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© Ugur Akinci
There are many times when while writing a procedure you’ll have to direct a reader in one direction or another.
There are two types of directing instructions: A REFERENCE and a BRANCH statement. And both of them can be either CONDITIONAL or UNCONDITIONAL.
I’ll give an example of each.
Refer to Chapter 8, “How to Install RX450.” (Within the same book.)
Return to Chapter 8, “How to Install RX450,” A Comprehensive Guide to RX450 (In another book.)
(You should either provide a hot-link to the referred chapter or refer the reader to the Bibliography.)
If the patient’s temperature rises over 104 F, call (refer the patient to) the doctor.
If the color of the valve is YELLOW, refer to page 45 of “The Radioactive Material Disposal Guidelines”.
UNCONDITIONAL BRANCHING: Go to Step 8.
If it is a Tuesday, then go to Step 8.
If you’re using RX capacitor, go to Step 23. Otherwise, go to Step 24.
Be consistent about the way you phrase such references and branching instructions throughout your document. I recommend you use the verb “to go” in its imperative mood (“go“) instead of more ambivalent verbs like “skip” or “jump.”
GOLDEN RULE: Use as FEW references and branching instructions as possible since every such instruction will force your reader to leave the regular flow of the document, go to a new location, and run the risk of committing unintended errors.
Pay special attention if the user is supposed to GO BACK to the original point in the document where she was asked to branch off. That RETURN LOOP must be established very well to avoid any procedural errors.
Write tight. Be bright. Serve right.
(Free image courtesy of morguefile-dot-com)