by Jennie Ruby
You are writing step-by-step instructions for an on-screen process. You need to get your learner to each tool quickly, but you also want the learner to remember that tool and where it is. Do you start with the name of the specific tool, and then tell where to find it? Or do you lead the learner to the tool by starting with the location, then the tool? Or do you mix it up to sound more conversational?
- Name first: Select Formatting from the Toolbars list in the View menu.
- Location first: From the View menu, point to Toolbars, and select Formatting.
- Mixed: From the View menu select Formatting from the Toolbars list.
There is something to be said for each option, and I've seen all three methods used in well-respected learning materials. It may be that each method is good for a certain situation.
If you are walking learners through a step-by-step eLearning activity, Method B works very smoothly. As the voiceover or screen text states each part, the learner does each step in turn, first clicking the menu, then pointing to Toolbars, then selecting Formatting. If you used Method A in that context, the student would sit waiting while the voiceover said "Formatting...toolbars..." and then click the menu when the voiceover said View. By then, the learner may have forgotten what to look for within the menu.
On the other hand, if your main goal is for the student to learn about a tool and remember the name of that tool, you may want to name the specific tool or command first. Then you may put in a description of what it does and why the learner might use it, and only afterwards state where the tool can be found:
The Formatting toolbar gives you the basic tools you need for formatting text. Tools for formatting individual words or letters, for aligning text, and for styling entire paragraphs are all accessible from this one toolbar. To display the Formatting toolbar, go to the View menu, point to Toolbars, and choose Formatting.
The conversational method of mixing it up, Method C, may work well for learners already familiar with the tools, the interface, and the concepts. The name of the tool alone is probably enough to get that learner to the correct tool. The information about the location of the tool is just a reminder. Mixing up the order gives your text more variety and may make your text sound more casual and conversational--making it more fun for the learner to read. I would not recommend this for step-by-step instructions, but this writing style may well have its place.
Which method do you prefer in your writing? Let us know in the comments section below!
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Editing with Word 2003 and Acrobat 7" and "Editing with MS Word 2007" to her credit. She is a publishing professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.