Technical Writing Tip:
Remember the 7±2 rule
The human mind can remember 7±2 related items in short-term memory at one time. This
is why United States phone numbers have seven digits and zip codes have five or nine
digits. This is also why there are seven dwarfs, nine members of the Brady Bunch, and
"seven strangers" on MTV's The Real World.
Therefore, when you put together a procedure, try to limit it to a maximum of seven or
nine steps. Any more steps, and the reader will probably find hard to keep track of them.
If you have a very long procedure, break it into tasks. Each task has a maximum of
seven or nine steps. Of course, you limit the tasks to no more than seven or nine. Your
readers will find it easier to keep track of seven tasks with seven steps for each one,
than having to follow 49 steps. It also makes a procedure seem less intimidating to a
Creative Writing Tips
Society of Technical Communication (STC)
Orange County STC