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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Sticking to instructions

Trying something new is always challenging and a bit nerve wrecking.

So it’s easy to rely on sources of information to help the process.

Making tile adhesive

We are doing up our bathroom so needed adhesive to attach the tiles to the bathroom walls. After research, we decided to use adhesive powder rather than a pre-mixed adhesive.

To make the adhesive, it is a simple matter of mixing some of the powder with water. Of course, how much of each is somewhat important!

The packet included instructions for making the adhesive to the correct consistency. However, the instructions were to mix 20 kg with 6 litres of water.

label of tile adhesive packet

Instructions on the tile adhesive powder bag.

Trying to convert those instructions into mixing usable quantities was difficult – giving a weight rather than volume of the powder was particularly difficult. Meaning our first attempt was too wet and wasn’t going to hold the tiles well enough.

Clarity in instructions

We figured out a good consistency for the adhesive, eventually, and now have some lovely tiles stuck to our walls!

But learning from others’ mistakes, here are my tips for making instructions for useful:

  1. Remember who the instructions are for and make them suit. That is, don’t assume the person reading the instructions knows as much about your product as you do. If you are only writing for experienced people (in our case, professional tilers), you may be able to give less information than if writing for inexperienced users (such as DIY tilers).
    If you have more than one audience, ensure the instructions are simple enough for the less experienced group.
  2. Aim for clarity so people understand how to use your instructions. You can do this through
    1. avoid jargon
    2. do multiple small steps instead of a few large steps
    3. use short sentences
    4. use simple language and sentence structure
  3. if the product has different uses, explain how instructions vary between those uses. For example, if floor and wall tiles need adhesive with different consistencies, say something like “Add 6 litres of water for floor tiling and 5 litres for wall tiling” rather than “depending on the consistency of the mix required”.
  4. Where measurements may vary, give a ratio or multiple examples. I’ll expand on that in my next post 🙂
  5. Put instructions where they are easily seen – not just so they can be found but so that they are easy to refer to whilst using them. Again, with the tile adhesive packet, the mixing instructions were in amongst paragraphs of text.

What interesting experiences have you had with hard to understand instructions?

 

 

 

Communicating with suppliers

 In a business context, most people think of clear communications in terms of their customers. But it is also important to communicate well with your suppliers.

For instance, someone I know recently ended a project because his client gave him insufficient and contradictory information. This client had prepared a brief but work done to match that brief was rejected!

Connect and communicate with all business contactsObviously communication is a two-way thing but if you make your needs straight forward it is more likely a supplier will give you what you want.

1. specify anything mandatory – e.g the logo must always be on a white background or the newsletter must be ready by the 1st of each month

2. explain your ideas – a rough sketch is ok as long as it is labelled

3. avoid jargon unless you are sure the supplier understands it the same way you do – that includes using their jargon if you aren’t sure of it yourself!

4. write or talk as if they are a customer – clearly, concisely and politely.

 

Have you had client projects where poor communications made the project a dreaded chore instead of challenging and interesting?