possible.

Finally, make sure that the text is accurate, or correct. Nothing can be as frustrating as figuring out the instructions are incorrect so it is best to eliminate opportunities for that to happen.

Technical Terms

Whether they are found in contracts or manuals, technical terms, or language specific to the product, are a necessary evil of consumer writing. As such, they should be treated as what they are - technical terms that your reader may not know. That means that an easy to understand glossary located in the documentation should provide a reference point to help consumers understand what is meant by a specific term in a contract or a specific setting on a remote.

Usability Testing

Finally, companies that are committed to making their procedural text as clear as possible often hire usability testers to walk through each proposed exercise. They do exactly what consumers would have to do, then point out flaws in the existing document so that they may be improved. This means that an unfamiliar set of eyes is able to check for clarity and understanding before the document ever reaches a consumer.

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