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Instructions, Definitions, & Descriptions

"How is this done? How can I do this?"-- These questions guide authors as they describe processes. Learn how to write instructions and processes so that readers know how to do something or understand how something is done. By viewing sample process texts, note the focus on the objective voice, numbered steps, visual rhetoric, and clever animations or video. Write a descriptive or prescriptive process report.

There are three types of process texts:

  1. Descriptive processes answer "How is this done?" These texts describe how a process occurs so that readers can understand it better.
  2. Prescriptive processes are instructions; they explain "How can I do this?" In other words, they prescribe how something should be done so that readers can do it.

Instruction Manuals

Many people associate instruction manuals with appliances, computer accessories, and products that require assembly (e.g., furniture). Because we don’t find ourselves using them regularly or we come to expect them only in certain contexts, it is easy to forget how important they are. The quality of a well-designed instruction manual may go unnoticed. Yet, when we encounter frustration with putting together a bookshelf or toy, or with trying to figure out how to change or activate a particular appliance setting, the significance of a well-designed instruction manual becomes clear.