How to write better instructions in four easy steps

My fiance (yes, the Grammaniac is engaged! Yay!) received a tire pressure gauge for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure it came with the world’s worst set of instructions. Not only have I decided to make fun of them, but I’ll also use them as an example of how to write instructions that make at least a fraction of a bit of sense.

Step one:
Ensure proper noun-verb agreement : …when tires are cold.

Step two:
Choose the correct word to represent the idea you are trying to convey: Remove cap on tire valve.

Step three:
Do not make up words: set screw is two words, not one.

Step four:
This is a set of instructions, not a word scramble game: small.

For the lazier type, you could even skip these four steps and proceed straight to step five: hire a damn proofreader.

5 thoughts on “How to write better instructions in four easy steps

  1. One of the funniest things in the world to me is reading instructions written in “English” by non-English speakers! These are large manufacturers that obviously have enough money to hire a reliable English translator and proofreader. Why don’t they?
    (I do wonder, though, if people in other countries reading instructions for things manufactured in the U.S. are just as amused by our attempts at translation…!)

  2. I’m sure they are! Haha. What gets me is that all it takes is having an English speaker review these instructions before sending them to print. I’ve come to accept that my expectations are too high.

  3. Is this another one of those previously American jobs that was out-sourced to a foreign country? Because I’m reluctant to believe we have people this devoid of common brain functionality living in the United States. This was a great post. I will be visiting more often as I’m a bit of grammar freak myself. My husband calls me “Professor” because I’m so anal about language, lol.

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