Instructions are found in brochures, pamphlets, owners’ manuals, packing slips, on the reverse of credit card statements, and at the bottom of invoices.
However, infrequently it is essential to write a special letter of instruction, most often in response to a customer query.
Well-written letters of instruction assist as both goodwill and sales letters, so they should be looked on as a exclusive opportunity to increase customer loyalty otherwise as a routine and unimportant part of your correspondence.
Writing letters of Instructions would normally be for the following situations:
- product registrations/use/care
- requests for instructions (see REQUESTS)
- return, repair, or replacement of merchandise
- shipping instructions
- babysitters/daycare providers
- house/plant/garden/pet care who away
- new policies/procedures/regulations
- operating instructions: appliances/tools/equipment
How to Express It
- 1. If your letter is a response to a previous contact, mention this (“Thank you for your letter asking . . .”). Otherwise, give the reader an instantaneous reference point (“To help you get the most out of your new software, we offer the following suggestions for use.”).
- Number or otherwise set off the steps in your instructions.
- Tell the reader where they can go for additional help.
- End with a pleasant statement of appreciation or with a mention of future business or enjoyment of the new product.
What Not to Say
- “Don’t give instructions in the negative” is a negative statement. “Word your instructions positively” is a positive one.
Use the positive form. Whenever you find “don’t” and “never” and “should not” in your instructions, say differently the sentence to read positively.
- In giving instructions, keep away from words like “simple” and “obvious.” Habitually, these words preface something that is neither simple nor obvious to the other person, and they carry the subtle sting of a put-down by implying that the instructions are clear to everyone but the mystified reader.
- It seems superfluous to counsel against patronizing, insulting, or condescending language, yet these attitudes sometimes invade letters of instruction.
For instance, many times a “broken” appliance is simply not connected. When compiling a list of troubleshooting instructions for repair, the first step typically counsels users to check the outlet to see if the appliance is plugged in. Rather than poking a little sly fun at this kind of slip-up, phrase your instruction â€œmatter of factly.â€