Tom Sloan Cartoon: Instructions for Directions

tom sloan cartoon directions for instructions
Written by Tom Sloan

Do you need instructions to follow the directions? — How hard is it to write decent directions that are easy and logical? Apparently very. We need instructions on how to read the directions, it’s so bad. There’s so much on this topic I could make it into a TV miniseries. Here’s the first four scenes:

tom sloan cartoon directions for instructions

Directions? Helpful? No.

First of all, many directions you see are written in multiple languages. And, to cram more words onto a tiny instruction booklet, they use, say, 1 point type. So, before we get to step 1, we have to fumble around a minute to find the English section. After skimming over all the things that say “Stop!”, “Read this first” and “Welcome to Your New Product”, there’s the Warnings section, the Prep Work section, the Tools Needed section and the Parts Inventory.

Every time someone couldn’t assemble this thing right, there was a lawsuit. Which means the instructions, warnings and cautions only get longer and longer as the years go on, the font getting smaller and smaller. The manufacturer is mandated to cover their a$$.

But, thank God, finally, finally you find the part with the actual first step. Now, you put the directions down to go do step one. Then pick them up again and fumble around looking for the English section again so you can proceed to step two.

Directions, even those written in English, are often not written the way anyone speaks English. Or any other human language for that matter. So that second step suddenly becomes very complicated. Instead of saying, for example, “Screw the 8 inch bolt into the base,” the directions will read:

Obtain the 8 inch bolt (A). Locate the base (B) while taking note of the location of the hole (R1) in the center. Grasp the hexagonal end of the bolt with one hand, and while simultaneously securing the base with your other hand, twist the bolt using a clockwise rotational movement until bolt is firmly secured with minimum torque.”

How is it possible to write page after page of this junk? Easy. The next time you have to read directions, remember that the copy writer was clearly paid by the word.

For, I’m Tom Sloan.

1 Comment

  • I experienced a poor manual over the weekend putting together a low end tile saw. where the step by step descriptions were in the front of the book but the illustrations that went with them were near the back (after the multi language pages). I ended up tearing the back pages out so I could see the illustration while reading the instructions! We also dont have actual “Technical Writers” any more so we end up with poorly worded and poorly illustrated instructions.