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).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!
Think of the simplest route, even if it takes a little longer. 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 this street, then a right at the light, and go straight all the way down that road until you get to the highway.
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 - e.g. continue down that street, passing 4 side roads along the way. 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.
How many traffic lights they'll pass - this is good, but you must be right about the number!
distance in miles or kilometers - e.g. go 3 miles on Holypoke Road
How much time it'll take - this is better for when they'll be spending a short time on that path (less than 10 minutes); any longer than that, and your directions will become inaccurate depending on how fast the person drives (what's 15 minutes to you might be 30 minutes to a slow driver who's lost)
Give them adrop deadpoint, a landmark that tells them that they've gone too far and have missed their turn.
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. E.g. Turn a left at the traffic light onto Foster, heading east. Tell the person what direction they need to turn in before telling them where (e.g., "Turn left onto Baker Street" instead of "At Baker Street, turn left").
Outline the entire route using the previous two steps. Remember to be concise. Detailed directions are useless if you give so many details that the person driving gets confused.
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 - "If you start crossing the bridge over the river, you've gone too far, turn around".
Mention which side of the street their destination will be found on.
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.
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.
Women tend to use landmarks, men tend to use direction and distance.
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.
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.
Use the wordrightonly in reference to the turning direction, not a distance indicator -- Try to give directions such as "Turn leftimmediatelyafter the light", not "Turn leftrightafter the light." This language can be confusing to a person who is trying to remember which direction to turn.
Using buildings or store names as a reference is not always a good idea, since the store could close or buildings torn down.
Don't give too much information. It only creates confusion. Just focus on what is essential.
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."
Do not wait until the last minute to advise a driver of the next instruction. Let them know ahead of time so they can prepare, and avoid making sudden, dangerous changes in direction at the last moment.
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.
It is pleasant to chat with the driver while traveling, and may even help him or her stay more alert. However, if you are going to be giving directions in a relatively rapid sequence, stick to the directions, and be quiet the rest of the time. This will make your directions clearer, and easier for the driver to follow safely.