Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

To my knowledge step-by-step tutorials should have the form of a ladder, where you describe how to get to a place step by step– accomplishing a single task at the end. Is it possible to accomplish many tasks while using the step-by-step approach? For example:

How to view a contact in Gmail?

  1. Open Gmail
  2. Click on Contacts
  3. To view a single contact, click on the name
  4. To view all the contacts, click the "contacts" link

Now, I am confused about step 3 and 4. Is it okay to list the two this way? I could list these two under a single step, but I have more than two items and this was just an example.

share|improve this question

If you want your tasks to have multiple endpoints, then you need to have an EXPLICIT branching point.

1 Open Gmail
2 Click on Contacts
3 Do you want to view (a) a single contact or (b) all contacts.
4a To view a single contact, click on the name
4b To view all the contacts, click the "contacts" link.

share|improve this answer
I have to submit stuff through an online system where step 1, step 2, and more are already listed in the system. I am not sure if option three would fit in there. Any thoughts? – Noah Apr 19 '13 at 4:38
Then use 3 To view (a) a single contact {Go to 4} or (b) all contacts {Go to 5}. 4 To view a single contact, click on the name 5 To view all the contacts, click the "contacts" link. – Fortiter Apr 19 '13 at 6:47
I would number those 3a and 3b, not 4a and 4b, as the branch point itself isn't really a step. – Monica Cellio Apr 19 '13 at 15:31
What if the process being explained contains many parallel steps and many branches on the way? Would you go on to use this notation? 7baab, 10bbaba etc – Montag451 Jun 9 at 6:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.