atomic steps

Subject: atomic steps
From: Kimberly Cakebread <kcakebread -at- AURIGIN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 13:50:18 -0800

I've asked this question several times in over 10 years of technical
writing. But times and opinions change. I'd like to ask it again. I
can't seem to connect to the archives right now, so apologies if this
topic was covered recently.

My initial training stressed the need to atomize the steps in a
procedure. In other words, each sentence should include one action.
However, I've noticed many people, most notably Microsoft, now including
several actions in a single step when that step describes how to
navigate to a menu option. For example, to explain how to open the
Add/Remove Programs item on the Windows Control Panel, the instruction
might be this:

1. Click Start, then point to Settings, then click Control Panel, then
double-click Add/Remove Programs.

How do you all feel about this? Would you prefer to see a notation like
Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs?

Kimberly Cakebread
Documentation Manager
Aurigin Systems, Inc.
kcakebread -at- aurigin -dot- com

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