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Writing Directions 01
"The filling station is two miles ahead, on the right hand side, immediately after the supermarket." This is an example of giving clear directions.

Writing Directions 01

English writing and speaking to inform: at your local station you are asked to give a set of directions to the hospital (three miles away) to visitors on foot. They ask the following questions; answer them to create your sequenced instruction list.

What qualities do good instructions share? They are clear and avoid unnecessary detail. They are given in the order that they should be followed. They use directional language, such as "right", "left" and "straight", as well as positional language, such as "opposite", "next to" and "across". They give times and distances, for example: "Walk for 200 metres" or "Drive for ten minutes". They also mention landmarks to help the listener recognise the journey as they undertake it.

Excellent directions also anticipate any difficulties the listener might encounter, such as missing the last bus or train, or being likely to mistake a similar location for their final destination. If you know such details, it's good to share them!

See if you can help the visitors to find the hospital by playing this quiz.

Where are we exactly?
At the bus station
At the train station
At the train station at the southern end of the high street
On the platform
It is useful to have a precise location from which to begin
How far away are we from the hospital?
A long way
A mile
Half an hour
Three miles
It is useful to have an idea how far you will need to travel
How long will it take us to reach the hospital on foot?
All day
It is impossible by foot
Nearly an hour, but when does visiting time end?
Two minutes
An hour is a reasonable time to expect a three mile walk to take. It's useful to have a rough idea how long you should expect to be travelling
Visiting time ends in two hours. Can we catch a bus?
Bus number 10 goes every 5 minutes from the main road
No buses
The next bus goes in two hours time
Directions should be as specific as possible. If there were no buses, it would be more useful to explain that a taxi would be a good alternative and to give the phone number for a local taxi firm as well
Does it go right to the hospital please?
I don't know
I'm not sure, ask the driver
No, ask for hospital corner and then you must walk
No, it goes to the next town instead
Try to consider eventualities when you give directions
When we get off the bus how do we find the hospital?
Ask for help
Ask the driver
There will be a petrol station on your left, take that road
Turn right and walk into the forest for the afternoon
Give details to help readers/your audience orient themselves
Will we be able to see the hospital from there?
No, you need to walk to the end of the road and turn right
Again, details make all the difference between successful and unsuccessful directions
And then?
Catch a bus back
Catch a train back
Go home again
You will see the hospital at the end of the road
The hospital is the final destination
Will the buses still be running after visiting hours?
Ask in the petrol station
No idea
Until 9.30; the buses are timed to connect with the trains
Yes but you might have to wait for a train
Someone who is unfamiliar with the area might also need help with the return journey
Thank you for your clear directions!
Oh dear
You're welcome! I hope you find the hospital


Author:  Sue Daish

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