What Is The Average Salary In America For A 25-Year-Old Technical Writing Exercise – How to Make Toast

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Technical Writing Exercise – How to Make Toast

One type of project that is often given to a technical writer is to explain a process. It can be anything from a short how-to product description to an important document that details the workings of a complicated machine.

A couple of interesting examples that come to mind from my own experience are a video for technicians on how to use the Rotunda Fuel Injector Tester/Cleaner and an installation and service manual for the KWAUN 4600 Copier. Both required extensive research to determine exactly how the machines worked followed by careful consideration of the best ways to set up the processes.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with this type of work (and sometimes even if you do), it’s possible to fall into number traps when it comes to providing a clear, concise and complete description of a process.

You must consider:

– who is your target audience

– what they already know about the subject

– what, if any, experience they had with the process

– what, if any, experience they had with similar processes

– what you will need to explain either in words, illustrations or both

Your job is to explain how to make a piece of toast.

The exercise is divided into 2 parts. They involve the same process, but each is directed at a different audience. It will be good practice to work out the exact steps involved in this seemingly simple process. You will also need to change your content and approach depending on your target audience.

Toaster Details:

The toaster is an ordinary, two-slice, home kitchen toaster. It has a slide to push down to start the toasting. There is a “light to dark” dial from 0 to 10. It has a separate button to toast only one side for bagels and English muffins.

Exercise – Part One

Write step by step to turn a single piece of bread into a piece of dark toast.

The audience is 18- to 25-year-olds who live in cities of populations over 10,000. These cities are located west of the Mississippi River and north of Kentucky.

Exercise – Part Two

Write step by step to turn a single piece of bread into a piece of dark toast.

The audience is 18- to 25-year-olds who have lived their entire lives on an island in the South Pacific with a population of less than 500. They are aware but unfamiliar with electricity and indoor plumbing.

After you’ve written your two processes, check the solutions below to see how your work compares. Look for what you missed or what you thought the solutions missed.

Solutions

The task was to write a short process on how to make a piece of toast using an ordinary toaster. Your target audience were two very different groups of people.

Part One – Solution

It is reasonable to expect that the first group, the young Americans, are quite knowledgeable about making toast even if, for some reason, they have never done it. That tells you that you can start at a fairly high level of experience and familiarity with bread and toasters. What you have to do is balance what they already know with what you have to tell them.

The basic steps to make a piece of toast for this group would look like this:

1. Take a slice of bread [Graphic A: hand holding a slice of bread]

2. Place it in one of the slots in the top of the toaster [Graphic B: bread being inserted into a slot in the top of the toaster]

3. Adjust the “light to dark” scale from 0 to 10 depending on how toasty you want the bread to be [Graphic C: illustration of the scale with an arrow pointing at one of the numbers]

4. Push the slide all the way down [Graphic D: fingers pressing slide down with arrow indicating direction]

5. When the toast is done, it will appear automatically [Graphic E: slice of toast sitting in the toaster slot]

Second part – Solution

The second target group, the young people of the South Pacific island, presents a completely different challenge. You wouldn’t make the same assumptions from experience and familiarity. In fact, you have to assume that these people may not know the whole concept of making toast at all.

You have to start at a much more basic level.

The basic steps to make a piece of toast for this group would look like this:

[Graphic A: Illustration of a toaster with the various components called out]

1. A toaster is an electrical appliance that must be plugged into a 120v electrical outlet. [Graphic B: illustration of the power cord of the toaster plugged into an outlet with plug and outlet called out]

2. Bread comes in many shapes and sizes [Graphic C: a number of illustrations of representative shapes and sizes of bread]

3. To start, choose a single slice of bread that will fit into the toast [see Graphic D: toast slot]

4. The bread should not touch both ends of the slot and be thinner than the width of the slot. [Graphic E: illustration of bread slice in the slot]

Note: If the bread is too thick or too wide, it could get stuck in the slot or be burned by the heating elements.

5. Adjust the “light to dark” scale from 0 to 10 depending on how toasty you want the bread to be [Graphic F: illustration of the scale with an arrow pointing at one of the numbers]

Note: The toast will be darker (more toasted) the higher the number you select on the scale.

6. Push the slide on the front of the toaster until it will go [Graphic G: fingers pressing slide down with arrow indicating direction] and let it go

Note: During operation, the toaster will heat up. Do not touch the toaster while it is in operation.

7. When the bread is done toasting, the slice will appear automatically [Graphic H: slice of toast sitting in the toaster slot]

It is obvious that the approach and content are very different for the two groups.

In general, the steps in the process must:

– be in logical order

– provide information that tells what to do next

– provide information that tells what to expect when a step is completed

– provide graphics and illustrations that support the text

As a technical writer, you can’t assume that everyone knows the same things or knows as much as you about a process. You need to consider not only what the audience knows, but also what you can do to solidify their understanding of the process.

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