How to Do What?

Now that we’re into the New Year, I am re-focusing on my virtual assistant business, Virtual Colleague, LLC, and what I have to offer clients. I’ve already covered article writing, blogging, and press releases in my blogs. Now I’m going to write about creating manuals and instructional materials.

I’ve received a few Christmas gifts that needed assembling. To my surprise, the “instructions” were diagrams or illustrations. If there were any written words, they were usually in Chinese or some other language.

Visual Instructions

I find that very troubling, because I’m not a visual learner. I learn and retain by reading. I LOVE to read and that’s how I’ve taught myself to do many things. While “visual instructions” may be acceptable; in the workplace, written instructions are mandatory.

An example of this is a guideline on how to format company documents. This may cover margins, fonts, colors, font size, paper size, photos or logos and many other requirements. This would not be easily accomplished by just giving a visual of a document. It would not explain the font or font size and it would create a lot of guess work.

Instruction manuals are helpful, if the user has to perform a series of actions, in a specific order to get a specific result. Even when you google something, you will get a written definition or a bulleted list of steps to perform. There may be a YouTube video, too, but there are always the written steps to achieve the desired result.

Written Document

Training manuals favor the written form of instruction. Although there may be illustrations with a huge red “X” over them, having something written down is always accessible. Anything written on paper is portable, readily available and doesn’t require a device to access it. Most offices contain binders full of written material about hazardous material and what to do if an accident occurs, company policies and guidelines, and How-to’s or steps to perform certain tasks and projects.

Writing is here to stay, although we have many new options to view that written material. Writing is communication and every time we tweet, email or text, we view something that someone else has written. These writers feel compelled to share their thoughts or feelings with everyone.

I am a certified Freelance Writer in non-fiction. I was torn between fiction and non-fiction and I had to make a choice, when I signed up for this course. I chose non-fiction, because I thought that dealing with the facts would be more interesting and would require research on my part. I was right.

I’ve written several training manuals and I’ve had to learn about the tasks before I could write about them. In some cases, I sat with the employees and watched them work, taking detailed notes about what they did, how they did it and I tried to find an easier way to do it.

Sometimes, I was asked to update existing training manuals. The company may have purchased new software or automated part of the job, so the training manual was outdated. I also worked for an internet software gaming company, where I wrote test scripts, testing the software for “bugs”. I had to write a script that define every icon and click pattern in that game and then, I had to follow that test script and test every aspect of the game. I had to play the game over and over and document inconsistencies or make suggestions about how to improve player satisfaction. That was a hard job – only kidding!

Man Playing Game at Computer

Writing and word order is so important. Ask anyone who’s ever gone to court and had a word misspelled or the meaning reversed by reversing the word order. Slogans, ad copy, blogging, eBooks and documents rely on their creators having excellent grammar, punctuation and writing skills.

Your written words

are

your thoughts and feelings

immortalized for all eternity.

If you know of anyone, who needs a writing project created or updated, please ask them to contact Virtual Colleague, LLC at 401-384-0257 or email me at: JPlante@VirtualColleagueLLC.com.

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