How to Write Steps for Procedure Manuals

Should you use action verbs when writing your procedures, for example, click, run, open, or use different phrasing?

A lot of this has to do with your reader. Or to be more precise what the reader is doing WHEN they are reading your procedure.

Imagine for a second that the reader has printed out your SOP and is reading through the steps.

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Download the Standard Operating Procedure template

SOP Purpose

Which sounds better to your ear?

  • Open the menu.
  • Click the setting.
  • Press Key A.


  • Opens the menu.
  • Clicks the setting.
  • Presses Key A.


  • The user opens the menu.
  • The user clicks the setting.
  • The user presses Key A.

For me, the first is the most immediate. It tells me, the reader, what to do right now.

The other two are fine.

However, adding an S to the verbs (open to opens) doesn’t clarify the meaning or improve its readability.

Adding ‘the user’ just clutters up the page. No-one likes being called a ‘user’ anyway. Do you?

So, when writing instructions:

  • Use the simplest, more direct form of the verb.
  • Read it aloud as though you were performing the action.
  • Remove clutter.

What else would you add?

Download the Standard Operating Procedure template