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HomeRants > How to organize a step-by-step procedure. > The name is a menu item


Two jobs, one phrase

The name is a distinct object

Answer the question


The name is a menu item

Your guests will be trying to find this particular procedure among hundreds, or thousands of other procedures. So write the name to express the procedure's content in terms that the guests actually use (their terms, not yours).

And because the name appears as part of a menu, your language should also show why you put this procedure into that particular group, at this particular position in the sequence.

You need to distinguish this procedure from others like it, while showing, through your choice of words, how they are all related (why they belong together on a menu). Neat challenge.

Two jobs, one phrase

In this context, you are writing a single phrase that

  • Expresses the content accurately, as its heading or title.  (A heading appears at the top of the procedure; a title appears in the windowbar at the top of the page, when you have only one procedure per page).
  • Acts as a meaningful part of the menu

Another constraint:  you should adopt a consistent grammatical form for the names of all procedures ("How to…" or "Doing…." or "To do this….").

The point is to telegraph to users that every item with that kind of phrase will be a set of step-by-step instructions.

You are articulating the information type, so users can choose a procedure when that is what they want, or skip it when they want some other kind of information.

Tip: Distinguish between similar procedures by writing the similar aspects in the same way, then emphasizing differences at the beginning or end.

The name is a distinct object

A name of the procedure is not just the heading or title advertising a section you are about to write. It appears in many other locations. So:

  • Use the heading over and over as a single object, without modification. Avoid cognitive dissonance (Is this the same section I visited before, or is it subtly different?)
  • Write so the name acts as the beginning of the section, and as an isolated advertisement for the contents of that section (in a menu, for instance).
  • In every circumstance, the title or heading answers the question: what is this section about?
  • Make it complete on its own. Do not depend on some higher level title as if it were the beginning of a sentence, completed by this title.
  • Think of the heading or title as a discrete object, encapsulated from the world, independent, not just some spur-of-the-moment text describing an idea.


Probe your audiences--gently.

Help (A chapter from Hot Text: Web Writing that Works. PDF: 995K, or about 18 minutes at 56K).

Answer the question

Make the name of the procedure answer the user's question: "Does this describe the task I want to perform?"

People talk to themselves, describing the challenge, or goal, or problem in their own terms.  Use their words for actions, events, tasks, things, and user interface elements. (Do not use terms that only an engineer would recognize).

Examples of names for procedures


AC Power Insertion

Base unit attachment routine

Wall-mount position demarcation

Plugging in

Attaching the base unit

Marking the spot where you want to mount the phone on the wall



Tracing Paths

Doing Rectangles

Polygon Representation

Circle Creation Implementation

To Draw Paths

To Draw Rectangles

To Draw Polygons

To Draw Circles







Is that a moustache or a brush?


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