Procedural Writing: Ideas & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Procedural Writing?
  • 0:46 When to Use Procedural…
  • 1:21 Parts of a Procedure
  • 3:01 Procedural Writing Example
  • 4:14 Writing Prompts
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cheryl Wells
In this lesson, you'll review procedure topics, determine when to write a procedure, identify the parts of a procedure, and view an example of procedural writing.

What Is Procedural Writing?

Have you saved a computer file or followed a recipe? Then you've probably used a written procedure. A procedure is an established way of doing something. Whenever you read how-to guides or follow step-by-step instructions, you're using procedural writing. Using procedural writing helps you accomplish a goal; it gives instructions for completing both common and complex goals.

Some topics that lend themselves to procedural writing include:

  • Directions: driving directions to the airport
  • Recipes: how to bake chocolate chip cookies
  • Standard Operating Procedures: how to handle a refund
  • Online Help: how to track document changes
  • Technology Manuals: how to use your cell phone
  • Science Projects: how to make a paperclip float

When to Use Procedural Writing

Not every task needs a procedure. A simple process may not need a procedure, but if the process is complex, requires consistency, contains lots of steps, or there are many opportunities for error, consider writing a procedure.

It's a good practice to write a procedure when:

  • Readers want or need to know how to complete a process
  • The process contains many steps
  • Consistency is necessary for success
  • Deviating from the procedure creates safety problems or serious consequences
  • People ask the same questions repeatedly

Parts of a Procedure

Before you begin to write, think about what readers really need to know. Use a blank piece of paper or a worksheet to list the essential items for your procedure.

All procedures should have the following:

Title: The name of the process you plan to explain.

Purpose: The thing you want readers to be able to do once they finish reading. You can think of this as the goal of the procedure. For example, do you want users to know how to make a smoothie, bake a cake, install a new app, or create an Excel worksheet?

Audience: The group of people you are writing for. Be sure to write in a way that matches your audience's reading level. Think about what they already know about the topic and what they need to know. Be sure to take advantage of your audience's prior knowledge and start your explanation without repeating what they already know.

Materials: The equipment, ingredients, and tools necessary to complete the procedure. For example, if you're explaining how to bake chocolate chip cookies, you'll list chocolate morsels, flour, sugar, an oven, etc.

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