Sunday, August 13, 2006

Vacuum Cleaner Instruction Manuals

I never thought I'd be saying this but I was just impressed by an instruction book for a vacuum cleaner.

Robert Dyas were selling this "Salton Bagless Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner and we chose it based entirely on price.

It doesn't feel particularly well-built - but then what do you expect for £30?

Where it stands out, however, is its instruction manual; a literary masterpiece.


  • Keep hair, clothing, fingers (and toes), away from the end doing the sucking. It won't drag you bodily into the bin, but it might give you a bit of a start

  • There's a red band about a metre [from the end of the cable]. This means "Stop pulling, you've run out of cable!". If you're very strong and you keep pulling, you could probably haul the cable right out of the cleaner - this is not a good idea.

  • Caution. If you've accidentally pressed the on/off switch, the cleaner could come on when you plug it in. This could give you a bit of a start, so be careful.

  • If the cleaner starts to get noisier and you start to lose suction, don't worry, it's not the end of the world, you've probably just blocked it up.

Subtle, understated but obviously written by someone with ambitions to do more than write vacuum cleaner manuals for the rest of their lives.

I'll be keeping my eye out for other Salton products.


Darren said...

Cool. Isn't it great to find hidden gems like that? Those Innocent Smoothies adapot a similar style on their packaging, I've ended up buying each flavour just to read the packaging.

Andrew Ferrier said...

Great. This kind of common-sense writing, lacking in legalese, benefits everyone. I've always enjoyed reading the offical Google blog for this reason. Even when their legal folk are posting, they don't obfuscate their language, and manage to communicate clearly.

Let's have some more of this from big business.

Richard Brown said...

I was in two minds about posting this article... so I'm glad to hear that Darren is even more obsessive than me! I completely agree with Andrew... I wonder why more people don't write that clearly?

I guess some of it might be learned behaviour - everybody else writes in with a pseudo-legal affectation so you think you have to too. And I guess a lot of it is also because clear prose stems from clear thinking and there's not a lot of that about :-p

Andrew Ferrier said...

Agreed. Clear writing takes more work. Those whose English isn't so hot will struggle, and compensate by inserting a lot of big words.

In fact, I don't think that manuals such as these are normally the worst culprits: often they are just poorly translated from their native language. Letters from local councils take the glittering prize for roundabout communication, in my opinion.