man rtfm


RTFM – tool to stimulate learning and improve workflow.


RTFM is used to hit others with a lightning bolt.


RTFM refers to the manual pages (or “man” pages, after the command used to display them) contained in *nix variants and has mutated to refer to reading any help pages or FAQs.

We lament over and over about how no one reads anymore, but we are also often just as guilty. Victims of our own hubris and overconfidence. In our own minds, we’re somehow annoyed by the very job we are doing. Help people solve problems. But sometimes it just touches the nerve, especially in situations where you’ve already explained how to fix it, and even more especially when you’ve already explained how to fix it to the same person.

It’s a slippery slope. Of course you always want to help, but at the same time, if you’re always there and available, it will lead to a condition where the user/junior admin will always skip figuring things out for themselves and just come straight to you.

There is no shame in reading. However, roughly 75% of IT is comprised of men. And it’s a pretty common perception that men don’t read (or ask for) directions.

noun vs verb

While the word “read” is a verb, the entire acronym is often used as a verb as well. Ex:

How do I set up pf to do ALTQ?

Dumbass, man it.

omg, *cry*

You’re lucky all I did was RTFM you.

*Theo sets mode : +b *!n00b@*

A common alternative to RTFM is to stop using Linux and move out of your parents’ basement.

Some critics assert that frequent users of the term are simply expressing elitism against the newcomers, thus driving them away without providing any tips or helpful suggestions. This is especially true when RTFM is used without even specifying which manual their correspondent should be reading. In the absence of a manual, one may be advised to Lurk Moar, see lurkmoar(8)


RTFMIn its normal application RTFM uses no files and is words spoken (or written) only. If applied via email may contain a link to the manual in the environment and the odd meme image. Such meme images are also in use on twitter ever since the update_with_media function was added to the twitter API. If applied on a forum, many users and files may be affected; see butthurt(8).




lurkmoar(8), butthurt(8), tldr(8)


You may be required to look things up and be able to fix things your self eventually.


It’s 10:30AM. The black themed firefox browser is about to stare back as a ping announces an incoming message over jabber to our fearless gurl.

“Hey! Sorry to bother you, but how do I …”

Our fearless gurl’s eyes roll deep into the back of her eye sockets as she emits a loud, exasperated sigh. She knows it’s in the manual – she helped write it. But no one seems to read it. She feels her efforts have been wasted.

But today, our fearless gurl has a plan. Through the miracles of modern science and some quick searches online, she has found a secret formula that would merge her mind into anyone that emails or tweets or pokes over jabber to ask questions. They would be under her control and would instantly think to look for the answers themselves. All she needs is a bolt of lightning to complete the transformation … the surrounding environment is already crackling …

“RTFM !!!!!”, she said.


Authoritarians and exceptionalists considering themselves very important and too high up to ever having to lift a finger may take a dim view of overenthusiastic application of this tool.


While overcoming the RTFM syndrome remains a mystery, this man page was assembled from various sources by anonymous. She disclaims responsibility for any actions inspired by this man page.


Although largely unsubstantiated, usage of RTFM may have begun as a military lingo during World War II, when the phrase “Read The Field Manual” became a staple expression among American soldiers in response to basic questions asked by new enlistees. First introduced in 1939, US Army Field Manuals instructed all the vital, necessary skills for a soldier, from how to fold your clothes properly to how to toss a grenade inside the enemy’s tank. By the early 1950s the phrase RTFM was in common use by radio and radar technicians in the US Armed Forces. Operators frequently did not check for simple faults before asking questions; for example, checking whether a power switch was on, a fuse had blown or a power cord had become disconnected. A common response would be, “Did you check the oh en oh ef ef switch (On/Off). RTFM appeared in print in 1979 on the Table of Contents page of the LINPACK Users’ Guide in the form “R.T.F.M.” — Anonymous, suggesting that it was already well established. Cleve Moler has since revealed that a visit to Argonne National Laboratory by Tektronix Software Manager Ned Thanhouser (grandson of Edwin Thanhouser) during the development of MATLAB led to the anonymous quote. The first Urban Dictionary entry for RTFM was submitted on November 13th, 2003, although its usage has been documented in Slashdot comments as early as in March 1999. Just yonder, Manual was struggling to make his way through the foxy forest behind Fucking’s place. Manual had severely hurt his love handle during the window incident, and was starting to lose strength. Another pack of feral Manuals suddenly appeared, having caught wind of the The. One by one they latched on to Manual. Already weakened from his injury, Manual yielded to the furry onslaught and collapsed. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a buzzing horde of Manuals running off with his The. But then God came down with His charismatic smile and restored Manual’s The. Feeling pleased, God smote the Manuals for their injustice. Then He got in His best-in-its-so-called-‘class’ sedan and jetted away with the fortitude of half a million man-eating capybaras running from a oversized pack of 3-legged wallabies. Manual danced with joy when he saw this. His The was safe. It was a good thing, too, because in four minutes his favorite TV show, Fucking, was going to come on (followed immediately by ‘When 3-legged wallabies meet hand grenade’). Manual was excited. And so, everyone except Fucking and a few rusty razor blade-toting long-haired sea monkeys lived blissfully happy, forever after.


The antithesis of RTFM is TL;DR which stands for “too long; didn’t read.”, see tldr(8)

If some asshole presents to you a long text and you still need to read it, you can incrementally read it with SuperMemo. What this entails is you mince and flashcardize the shit out of the text until it gets obliterated and you can’t recognize it. It’s like throwing the piece of e-paper in acid. The TL;DR is no moar.




STFW (“Search The Fucking Web”), GIYF (“Google Is Your Friend”), LMGTFY (“Let Me Google That For You”), RTBM (“Read The Bloody Manual”—In some countries, e.g., the UK and Australia, this is a fractionally more polite alternative with identical meaning), RTFA (“Read The Fucking/Featured Article”—common on news forums such as and Slashdot, where using “TFA” instead of “the article” has become a meme).

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