Procedures That Get Read (Part 5)

In the previous three posts, we discussed the use of color, photographs and diagrams. One last device to add attractiveness to a procedure combines color and graphics. This is what I term a “highlight box.”

A highlight box takes a particular point of a procedure (in my experience, this is nearly always an important safety or quality-related note) and puts it in a bound box (a text box formed in Microsoft Word, with a border and colored interior.

When a highlight box is used, it is intended to perform the same function as any paragraph in the procedure. That is, the reader would read the information in the highlight box in the order it is presented. The highlight box is used to make the information stand out, not to make the information optional reading.

A highlight box is not a sidebar to the procedure; it is an integral part of the procedure. Structurally, that means the box will extend the width of the page, as would any other paragraph in the procedure.

Color, bold and italic conventions used in the procedure are used in the same manner in a highlight box. This allows the reader to treat colored or italic words or phrases exactly as he or she would anyplace else in the procedure.

Note: the enhancements discussed in this series of posts is described in more detail in Section 8 of my course, Writing Operating Procedures. If you have not requested a free .pdf version of the course, write me at, and I will get it right to you!

To conclude this discussion, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the mechanics of writing. Things such as grammar, spelling and punctuation, and using transitional devices to connect paragraphs are critical to making a readable procedure. If any of these are lacking, all of the devices talked about in this series will not compensate for the lack of professionalism in the writing itself. Any issue that impedes the employee reading the procedure makes it less effective. All the “bells and whistles” in the world will not rescue a poorly written procedure.

Best of luck to you in your procedure development. Please contact me with any questions or issues that are preventing you from being the best procedure writer possible. And, of course, I am always looking to my readers for ideas for the next series of posts.

Write me at Thanks!

About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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