The Grammarphobia Blog

An abuser manual

Q: I used to listen to you live on WNYC when I lived in the NY area. Now that I’m in Idaho, I hear you on the Web. We recently bought an iron at Macy’s (yes we have them in Boise, too.) The owner’s manual, along with a few awful academic papers, has some of the worst writing I’ve read. I’m attaching a scan of the cover and an inside page so you know I’m not making this up.

A: I would have believed you even without the scans. You can’t make this stuff up. I’ll copy a sentence from the manual for readers of The Grammarphobia Blog:

“The inside of the soleplate can be cleaned after some usage calcium build up has occurred inside the soleplate by holding the iron over the ironing table placing a towel on the ironing table and allowing it to steam freely for a minute or 2 under the self cleaning position on the variable steam button-some dirty water droplets will come out onto the towel.”

I know some very good technical writers, but the bad ones can be b-a-a-d! It’s actually difficult to write like that. You have to work for a small-appliance manufacturer that sends you to a special school where you’re deprogrammed and then infused with great gobs of obfuscation.

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