ChatGPT can write down instructions to tell you how to use something that exists today. But it cannot help your teen write usage instructions for something new that they have built today or are likely to build as they grow older. Building something new and incredibly useful for many, is what forges progress, takes us forward. Imagine if no one can use it because they simply cannot understand the instructions. ChatGPT cannot help here.
If you have built something new, you know every atom that has gone into it, how it works and how it needs to be used. It is all in your head not visible to the outside world. So when you present your creation to the outside world and expect them to use it, you need to give clear instructions. Your choice of words matter. You need to think ahead of a potential user and include information that might be absolutely essential such as a list of don't or notes of caution.
Thinking from the user's perspective while writing
A person who is about to use a product for the first time is absolutely new to every aspect of it. A ready reckoner of sorts to help the user get a feel of the various parts is important. The same is true of instructions in a recipe or an experiment- start with the various ingredients/components one needs to be able to carry out the instructions. Students often forget this aspect when given a writing prompt about listing instructions to perform something that they are familiar with.
Choice of words while writing
An instruction that reads, "Take a small spoon and take some salt..." can be subject to interpretation. A small spoon could be expressed as a small teaspoon. "Some salt" can be anywhere from the entire spoon, quarter of the spoon or half the spoon. "A pinch of salt" on the other hand, says it more precisely. Similarly, put the paper ball on the cardboard versus place the paper ball on the cardboard. Which sounds better conveys the intended meaning? "Put" could result in someone dropping the paper ball on the cardboard. Whereas, "place" clearly indicates the nature of the action. Attention to this kind of detail is important in instructions. Words could be easily misinterpreted.
Method of writing
Instructions could be written as a paragraph or step by step instructions with bullet points.
Editing as a part of the writing process:
The resounding question in the editing stage has to be, "Is my writing easy enough to follow? Are there any ambiguities? Is there room for misinterpretation?
Writing instructions is an interesting and challenging exercise that enables writing instructors to sensitize students to aspects of writing such as choice of words, sentence construction, manner of presentation etc;. At some level it even brings in some variety in writing assignments.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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