Writing procedures

Subject: Writing procedures
From: Karla McMaster <mcmaster%pcmail -dot- cti-pet -dot- com -at- CTI-PET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 1995 11:50:46 EST

Since Peggy Thompson has had to temporarily unsubscribe, she asked me to post
for her the summary of replies to her question about writing procedures:
> How do you all write a simple procedural sentence like this:

> Press F7 to exit the file.

> To exit the file, press F7.

> Is there a rule or guideline for such straightforward
> instruction?

...Karla (mcmaster -at- cti-pet -dot- com)


Many, many thanks for your snappy replies to my question of
whether a simple procedural sentence should be written "To exit
press F7" or "Press F7 to exit."

You all came down overwhelmingly on the side of "To exit press
F7." (Which has always been my intuition, but I need to justify
my position to a new customer.) You said you put the
*consequence* of the action before the action.

One writer pointed out that it's just plain good
task-orientation to put the consquence first (and we all know we
are supposed to organize by task, right?).

EXCEPTION: A few of you said you would write "Press F7 to exit"
if that is the only the only option available to the user
(exit). If the user can do something else, you'd write, "To exit
press F7."

I have noticed that many commercial user guides (I write for the
gov--that may be my problem!) write "Press F7 to exit." If the
step has a significant consquence--"Select Yes to reformat the
hard drive"--a bold warning precedes the step: "WARNING: Before
you perform the following step, be sure you want to reformat the
hard drive. If you reformat the hard drive, all data stored on
it will be lost."

But being naturally you-know-what-retentive, I like consistency. Because the
most compelling arguments are for "To ________" construction, that is what I
will pitch to my customer as our standard sentence (unless we have good reason
to deviate in certain instances). If anyone can cite a reference on this
subject, I'd be ever so grateful.

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