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How to Write Clear Procedural Messages

Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

A procedural message is meant to tell employees how to complete something. It is composed of clear step-by-step instructions that end in a result - but writing a procedure does require a bit of skill.

Procedural Message

Imagine you are the only person who shows up to work after a snowstorm. Let's make it a little more complicated. The server is not working either.

Luckily for you, there is a large manual labeled, How To Restart The Server, sitting right next to the abandoned IT Director's desk.

Opening to page one, you notice that the manual is written in paragraphs, using words that have no vowels. There are several acronyms and even a few charts and graphs.

Nothing makes sense. This gets you thinking about a better way.

Viola! It's time to gather up the IT team and write a procedural message to all key staff. This is written to explain how to complete a task or process in a step-by-step format.

There are several reasons we write procedural messages:

  • Complicated tasks
  • Lengthy tasks
  • Tasks that need to be strictly followed
  • Documentation is necessary
  • Tasks are being done several different ways

A good rule of thumb for knowing when a procedural message is needed - employee feedback.

If employees ask the same questions over and over again, it may be time to put the steps in writing. The same applies for making the same mistakes continually. A detailed, easy to follow procedure needs to me drafted.

So, where to begin?

Steps to Writing a Procedural Message

Writing a procedural message can be tricky. Written in vague terms, people will be lost. In terms that are too specific, well, it may be a challenge to follow each and every step.

So, a well-balanced list of steps is probably best, while considering what employees need to know in order to complete the task.

The last thing you want to do is to explain how to build a watch, when all they need to know is how to tell time.

Here are the key steps.

Step 1: Gather information from

  • Key people in the company
  • Technical staff
  • End users

Step 2: Start drafting the procedure

  • Use easy to understand language
  • Bullets work better than paragraphs
  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Avoid using slang
  • Use an active voice

Step 3: Choose the best design element

  • A Flowchart is a diagram on how to perform a task
  • A Script Style lists the players and their roles or responsibilities
  • Question and Answer Format provides answers to frequently asked questions

So these are the steps you should follow. Now let's look at how to actually create a procedural message.

Procedural Message Example and Tips

Suppose we are writing a procedural message on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I think a flowchart will work best.

Step 1: Gather supplies as follows:

a. 2 slices of white bread

b. 2 tablespoons peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

c. 2 tablespoons grape jelly

d. 1 plate, round

e. 1 butter knife

f. 2 sheets of paper towel

Okay, so I believe we have everything we need to construct the sandwich.

Step 2: Begin production by:

1. Place one slice on bread on plate

2. Using butter knife, spread peanut butter on bread surface covering entire slice of bread

3. Wipe butter knife clean with paper towels

4. Using butter knife, spread jelly over peanut butter covering the peanut butter completely

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