Sunday, 29 July 2012

Writing instructions is

much more difficult than it appears to be.
"Put the lid on the box" sounds straightforward but what if there is already a lid on the box and there is another lid next to it? Do you put another lid on the box?
If there is no lid on the box and a smaller lid next to it are you expected to turn the box upside down and put that lid on top of the bottom of the box?
It might all sound rather ridiculous but there was a similar problem yesterday. One of the members of the knitting group is trying to learn to crochet. She has subscribed to one of those magazines which come in weekly parts. It is supposed to teach her how to crochet.
I know the basics but I do not consider myself to be a crocheter. I am also left pawed and she is right pawed. One of the other members of the group does crochet well so she volunteered to help. Last time she showed our would-be crocheter how to do the basics. This time they were going to try the first square.
It should have been easy. It looked easy. It simply would not work. They both tried. They tried more than once. The girl next to them looked and could not get it right.
Eventually they passed the instructions over to me and the person sitting next to me. We read the instructions. They seemed straight forward but, at the end, there were words in brackets. They told you to ignore a "turning chain". The "turning chain" is at the beginning of the row and there is something similar at the end of the row.
The person sitting next to me and I looked at one another and I said, "Perhaps they mean the turning chain at the beginning of the row - not the end."
She agreed.
The row was undone yet again. This time they tried ignoring the chain at the beginning. They reached the end and counted the little fence posts of crochet again. Ah, the right number.
Poorly written instructions wasted an hour of their time. It is the sort of thing which should not happen. Instructions are difficult to write. They probably seemed quite logical to the person who wrote them but they also needed to be tested on someone else, someone who could not do the task and would not make any assumptions about the process.
It reminded me why I hate trying to write instructions.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Crochet is one craft I have never altered, partly because I'm left handed and my crocheting sister is right handed. I never trust instructions, so I ave discovered a YouTube video for left handed crochet. But I can only knit scarves. I once tried a knitting pattern and gt it all done right up to the pillar, which was impossible. I thought maybe it was just me ad ased for help from a knitting workmate and even she couldn't do it. Conclusion: a mistake in the instructions! :-( I've never tried a pattern again.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Whoops, that's "mastered", not "altered". And "collar" not "pillar". Asked not "ased".

catdownunder said...

Sue, I haven't used a pattern since I was about sixteen - although I often look at them and get ideas!

JO said...

It's recipes that can have me stumped, especially the instruction that goes along the lines of: 'turn into a casserole dish' ...

catdownunder said...

Oh yes Jo - that one is a real mystery to me! :-)