Why You Should Always Read Instructions

Back in high school, I had an eccentric teacher who taught me an important lesson that I have not yet learned.

She often ran a little experiment. She would insert into the middle of a massive paragraph of instructions for a complicated test question a short, inconspicuous sentence saying something like, “sketch a Punnett square above today’s date on the Scantron sheet,” or “draw a smiley face next to your name.”

These weren’t fools errands, they were a chance for extra credit. She’d give two additional points to students who performed the task. It was an incentive to read instructions and a lesson to not cut corners where diligence is necessary.

By the time I took the AP Language and Composition test in the spring of junior year, I’d had this teacher for three separate classes. So, you’d think I would have learned her lesson.

But I hadn’t.

On the third free-response essay question, I didn’t read the prompt close enough and ended up building my entire argument on a peripheral issue.

And recently, when I built the second of two IKEA shelves for my sister, I made the incorrect assumption that it would need the same number of wooden pegs per board as the shelf before it.

I know I should read instructions, but I often don’t. I’m working on it.

Image Credit: Map

Gabe Cederberg

Gabe is an elementary school troublemaker turned assiduous student. He engages in a variety of academic, artistic, and athletic activities, and will study at Harvard University following his gap year. Gabe enjoys making videos, learning languages, and fighting fires. Follow his articles to learn some of his tips and methods for achieving success.