If you’re a coach or other service-based business owner, you may not think writing instructions is very important – after all, you’re not selling technical gadgets or furniture with “some assembly required.”
The truth is that your clients, prospective clients, readers and website visitors absolutely need clear instructions from you! After all, the whole premise of content marketing is that you are providing valuable information about how to solve their unique problems.
A common format for blog posts and articles is to present a topic and then include some actionable steps at the end to help your reader apply their learning. Here are a few ways you might do this:
- Reflection: Ask your readers to ponder or consider the new idea or perspective you shared with them, and how they might integrate it into their lives.
- Journaling: Ask your readers to write about the topic. You can provide specific questions for them to answer, or invite them to ask and answer their own questions.
- Rehearsal: Ask your readers to practice a new behavior, habit, thought pattern or language. Suggest how many times per day or week they should do it, and in which specific situation(s).
- Action: Ask your readers to take a specific action or actions. Suggest how many times per day or week they should do it, and in which specific situation(s).
- Documenting: Ask your readers to keep track of their progress; give them a checklist to mark off their actions or ask them to record it in a journal. You may also ask them to keep track of their results, feelings or thoughts during this process.
- Reporting: Ask your readers to share their results with you, your community or an accountability partner.
Tips for writing clear instructions
- Limit each list item or sentence to one action (for more details, join us on January 13th for the free call, How to Write a Better List)
- Give your readers an idea of how long to spend on each exercise
- Separate any commentary about the exercise so it’s not mixed in with the list of instructions
- Use a numbered list if the order and number of steps is important; otherwise, use a bullet list
- Walk through the instructions several times yourself, from your readers’ perspective
- Ask volunteers from your target market to test your instructions
Some of the above material was adapted from Chapter 23 of The Customizable Style Guide for Coaches Who Write. The Guide also contains similar writing guidelines for other common writing projects.
Clear instructions are also crucial when you’re writing your blogsite pages, to help people navigate your site and especially to take the next step to work with you.
When you take the time to write clear instructions, you increase the chances of helping your reader apply their learning. After getting such good results from your ideas, they will come back for more. And when they’re ready to go to the next level, you’ll be right there.
P.S. I searched online and found some more fun and helpful tips from Dennis Jerz, who uses the lyrics of the song Coconut (“You put the lime in the coconut…”) as a teaching point in his blog post, Instructions: How to Write for Busy, Grouchy People.