wikiHow to Give Directions

There are two basic ways to give directions, the "route perspective" characterized by landmarks, and the "survey perspective" characterized by references to cardinal directions (north, south, west, east).[1] The system you use depends on where you are and who you're giving directions to. Most of the time it's best to use a combination. The most important thing is to be brief and clear!


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    Think of the simplest route. Shortcuts may be faster, but they can also be more complicated! If the person is lost or has poor navigation skills to begin with, give them directions with minimal turns. For example: Make a left on Baker street, then a right at the light, and go straight all the way down that road until you get to the highway.
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    Specify distance. How far along a particular road does the person need to go? There are several different ways to tell them:
    • How many blocks or streets they'll pass. This works better in a city than in the country, because in the city there are more cross-streets to count, whereas in the country the space between them makes it easier to lose count, and some driveways look like roads of their own. For example: "Continue down that street, passing 4 side roads along the way."
    • How many traffic lights they'll pass. This is good, but you must be right about the number! For example: "You are going to pass three traffic lights before the turn."
    • Distance in miles or kilometers. For example: "Go 3 miles (5 kilometers) on Holypoke Road"
    • How much time it'll take. This is better for when they'll be spending a short time on that path; any longer than that, and your directions will become inaccurate depending on how fast the person drives. For example: "It should be about five minutes on the highway."
    • Give them a drop dead point. A drop dead point is a landmark that tells them that they've gone too far and have missed their turn. For example: "If you see the library, you have gone too far."
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    Indicate turns. If it's not a simple, four-way intersection, give a few extra details. Otherwise, tell them to make a left or right. Give them a street name and one landmark (a traffic light, a particular store). If the person you're giving directions to is good with cardinal directions (north, south, west, east) and/or the city you're in is laid out like a grid (with all the streets perpendicular, running east-west or north-south) indicate the direction, too. For example: "Turn a left at the traffic light onto Foster, heading east."
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    Simplify the directions. For example: "Turn left onto Baker Street" instead of "At Baker Street, turn left."
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    Say which side of the street their destination is on. For example: "My house is on the left."
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    Warn them about any confusing parts of the route. For instance, if a lane ends or is right turn only, or a road they need to turn onto is small or hidden, you might want to mention that. If there's a turn that you know people tend to miss, tell them how they'll know they've gone too far. For example: "The lane is going to merge before the turn, and Baker street will become Forest Street. But you will want to keep traveling down it once it becomes Forest Street."
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    Outline the entire route. Remember to be concise. Detailed directions are useless if you give so many details that the person driving gets confused. For example: "Make a left on Baker street, then a right at the second light, and go straight all the way down that road until you get to the highway, it should be about three miles (5 kilometers). Stay on the highway for three minutes and then get off on exit 7. We are the third house on the left. If you see the library, you have gone too far."
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    Have them repeat the directions to you. Whether or not they've written them down, make sure they heard you correctly and understand the route you laid out for them. For example: "So you said left on Baker street, then a right at the second light, and go straight all the way down that road until you get to the highway. Get off on exit 7. And it's the third house on the left. If I pass the library, I went too far."


  • Do not shout! Give directions in a clear, calm voice, early enough to give the driver plenty of time to understand, plan, and safely execute his or her next move. Shouting directions may cause the driver to react quickly, without taking time to do so safely.
  • Using buildings or store names as a reference is not always a good idea, since the store could close or buildings torn down.
  • If you are guiding someone while they drive, do not point and say things like, "there it is" or "go that way." They cannot pay attention to their driving and look at which way you are pointing at the same time. Instead, say things like, "it is on the left, about half a block further," or "turn left at the next corner."
  • Start by giving the destination address and make sure they record that first. A mailing address is a more universally recognizable standard for location, and should the person get lost en route, they could use other resources to find their way.
  • Use the word right only in reference to the turning direction, not a distance indicator -- Try to give directions such as "Turn left immediately after the light", not "Turn left right after the light." This language can be confusing to a person who is trying to remember which direction to turn.
  • If you are guiding someone while they drive, pay attention to which lane they are in. If the next move they need to make is a right turn, and they are driving in the left lane, suggest changing into the right lane well before the turn, so they can make that turn safely when they get to it.
  • If the person is present with you, have him or her turn in the direction s/he is headed, and use hand signals to reinforce the directions. The more senses you use, the more likely the person is to remember.
  • Draw a simplified map if paper and pencil are available.
  • Don't give too much information. It only creates confusion. Just focus on what is essential.
  • Women tend to use landmarks, men tend to use direction and distance.[2]


  • Don't give directions if you are unsure. You can get someone even more lost!

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