Fitbit Product Instructions Earn Kudos for Clarity, Grammatical Correctness

Group Of Women Power Walking On Urban StreetProduct instructions can run the gamut from perfectly clear to downright confusing. I recently purchased a FitBit® so that I could compete with my sister-in-law for the number of steps we take in a given time.

I hate to admit it, but I’m easily intimidated by technology, so I of course read every word of the product instructions. I was impressed with the precision of the text and, for the most part, the punctuation.

What impressed me:

“Use only the charger that shipped with your product to charge the battery.”

I was pleased to see that only is adjacent to what it modifies: the charger that shipped with this product.

Here’s what would have been a more usual expression of this thought:
Only use the charger that shipped with your product to charge the battery.

Would I have understood it either way? In this case, yes. But the first construction is more accurate and acceptable to me and no doubt to my fellow grammar geeks.

“Do not attempt to force open the built-in battery.”

Again, here is a modifier, open, that is adjacent to what it modifies, force.

It would not have been unusual to see it expressed this way:
Do not force the built-in battery open.

And it would not have been the end of the world or necessarily misleading to have worded it the second way, but the first choice is grammatically preferred.

In this same line, “built-in battery” is correctly hyphenated as built-in, which is a compound modifier for battery.

“Never allow children to play with your Fitbit product; the small components may be a choking hazard.”

Some people shy away from using semicolons, as they don’t fully understand their application. This use was perfect: The words that follow the semicolon form an independent clause (it could stand alone as a sentence), yet their meaning is directly related to and relies on the first independent clause for understanding.

What didn’t impress me:

On the other end of the spectrum, because everything else is so clear, I wonder if this comma splice that creates a run-on sentence simply is a typographical error:

“Do not attempt to disassemble your Fitbit product, its components are non-serviceable.”

“Do not attempt to disassemble your Fitbit product” is an independent clause as is “its components are non-serviceable.” A semicolon rather than a comma after product would have been the preferred punctuation. A comma does not make the appropriate separation between two independent clauses.

Kudos to Fitbit for the near-perfect product instructions! Their attention to detail gives me confidence that the product was designed and assembled with comparable attention to detail.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)