Let's make our own Manual: Writing Instructions

In my last two posts we learned how to write a Summary.

And what are we going to deal with today?

We are going to learn how to write Instructions.


Where do we find Instructions?

We find instructions almost everywhere. We are surrounded by manuals and guides. When we buy a computer, a cellular phone or a washing machine, we get a manual full of instructions explaining how to operate the machine or device and how to take care of it. When we buy a shirt or a dress, instructions on how to wash, dry or iron are attached. We practically cannot buy anything without getting a set of instructions.

What do we need Instructions for?

Following instructions can simplify tasks, increase effectiveness, eliminate confusion and save time. When instructions are properly followed, things work well and many accidents are avoided. 

Let's learn how to write Instructions.

Let's start with simple Instructions. (This exercise can be an oral exercise or it can be given as a writing class assignment.)

Let's write Instructions on:

  • How to make a cup of coffee.
  • How to search for a topic on Google.
  • How to make a call on your cell phone or listen to your voice mail

Effective instructions commonly include visual elements (such as pictures, diagrams, and flowcharts) that illustrate and clarify the text. If this is a homework assignment, we can ask students to present a set of instructions and illustrate them using visual elements like a powerpoint presentation, for example. 

Instructions are often written in the form of a numbered list, so that users can clearly recognize the sequence of the tasks.




After that…



Basic Features of a clear, detailed Set of Instructions:

Instructions tend to follow a consistent step-by-step pattern, whether you are describing how to make coffee or how to assemble an automobile engine. Here are the basic features of instructions:

  • Specific and precise title
  • Introduction with background information
  • List of parts, tools, and conditions required
  • Sequentially ordered steps
  • Safety information
  • Conclusion that signals completion of task

Example: Today I am going to tell you how to make the best sandwich in the world. 

First Part

First, you must slice your favorite cheese  into thick pieces.

Then toast your favorite bread (two slices).  

After that you need to put butter on the toast and then the cheese slices.

 Next you are going to add your vegetables: Tomatoes, lettuce,  onions, cucumbers, etc.  

Finally close the sandwich with the other piece of toast.

 Second part

Tell people:

What is necessary.

What is not necessary.

What is wrong.

Use the followign expressions:

  • You (don't) need to…
  • You have to…
  • You must/mustn't…
  • You should/shouldn't…


Oral Activities


Divide the class into groups 0f four/five students. Ask one student – the head of the group – to write a set of instructions explaining:
How to write a composition
How to write a summary
How to prepare for a test.

Testing Instructions

To evaluate the accuracy and clarity of a set of instructions, invite the members of the group to follow the directions given by the head of the group. Observe their progress to determine if all steps are completed correctly in a reasonable amount of time. Once the procedure has been completed, ask this test group to report on any problems they may have encountered and to offer recommendations for improving the instructions.


Homework assignments

Write a set of instructions teaching your friend how to prepare the perfect gift.

You may wish to start with an opening sentence:

The following is a set of instructions for…..

Then go to the actual instructions:

Consider the age and personality of your friend, his/her tastes/hobbies…

Think of the occasion.

Don't forget your personal budget limitations…

Try to connect the sentences with the following expressions:

At first, in the beginning

Before that, earlier, previously

Afterwards, later, then

In the end, at the end of, finally

You may end as follows:

Remember, it may not be easy, but…

I am sure ………………


         And that’s all for today. More writing activities in my next post.

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