Wednesday, 26 October 2016

So the instructions say

you need to do this and that and avoid those and...
I won't even bother to go and find some instructions and quote them because anybody who can read this can also read instructions. Right?
My friend C...posted a picture of the instructions she has been given with respect to some injections she must give herself daily for the next six months. I cannot actually read the instructions because the print is too small on the screen but I can guess the sort of thing they say and the sort of English they are written in.
I see these sort of instructions from time to time. I know what happens. The doctor orders certain medication for the patient. The doctor tells the patient how it must be taken. Patient nods and looks as if they have understood. Later a nurse may even repeat those instructions. Patient is sent home with medication.
And then it's something like, "Cat, I didn't really understand what they said" or "Cat, what's 10ml?" or "When do I have to take this one?" or....well, a variety of questions.
So, we sit there together and I rewrite the instructions. I have even been reduced to things like. "Before breakfast. Take the tablet. Put the timer on for an hour. When the timer rings you can eat breakfast" and "Fill to the blue mark on the cup."(I have made the blue mark.) 
Chemists do "pill packs". They are marvellous things. They sort the multiple medications some people must take and place them in little units. That's fine if people are simply expected to swallow them - and they can remember to do that. The problems start when things must be taken at certain times or a certain time before meals or they need to be measured out or they need to be taken in a certain way. 
Sometimes the instructions given are unnecessarily complex or written in a way that people don't understand. I remember standing there in the chemist one day listening to the chemist try to explain to an elderly person I knew slightly how something must be taken. The elderly person looked at me in despair and, knowing the young chemist well enough to tease him occasionally, I asked, " I know how someone else remembers how to take that. May I suggest something?" Given a, "Yes, please!" I went ahead and explained in a step by step form. The chemist scribbled it down, printed out a proper copy and handed it over. He was happy, the customer was happy and I was happy because it meant the chemist could give me some attention. No doubt they would have coped without my interference but the chemist admitted that the instructions given to people sometimes drive him to despair. 
There's really no need for it. Instructions for that sort of thing can usually be written very simply. If it offends those of us who can read to be talked down to then we must put up with it because other people need to know in Plain English. 

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

It's not just in the how-to department that the issuers of instructions can fail. I have been taking a particular pill (among the many) for well over a year, and only yesterday did I get a sensible and reasonable explanation for what it does. The initial doctor would only say "It is in your interests to take it" and, asked to explain, just repeated the words. He didn't endear himself to me!