How To Write A GOOD How-To Guide

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A good how-to guide is the most efficient way to convey instructions in text form. Even if you know a lot about your subject, writing a guide that is interesting, accessible, and produces results isn’t easy. To help you with the endeavor, we’ve gotten real meta and put together a how-to guide to take you through writing your own how-to guide.

RELATED: How to Be Better at Explaining Things

In This Article:

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  1. Writing
  2. Formatting
  3. SEO Tips


man is typing on laptop with pencil in hand-ca | How To Write A GOOD How-To Guide | Writing

Write for Beginners

Write your point using simple words and easy-to-understand concepts. Assume your reader knows nothing about the concepts being presented. If you write for that kind of audience, anyone will be able to appreciate your guide.

This can be tough for technical guides, so you should check out this guide if that’s what you’re writing.

Don’t Ask, Tell

Don’t tell the listener, “you should do that.” Instead, just tell them to “do that.” Suggesting they should rather than telling them conveys that you aren’t really sure of what you’re saying. It, in turn, makes the reader less confident.

This rule’s exception is highly subjective and personal content like tips for “how to build a better future for your family” or something similar. These topics should be approached gently, and people might feel uncomfortable being told what to do in regard to their own family.

Order First, Then Explain

The first words of each point in your guide should be a straightforward directive. After that, the rest can expand on the directive, explaining details and reasons why the directive should be carried out.

Break The Steps Into Steps

Long steps are often difficult to understand unless you break them down into smaller “sub-steps.” If you feel like a step has at least two parts to it, create sub-headings for each of them (smaller than the headings used for the main steps).

Breaking up the steps like this not only aids in readability but also helps massively in terms of SEO (a concept described further below).

Anticipate Issues

After you write a point, reread it from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about the subject. Ask yourself if there are any significant questions about the step that the text leaves unanswered. You should almost always be able to think of at least one.

Now add a short paragraph or two to the point for each question you thought of in which you answer the question.

Use Narratives

Incorporate relevant stories and analogies into your points whenever you can. Illustrating important concepts with narratives allows the reader to visualize the points easier to grasp and more entertaining for the reader to consume. Studies show incorporating a narrative or two into an instructional guide keeps the reader more engaged.


Arrange the List in Order

If there’s any sort of chronology that can be applied to the list, make sure it’s presented in that order. If you’re making a list about “how to change jobs without missing a step,” for instance, you would want to put the step about “find a new job before you quit” before the step about “make sure your boss is willing to give you a good reference in the future.”

It’s okay not to put the steps in chronological order when you’re writing so that you can just get all your ideas out on paper; in fact, it’s often a good idea. In these cases, go through your headings afterward and regroup them in an order that feels right to you.

Create Signposts

If your guide is longer than a few hundred words, group the headings for your steps into larger headings like the three larger headings in this guide.

Again, doing so helps with both readability and SEO.

Bold the Most Important Bits

After you’re done drafting your points, go back through them, highlight the phrase in each you think encapsulates the tip the best, and press ctrl+B to bold the text. People have short attention spans, and the easier it is for them to pick out the essential bits from your guide, the more readable it will become.

SEO Tips

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the art of making your page rank higher on Google. A large part of SEO is producing exciting and informative content, but these tips will help boost your informative guide to the top of the Google rankings.

Embed Authoritative Content

It makes sense to embed relevant quotes or tips from experts in the subject (or major influencers) on social media. WordPress and most other content management platforms make embedding posts extremely easy.

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Answer What Your Competitors Aren’t

Part of writing a guide should involve researching other guides related to your topic and familiarizing yourself with them. In your guide, cover aspects of the topic that they don’t. Doing so will set you apart in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Write Headings People Will Search For

While you’re writing your headings, think of actual phrases your target audience would search for on Google. You might want to use SEO tools like to do this. If there’s any way you can use the commonly-searched phrases (or something close to them) as your headings, it will be of enormous benefit to your on-page SEO.

We hope that this short guide will spawn many more great guides from our readers. Now go forth and write!


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