Re: introducing steps

Subject: Re: introducing steps
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2011 09:31:23 +1100

In instructional writing, less is usually more. My preference is to use a
heading, rather than body text, to introduce a list of instructions. This
gives the instruction set greater visibility on the page for the
skim-reader. I would even recommend using a consistent, distinct heading
style rather than hierarchical headings for instruction sets, so that they
can be more easily spotted by page flippers. (You don't think people
actually READ your stuff, do you?) Ensure that only instructions and their
illustrative graphics appear under these headings; use "see" references in
instructions to point readers elsewhere for discussions, descriptions or

If you create the heading -

To install Sigil

- (without the colon, please note) you can then omit any introductory clause
and simply list the instructions without violating any traditional rules of
grammar. Remember that some readers - the most attentive ones, in fact - are
distracted by what they recognise as grammatical errors, and there is no
benefit in annoying them.

There is nothing "ungraceful" about the traditional requirement for an
independent clause when introducing a list made up of independent clauses.
Dependent clauses should not just be left with their arses hanging out. The
bare infinitive, end-punctuated with a colon, is a sentence fragment - a
clear violation of classical English grammar, though it is often seen in the
wild. On this point, your teacher stands on firmer ground than you.


Mike West


On Oct 18, 2011 11:47AM, Becca wrote:

> I'm taking a class in technical writing. My teacher says never to
introduce a series of steps with an infinitive (To install Sigil) but to use
an independent clause ("To install Sigil, follow these steps:" or words to
that effect. To me, the clause "follow these steps" is imlied by the fact
that steps follow. Still, it's the teacher, so I have to follow her style.


> Is there a more graceful way to introduce steps? how do yo do it? I'm
pretty much coming up dry.



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