Unit 5: Process Documentation
One of the most common formats of technical writing is the process document. The process document explains either how to do something or how something was accomplished. This can be used to teach people or to document a process for the record. These documents vary in level of formality based on audience, but they all share elements of formatting to keep the communication organized and effective. This unit takes you through the ways to create process documents.
Formatting is probably the first design concern for a process document. The writer must distinguish whether or not the audience will have the directions with them as they accomplish the task or if they must commit the task to memory. Beginning nursing students, for example, are taught the proper way to wash hands in a roughly 1,500-word document. This document details not just the steps of hand washing, but also explains why each aspect of the process is critical to overall hand washing success. This extra detail helps to embed the proper procedure into new nurses' minds; they will, after all, be washing their hands countless times during the day without the instructions handy. Recipes, on the other side of the spectrum, anticipate that the audience will have them close by as they prepare the food; as a result, these feature lots of white space and step by step formatting.
Process documents must also pay special attention to anticipating potential trouble spots or questions from the audience. Anticipating these moments enables the writer to save time overall and increases the chances that the audience can complete the process without difficulty. Note that in this unit we will work through the writing process to develop complete process documents. We'll start with planning before moving to initial drafting, then revising.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.
Before we get started with Unit 5, reflect on your experience in Unit 4 creating screen captures to illustrate a process. What choices did you make regarding which screens to capture? How much text needed to supplement the visuals? How did you organize them on the page to ensure the reader could follow the steps easily? How were your screen capture directions different than those you find in an instruction manual? What would you do to improve them or polish them for a professional audience?