Use action phrase headings for instructions

Many of the questions that users bring to web sites are "How do I. . . ?" If you have only one such question with many other questions on a web page, it's fine to keep that as a question.

However, if you have a series of questions, all of which would start "How do I . . . ?" people may have a hard time finding the one they want.

How do

set up an account?

Setting up an account

How do

view my information?

Viewing your information

How do

change my information?

Changing your information

How do

pay online?

Paying online

How do

get help?

Getting help

Which set of headings is easier to scan and use?

When you find yourself writing "how do I . . ." over and over, take away the repeated words and start each heading with the action word.

Action phrases make great headings in any type of instruction: manuals, procedures, or help for a web application.

Two good ways of writing action phrase headings are with gerunds (the form that ends in "-ing") or with imperatives (the "Do this . . ." form of the verb).

Instruction writers commonly use the "-ing" form when dividing web content into different tasks. An example would be the list of tasks in the right column of the table on this page. On the web, each of these headings, like "Setting up an account," would probably link to its own web page. And the specific steps on that page would probably each start with an imperative.

The imperative works very well within a web article as a heading style for tips and short paragraphs of advice. Look at the example from Celestial Seasonings in Figure 10-10.

Instructions With Headings

/¡"^ The page uses type size ( J well to show different levels of headings.

"Brewing Tips" should be flush left, not centered, to draw people's eyes down into the text.

Just reading the bold I ^yj headings gives you a good overview of what to do.

Figure 10-10 Imperative verbs, such as "use," "heat," and "cover," work well as headings for tips and instructions.

www.celestialseasonings.com

/¡"^ The page uses type size ( J well to show different levels of headings.

"-ing" forms are often \ • • 1 ambiguous. This might be NiX better as "Brewing Tea" or "Tips for Brewing Tea."

"Brewing Tips" should be flush left, not centered, to draw people's eyes down into the text.

©The tips each start with a bold heading with an

Just reading the bold I ^yj headings gives you a good overview of what to do.

Figure 10-10 Imperative verbs, such as "use," "heat," and "cover," work well as headings for tips and instructions.

www.celestialseasonings.com

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