How To Write A Process Analysis

Working in a technical environment means that you may have to write occasional process analysis instructions to help employees learn a new skill.

All of us frequently come across process analysis writing in daily living. Laundering instructions, product assembly guidelines, and cooking recipes are examples of process writing. Essentially, a process analysis provides a series of steps to help readers learn how to perform a task, from baking bread to building a model car.

If you need to write a process analysis for a work-related task or for a group of community volunteers, here are some guidelines that may make the task easier:

1. Simplify main concepts. Instead of a cookie recipe saying something like "mix your usual load of dry ingredients," it carefully spells out each one, such as 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups flour, etc. Do the same for your readers, no matter what you are trying to describe. Break down a large process into smaller units, or steps, which will help readers more easily understand the parts as well as the whole.

2. Follow a logical order. Chronological order suggests a time sequence, which is suitable for topics that require a certain amount of time for each step or that benefit from spacing the steps. Each part of the process may be numbered with numerals or with number words, like "First," "Second," "Third," and so on. A similar phrasing pattern that avoids specific numbers looks like this:





Spatial order guides your reader from one mental viewing image to another. For example, a set of spatial guidelines might read in part like the following:

"After placing the trash barrel in the utility closet, sweep the right side of the factory floor towards the left, where the windows are located. Then pick up dirt in a dustpan. Do the back stairwell last."

3. Use simple terms. Don't use technical language that readers may not understand. Reach for the simplest word that will get the job done. Rather than write long, drawn-out sentences, use shorter statements that readers can easily follow and understand. Try to describe each step in a few sentences, but add more for complex processes.

4. Include definitions as needed. Abstract language, technical terms, or topical jargon should be avoided. But when it must be included, add definitions in parentheses immediately after the words they define. Or you can create a "lexicon," which is a short, dictionary-type list of terms that typically appears at the beginning or end of a specialized process document. Indexes or a notes page may help readers with difficult or new concepts.

5. Add visual graphics to support complex verbal descriptions. Use diagrams, charts, maps, or other additions to convey clearer meaning of the topic. These may be inserted wherever they are referenced in the document, or you may decide to include them at the end of the paper.

6. Consider adding a FAQ section. "Frequently Asked Questions" is a popular feature of many technical publications. Readers who become confused by the process details may be able to find answers to their questions in this section before contacting you or a support staff member.

Writing a process analysis need not be stressful. Remember to make your directions as simple, short, and clear as possible, and your readers should have no problem.

© High Speed Ventures 2011