Squeeze the Most Out of Your Sops Documentation Using Our Success Proofed Writing Tips:
Effective work instructions should not be taken for granted. They keep your business running smoothly and your workers productive. You need to follow certain rules to keep your procedure quick and easy-to-follow.
Long sentences take too much time to read and comprehend. So keep it short and to the point. Narrow it down to the information needed to perform the next step. It’s simpler for the audience if there is less information. And time for each step will be reduced. Not only that, but error rates are reduced, too. If fewer options are given, there are fewer chances for mistakes. Finally, eliminate user error by eliminating decision-making. Tell the user in a few specific words what to do instead of asking for a decision.
This might be cliché, but sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words. Voice-based instructions can be a good guide, but visuals and pictures can improve the accuracy of your instructions. A combination of speech and visuals is actually highly effective for understanding the full scope of the task. To create photos for your SOP, follow the procedure and take a photo or screenshot at each step of the process. The perfect photo will include where and how: where in the process you are and how the task is executed.
Never use passive language to write a step in instructions. Instead, use active tense for your sentences.
DO THIS: Put the egg in the pan.”
NOT THIS: The egg needs to be put in the pan.
Passive voice just uses more words than needed. Active voice abbreviates your sentence to emphasize the information. It gets to the point of the instruction easier. So always use the action verb (i.e., the verb that indicates exactly what needs to be done).
DO THIS: Pour salt into the pan.
NOT THIS: Use your hand to pour salt into the pan.
When writing instructions, be consistent. Use a style guide and set of rules when writing each step. Keep your photos consistent and cohesive. Less energy is needed to read your SOP when each step follows a similar structure to your other instructions. Consistency in format lets a reader easily scan each step. The audience will know what to expect and can handle the information more easily.
If you want your SOPs to be effective, make sure the reader does something in each step. Just giving information or hinting at something, without providing a specific task or action, will only slow the reader down which makes your instructions much less effective. With each instruction that contains a specific task, your procedure can be executed quicker as the reader stays motivated with each win.
Once you have finally created your SOP, there’s one last thing to do: Test your procedure to see how easy the experience is.
Is the information cohesive?
Is the information sufficient?
Is the information accurate?
Read your instructions from the perspective of a first-time reader that has no knowledge of the process. Does everything make sense? Only after you have fully read and experienced your instructions without bias will you be able to determine how effective they are.