How to write an effective standard operating procedures manual

The employee manual is a wonderful opportunity for management to clearly communicate with new staff members the procedures of the company. Because an office policies and procedures manual is so valuable, it is important to take sufficient time to compose a good one.


A poorly constructed manual can confuse staff regarding responsibilities and even open the company to legal liabilities.

Here is how to create an all-inclusive manual with clear instructions:

Be clear, concise, and to the point

To produce top-notch manuals, procedures should be written in a simple structure. Write each step as a small piece. It shouldn`t contain multiple things to do at the same time. It should be easy to read at once, and then turn and do it right away. It is very important to maintain a logical sequence and enumerate each step to avoid ambiguity. Good instructions should be complete, consistent, efficient, and understandable.


Choose the appropriate format

Format it in a way that all users can understand. It can be a simple list of steps or a flowchart that uses different shapes to communicate complex processes in easy-to-understand diagrams. The hierarchical format that includes sub-steps under the main steps is very useful for procedures that require a lot of details. The choice of the proper format depends on the type of instructions you are going to write.

Pay attention to your language

The writing style for a procedure manual should rely on clear and concise language. Select verbs that precisely describe the actions and use them consistently in that context. Don`t include information that may be quickly outdated. Use short, common words except where standard industry terms or technical words are required. Read each sentence aloud as you visually inspect the spelling and sentence structure.


Explain the purpose of the manual

Procedures manuals should provide instructions and directions for the day-to-day operation of a business venture. Every procedure should have an operational purpose so make sure that the operation addresses the business reason for the procedure. Bear in mind that manual is designed to assist others in completing a certain task, so it should be written with the readers in mind. Include such basic features as specific title, list of parts, tools, and conditions required, graphics, safety information, and conclusion that signals completion of the task. Establish a review process, which includes testing the outline procedures.

Update and maintain your manual

Make sure that your procedure manual is up-to-date in order not to jeopardize your business. Plan on reviewing your manual every year noting any areas of concern and making timely revisions. Make this step a team effort. All the managers and human resources staff should be responsible for reviewing and updating the company procedures.