The best piece of writing I read this week was not in a book, in a blog, a magazine, or in some kind of other forum we'd associate with 'good writing'.
It was the instruction manual for a product that I don't even own, an Axe from the Best Made Company.
Sure, I get what you're thinking, does a tool as simple as an axe really need a complex or lengthy instruction manual?
No, it really doesn't. And the folks from Best Made realize that as well, in fact they offer an abbreviated version of the already compact set of axe instuctions as follows:
Note: This manual consists of a short version and a long one. The short one goes like this: Keep your blade sharp, your helve moist, and everything clean.
The manual then does offer a 'long' version, no more that a few hundred words along with color illustrations that simply, clearly, and in a straightforward and easy style take the reader through more details regarding safety, cleaning, and maintenance of the tool. What a superb idea, to provide the simplest possible set of instructions for those for whom that will suffice, supplemented with more detailed information for beginners or casual axe-wielders.
The axe manual makes the necessary points and covers the essentials without being superfluous, unnecessarily confusing, and by connecting 'what' the axe owner should do with the 'why' of the recommendations. If your axe blade is dull, it will be harder to chop, take longer to restore the edge, and you or someone are more likely to get hurt.
The manual even advises against loaning the axe to friends and family:
They may even ask if they can borrow yours. By all means, do not say yes. It has been our experience that once an item is lent to someone else—even a family member—it never returns in the same condition, if it returns at all. So when someone asks if they can borrow your Best Made axe to take to the cabin, it’s best to politely decline and inform them that they can purchase their very own from Best Made Co. This will help lessen the tension at family and social gatherings, because, admit it, there’s enough tension already.
Funny stuff. And it also helps to connect the owner to the product and cement the ownership experience.
Why am I blogging about the owner's manual for an axe?
Because to me this is an example of what I personally need to strive for more often in writing - it's engaging, contains important information without being too self-important, makes the connections simply and effectively, refers the reader to useful resources outside the company, and finally does not drone on and on boring everyone to tears.
The full PDF of the axe manual is here - even if you don't own an axe, don't intend on ever owning an axe, you might find the manual useful, I did.