Instruction manuals — Really, you think you can call it that?

Dear company that produces ANY PRODUCT that requires assembly or installation, do you read your own manuals before you put your product on the market?  I don’t think you do.  It would be a good idea because you should know if your manuals make sense or not.  If they don’t, I think you can do better.

(This is not a real instruction manual.  It’s one I made up to represent the stupidity I’ve seen recently.)

Crappy Instruction Manuals

When I pay money to buy a product, I expect to be able to use said product.  If you produce and sell a product that  has to be  “assembled at home” or “installed”, it is your responsibility to provide adequate instructions to walk me through the installation or assembly process.


It shouldn’t be difficult.  Here are a few tips if you’re confused as to what consumers need in their instruction manual.


  • It should be written by someone who speaks the language that the manual is written in.  Not translated.
  • It should be written by someone who has actually installed or assembled said item.
  • It should be proofread by someone else who has also installed or assembled said item.
  • Then it should be “TESTED” by several consumers who have no affiliation with the product or process.
  • If it passes the consumer test then you can go ahead and send it out to be put on the shelves at stores.


I sure help this insight helps — ’cause currently YOUR INSTRUCTION MANUAL might SUCK!


  1. Jeremy Glastetter says:

    Hi SawDustGirl -
    I’m smiling from reading this article. You are not alone with your feelings. I myself have found a living assembling a whole array of items for people.

  2. Haha I call instructions like that Chinese ikeastructions because they dont make sense &most of the lil pics are useless.

  3. Funny post and oh so true!

  4. Mary Ellen says:

    Dear Sandra,
    Couldn’t get the tab to work on emailing you directly…….so commenting here. I have a blog and starting January 1st of this year, I have shared a new blog-a-day. Today you were featured. LOVE your humor!

    Here is a link to the blog:

    So glad to have found your blog and looking forward to many more enjoyable reads.

  5. Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    Yes!! There are so many good examples of instruction manuals out there too. One of my favourites was a friend’s kiddie deck chair. Board holes were labeled with numbers and fasteners were labeled with letters. You just had to mate up A-Z with 1-26 (with numbers…you didn’t even have to figure out what number G was!)
    Testing is so bloody important. We once had an absolutely TERRIBLE anniversary with a flat tire out in the bush because while the truck manual had three diagrams on how to unvelcro the jack, there was ZERO reference to the lock nut that was missing! We didn’t even know the bloody thing was missing, with SIX people looking through the manual. /rant.

  6. This is so. bloody. true. They really ought to market test their manuals just as much as their products. Drives me INSANE!

  7. I really think you should have posted the company name AND the item. Just so I know not to buy it… LOL!

  8. Donna Gelineau says:

    They missed a very important step. You first need to “fablicate the snippet before you can tiply inside it!” Then you can turn it in!

  9. Kristen @ Pink Toes and Power Tools says:

    But you got the essential info, right? I mean, all you really needed to know was the “Don’t over tighten” part, I’m sure. (not!)

    But seriously, that is really, really bad.

  10. We met a couple one time when we were camping. They traveled around in their camper and with their dogs and this was their job. Writing descriptions for assembly of products! True story! The thing is, I don’t think they had any of the items in their possession when they wrote the instructions on assembly. I think they only went by the computer diagram, picture or something that the manufacturer gave them! No wonder the instructions are so awful!

  11. Sarah @ The Ugly Duckling House says:

    Here here! I have to write technical documentation for my clients all the time with our software. That last step of getting the consumer to test REALLY makes a huge difference in knowing whether or not publishing it makes sense! And “thingy” is never allowed :)

  12. That is seriously lacking to say the least. Hope you called the company!

  13. Erin's Creative Energy says:

    I’ve received free product and coupons/gift certificates for calling up companies and complaining about manuals like this. Thankfully I usually don’t need the manual to put things together.

  14. Lindsay @ Makely says:

    This is hilarious! My father-in-law teaches technical writing at a large university. He’s going to love this!