Two years ago a friend gave me a voice recorder, which I was planning to use for a particular project. It was a top-of-the-range piece of equipment and probably cost a lot of money. But its operation is anything other than intuitive, and to be perfectly honest I just couldn’t work it out, and put it away. This morning, two years on, I took it out again and had a look at the instructions. I couldn’t make head or tail of them at all. They were certainly not written by a native English speaker (or a German speaker, as I had a go at that version also). I have given up.
And just as I admitted defeat I saw that a survey has been done that reveals that at Christmas people on average spend four hours reading and trying to understand instructions for gadgets, leading to something the report calls ‘gadget rage’. I wonder how many cupboards contain unused gadgets that we never actually managed to make work, because we couldn’t follow the instructions. Humanity has come so far: can we not find people to write manuals that can actually be understood? Or is that beyond the potential for evolution of our species?