PLANNING THE PROCESS DESCRIPTION
Technical writers often describe processes. Methods of testing or evaluating, methods of installing, flow of material through a p’lant, the schedule for implementing a proposal, and the method for calculating depreciation are all exaQ1plesof processes. Manuals and reports contain many examples of process ,descriptions. Processes are usually one of two types: the operations of a mechanism or system that do not involve human activity, and the operations that do involve human activity. As with a mechanism description, the writer must consider the audience, select an organizational principle, choose visual aids, and follow the usual form for writing descriptions.
Consider the Audience
The knowledge level of audiences and their potential use of the document will vary. While most audiences for a process description have relatively little knowledge uf the process, they must often make a decision based on such a description. The process description is, in effect, vital background information for the decision. For instance, a plant engineer might propose a change in material flow in a plant because a certain step i~ inefficient, causing a bottleneck. To get the change approved, he or she would have to describe the old and new processes to a manager, who would use that description to make a decision about whether to implement the new process er not. Process descriptions also are used to explain in detail the implementation of a project. If a company plans to install a complicated piece of machinery in a plant, a careful schedule is written so that all affected parties understand what actions will occur at each step.
Select an Organizational Principle
The organizational principle for processes is chronological: the writer starts with the first action Dr step and continues in order until the last. Many processes have obvious sequences of steps, but others require careful examination in order to determine the most logical sequence. If you were describing the fashion cycle, you could easily determine its four parts (introduction, rise, peak, and decline). If, however, you had to describe the complex flow of material through a plant, you would want’ to base your sequence of steps on your audience’s knowledge level and intended use of the description. You might treat “receiving” as just one step, or you might break it into several steps, like “unloading,” “sampling,” and “accepting.” Your decision depends on how much your audience needs to know.
Choose Visual Aids
If your subject is a machine in operation, visuals of the machine in different positions will clarify the process. If you are describing a process that involves people, a flow chart can quickly clarify a sequence. For example, you might use j)le following flow chart to explain a hospital nutritionalassessment program.
Follow the Usual Form for Writing Descriptions
The process description takes the same form as the mechanism description: an introduction, which provides an overview, and the body, which treats each step in detail, usually one step to a paragraph. In each paragraph, first define the step, often in terms of its goal or end product, then describe it.