In theory, I work with responsible adults who have the ability to both read and understand the English language. The majority have an undergraduate degree and many have at least one master’s degree. Therefore, you’d think it would be easy enough to follow a set of directions that said simply:
Review the attached documents and provide your written feedback via email to Mr. Random Bureaucrat at firstname.lastname@example.org not later than 10:00 AM.
Of course, what actually happens is you get flooded with messages that say things like “I didn’t like the way things were formatted, so I changed the layout and increased the font because I can’t see so good. Oh, and I changed some of the numbers because I don’t think they were right.” Or someone wanders to your cube wanting you to take dictation about the 37.25 things they want to change. Or someone sends in their changes at 4:32 PM and is then offended when you don’t drop everything, immediately recall the data that had been sent up the chain of command at noon and make their “critical” changes.
Look jerkwater, we spent three months crunching the numbers you sent us. Don’t blame the analysis because you don’t like how things turned out. And definitely don’t blame the analyst when you want to send in “updated” data six hours after the absolute last deadline for changes has passed.
For the love of God and all things good, right, and holy, spare us all the embarrassment of how badly it must suck to be you and read the instructions next time.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.