In these uncertain economic times we are all searching – for answers, for security, for our next paycheck, for our car keys. It is in times like these that we can find comfort in simple “How To” guides, that will explain something, anything really, in a way we can understand. So how does one go about writing an effective and comforting “How To” guide? There are three key elements- Identify, Simplify, and Testify.
The first key element of writing a “How To” guide is to Identify a common need or question. Sound simple enough? Sure! But that’s not all! This common need or question that will be the subject of the “How To” has to also be relevant to the intended reader. So an effective and comforting “How To” article must first of all consider it’s context. For example, “Bankruptcy In 10 Easy Steps!” would hardly be effective or comforting, well at all really, but especially not if included in your quarterly 401K statement. The subject of the “How To” should be appropriate to the context.
Now that the basic need or question has been Identified, the next key element of the “How To” is to Simplify. The reason we need the “How To” article in the first place is directly related to the practically overwhelming amount of and often contradictory information out there. We need a “How To” guide to Simplify it for us, to break it down into a few short steps that we can easily follow. Breaking it down into simpler components helps to make the information more manageable. The “How To” that we will turn to and possibly even use has the ability to give us hope. Hope that we can do this! Whatever it is.
So in writing an effective and comforting “How To” guide, once the need/question has been Identified, and the process/answer Simplified the final element that brings it all together is a Testimonial. Okay, so the “How To” is relevant and easy to understand – But has the author of this “How To” ever actually done this before? And did it work? Will it work for me? We have to be able to relate to the perspective of the
“How To” guide as having successfully been through it already. So the “How To” guide has to be able to Testify that yes, this actually does work!
So an effective and comforting “How To” guide will (1) Identify a common subject that is appropriate to the context, (2) Simply the steps by breaking it down and lastly (3) Testify from personal experience that this actually does work. If all these elements come together successfully, the true test of the “How To” guide is inspiring the reader to give it a try.