I have to further explain my intent here. I'm writing down some procedures in operating manuals and servicing manuals. I mostly use numbered lists and sometimes just bulleted lists. Recently I started to realize that some of the steps that I've written were in fact not ordered steps but parallel processes. My first reaction to correct those problems was to merge such steps into one step and describe the simultaneous character of the processes in the step explanation itself but this solution turned out to create very ugly and long procedure explanations. This problem is best seen in the textual parts of how-to processes in a flowchart's text.

My question is if there are common practices to write parallel processes in a step-by-step procedure. I saw some kind of visual solutions before which combined the use of boxes in a flowchart-like outline but when you already write step explanations for how-to steps of a flowchart this solution doesn't apply.


I'm sorry for the late reply.

A simple example would be something like this (this is a manual check procedure for the service technicians, it's not meant for the operators of the machine):

  • Turn on the air pipeline input vane
  • Check if the indicator arm moves to the set value

These two procedures have to be performed simultaneously. The valve used to turn the input vane and the vane's indicator arm aren't placed in close vicinity (the technician can observe the arm's movement from where they turn the manual valve), so at first we thought of explaining them in two separate steps. We also have accompanying videos for them which use the same text as subtitle.

To solve the visual part of this problem recently I've come to the conclusion to split the video scene in two and show these steps side-by-side whilst displaying the combined text as one big ugly subtitle text underneath of it.

But the textual part still remains to be a problem. If I merge the steps then I would need to combine them with conjunction words or maybe re-structure the following sentences with word groups like "at the same time", "whilst", "during" etc.

  • 2
    Can you give an example so we can see what you're describing, and what you're thinking about condensing/merging? Jun 15, 2016 at 14:19
  • 2
    Are the parallel processes independent (so long as you do both of them in the end), or are there dependencies between the two? For example, cleaning your car involves washing the exterior and vacuuming the interior in either order, but cleaning your house involves dusting and vacuuming and it's best if you do them in that order. And cleaning your kitchen might start with pre-heating the oven, then scrubbing the counters, then spraying cleaner in the now-hot oven, etc -- interleaving steps, in other words. Jun 15, 2016 at 17:51
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    When you say parallel process, do you mean that they actually have to be done in parallel (that is, at the same time) or do you mean that they are not order dependent (that is, it does not matter in what order you do A, B, and C, as long as you do all of them?) If the latter, pick an order and write it like that. Readers can only do things one at a time, so if the order does not matter, just pick one. You don't have to tell them every way to do something, just one way that works.
    – user16226
    Jun 16, 2016 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


I think you need to join them into a single step, or else there is a risk that the user will do the first step without paying attention to the indicator arm, and may thus hold the input vane open too long.

And I presume that there is a third step here, which is to close the input vane when the indicator arm reaches the set value.

You definitely need to join the first two parts of this, and the appropriate conjunction seems to be "until". You might also join the third with "then":

Turn on the air pipeline input vane and keep it open until the indicator arm moves to the set value. Then close the input vane.

Or you can put the close instruction on a separate line:

Turn on the air pipeline input vane and keep it open until the indicator arm moves to the set value. Close the input vane.

Or you can decide that it is implied by "keep open until".

Turn on the air pipeline input vane and keep it open until the indicator arm moves to the set value.

If it is hard to locate the indicator arm, then it makes sense to tell people to locate it before they open the value.

Locate the indicator arm by [how] Turn on the air pipeline input vane and keep it open until the indicator arm moves to the set value.

Since this sounds like a procedure that can affect both worker safety and protection of property, make sure you field test your instructions to make sure they result in correct action with your target audience.

  • "Closing the vane" is a separate step which is added to the step list automatically by the software by a status check. It's something like: "If a [normally closed] [vane] has been [opened] in the procedure then add the counter action step at the appropriate order to the end of the steps." It's something like this which is done for every similar action. If the "thing" has to remain in its new status then we don't add the automatic check function to that how-to procedure and carefully plan when to introduce the status check again in the complete workflow structure or manually change the status.
    – Montag451
    Jun 30, 2016 at 5:58
  • Don't focus on my particular example. I've chosen it because it's short and simple. We have procedure step lists which consist of about twentyish steps and 4. and 5. steps are separated like in my example. (Then the same list contains other separated but concurrent 3 steps in 11., 12., and 13. steps). I'm mostly focusing and asking on their "concurrency" factor.
    – Montag451
    Jun 30, 2016 at 6:14

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