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Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English

Writing Giving Instructions Essays

How to InstructionsA Giving Instructions essay is an essay in which you explain how to do something. One is often required to explain how to do something in writing. Essays explaining how to conduct an experiment, how to set up a campsite, how to get a passport, how to train for a marathon, are all Giving Instructions essays. The organization to a Giving Instructions Essay contains THREE PARTS. The three parts are (1) Introduction, (2) Body, and (3) Conclusion. We will look at each part and its requirements in order. Keep in mind that this description is for your first Giving Instructions essay which will be about 350 to 400 words.

Part One: Introduction

Part one is the introduction which always includes two main functions. The introduction should (1) get the reader's attention and (2) tell the reader what the essay is about. Telling the reader what the essay is going to be about is also called "Stating your Organization." If your introduction is good, it will help the reader anticipate and understand what your essay is about.

Part Two: Body

Part two is the body which for the short essays in this class will always contain three paragraphs or three parts or three steps almost always in chronological order. Many giving instructions essays must be written in chronological order such as How to Bake a Cake or How to Build a Campfire. When considering your Giving Instructions essay topic, think about what you can do, what you can do better than your brother or sister, what you can do better than your friends, what you can do better than your teacher, and write about that. For the purpose of this essay, try to organize exactly three steps or stages in your mind so when you sit down to write, the most important parts will already be organized in your mind. Almost certainly, you will use time transitions, and there are many of them in this Transitions and Connectors document HERE, which you should print and refer to often.

Part Three: Conclusion

Part three is the conclusion which like the introduction contains two parts. The conclusion should (1) leave the reader with a good impression and (2) summarize for the reader the main points of your essay. (If your reader can walk away from your essay remembering the three main items or the three main points, you have succeeded, so make sure your summary makes sense.)

To summarize briefly in five lines, your five-paragraph essay should look like this:

  1. Paragraph One: Get the reader's attention, introduce your topic and the three main points.
  2. Paragraph Two: Write about the first main point and add support.
  3. Paragraph Three: Write about the second main point and add support.
  4. Paragraph Four: Write about the third main point and add support.
  5. Paragraph Five: Summarize the entire essay and leave your reader with a good impression.

If you accomplish these things all in order, you will almost certainly know that your essay and your ideas will make a good impression on the reader.

Additional "Tips" for Five-Paragraph Giving Instructions Essays

1. Use chronological order. Many Giving Instructions essays must be written in chronological order. If you are explaining how to patch a tube to fix a flat tire on a bicycle, for example, all the necessary steps must be in chronological order, or the reader will not succeed in fixing the flat tire. Or, if you are explaining how to drive to Teotihuacan (Mexico's biggest pyramids) from Querétaro, for example, the directions must be in chronological order, or the reader may end up in Pachuca.

2. Know your audience, and write for your audience. If you are explaining how to send an attachment with an e-mail message (or how to download a youtube video and write it to DVD) to someone who has limited computer experience, explain it simply so it can be understood. If you are explaining an intricate or specific procedure related to your career (whether architecture, business, or agronomy), and it cannot be understood by a general academic audience, then do not write it, OR make it accessible to a general academic audience. After you write your essay, try to read it from the perspective of your audience or your mom or your dad. How would your Giving Instructions essay look from their perspective?

3. Stick to the point. When giving instructions about how to change a tire on a car, for example, don't discuss where to buy cheap tires or how long new ones should last. Such details may interest the reader, but they won't help in changing the tire.

4. State your organization. This point simply cannot be overemphasized! Even if you know how your paper is organized, your readers do not, so tell them explicitly! Do not make your readers "figure out" what you are trying to say. State your organization and always err on the side of clarity. Use the organizational pattern that readers of English expect, and state your organization clearly.

5. Use a straight line of development. It was stated earlier that the US academic audience expects a straight line of development. "Tell your readers what you are going to tell them." Then "tell them." Then "tell them what you told them."

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What Should I Do Now?

These Giving Instructions Essays all follow the organizational structure you have just read about. The essays would work well in almost any university classroom because they meet the expectations of a university level audience. So in sum, follow the organizational structures, and write about what you know. And as you write, please remember that in writing, you are developing your own unique and creative writing voice. You should have fun doing that!