You may find that you need to write some procedures for your business or facility as we are preparing for and, in some cases, reopening, or returning to workplaces. Here are two tips for writing a more effective procedure.
1. Write it for the user.
A procedure needs to address the needs and questions of the procedure user. The user is the person who will perform the procedure.
The best way to do this is to write a definition of the user. For example, in writing a procedure for returning to the workplace, the user is an employee who has access to the workplace (as in a keycard), a reason to be reporting to the workplace, and familiarity with past workplace requirements such as safety protocols. The user of this procedure is not a visitor or guest of the facility. It is not a regulatory agency. It is not a delivery person. These users will have their own procedures.
You may find it helpful to keep that written definition in front of you as you develop the procedure. You may even want to include the definition of the user as part of the procedure.
2. Use active voice and imperative mood.
Active voice is where the sentence is subject + verb + object. The subject performs the action on the object. For example, “He wrote the procedure.” Active voice is clear and usually takes fewer words. In contrast, in passive voice the subject is acted upon by the verb. For example, “The procedure was written by him.” If you want someone to do something (and in a procedure that is what you want), use active voice.
With the imperative mood, the subject is an implied “you.” For example, “Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.” The imperative is used to give commands or requests and is the recommended way to structure a procedure step.
In our 25 years of building documents, we have found that these two tips greatly improve the comprehension and usability of procedures. For more tips on writing and procedures, visit the Learning Center on our website.