Give even complex instructions as steps

Instructions are not always a straightforward list where everyone must do all the steps. Sometimes, you have to explain branching - where the next step depends on which of two or more conditions are true.

You can still present clear instructions even for complex situations. Consider Figures 9-18 and 9-19, where I suggest a revision to the eHow instructions on removing wine stains from fabric.

If the process is very long and complex, think about it as a little web site rather than as one web page. Create a pathway page where each link leads to part of the process. Look back at Figure 5-3 about buying a home for an example of this way of structuring a complex process.

fj LrOOgle [ 1 C Web iHow.com

Home > Home & Garden Center ■ Homemaking

^ How to Remove Red Wine Stains From Fabric

Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Eveiytliing

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Steps 5 and 6 are f * * I alternatives. You do one or the other, not both. But they aren't formatted to show that.

4 Review tne washing instructions on the label of the fabric Heed any special care instructions.

5 Ifthe fabric is m achine-was ha ble, immerse the garment in cold water and gently rub (he stain out Apply a laundrypretreatmenl such as a stain remover, wash In cool water and air dry

6. if washing t»y hand, rub the table saitlnio the stain Then pour bolting watef onto it from a height 0fl2 to 36 inches ifthe Stain persists and ifthe fabric can tolerate high heat.

Figure 9-18 When instructions include "if" statements, people have to figure out which to do. Formatting them as consecutive steps may confuse people. www.eHow.com

8. Keep the sentence structure in lists parallel 223

Figure 9-19 A suggested revision that makes the alternatives clearer.

Review the washing instructions on the label of the fabric. Heed any special care instructions.

Decide if the fabric is ma chine-washable or must be washed by hand.

- If the fabric

Do this

Is machine-washable

Immerse the garment in cold water and gently rub the slain out Apply a laundry pretreatment such as a stain remover, wash in cold water, and air dry.

Musi be hand washed

Rub the table salt into the stain. If the stain persists and if the fabric can tolerate high beat, pour boiling water onto it from a height of 13 to 3G inches.

Figure 9-19 A suggested revision that makes the alternatives clearer.

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