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RTFM is an acronym for the statement "Read The Fucking Manual". This instruction is sometimes given in response to a question when the person being asked believes that the question could be easily answered by reading the relevant "manual" or instructions. It is also used to tell someone to try to help himself/herself before seeking assistance from others. In clean and substituted texts, "Read The Fine Manual," "Read The Friendly Manual," "Read The Full Manual,"or "Read The Field Manual" is sometimes used.[1] On other occasions, the F is simply ignored.[2] This abbreviation can also be found on message boards, to mean "Read The Fucking (or First) Message".

More recent variants are:

  • STFW ("Search The Fucking Web")
  • GIYF ("Google Is Your Friend")
  • JFGI ("Just Fucking Google It")
  • UTSL ("Use The Source Luke")
  • RTFA ("Read The Fucking Article" - common on Fark.com[3])
  • RTFE ("Read The Fucking Email")

Language variants:

In some countries (eg observed in UK and Australia) a fractionally more polite alternative with identical meaning, RTBM ("Read The Bloody Manual") can be heard.


[edit] Use and overuse

An Internet forum where users read the FAQ before posting their questions is more likely to have a better signal to noise ratio than one that is filled with repetitive postings, and hence is more likely to attract continued participation. When evaluating whether it is acceptable to express sentiments like RTFM, one must consider the trade-off between maintaining the usability of an Internet forum for its existing users, and making a forum welcoming to newcomers.

Critics say that frequent users of the phrase (or similar variants) are simply expressing elitism, and that their attitude drives away newcomers without helping them. Their time could better be spent adding the question and answer to a FAQ, pointing the user to a helpful website, or simply not responding.[4] They point out that RTFM is often used when it is not even clear which manual their correspondent should be reading.[5] One of the most frequent criticisms of the open source community is lack of friendly support for newcomers. The Ubuntu Forums and LinuxQuestions.org, for instance, have instituted "no RTFM" policies to promote a welcoming atmosphere.[6][7].

RTFM [and] "Go look on google" are two inappropriate responses to a question. If you don't know the answer or don't wish to help, please say nothing instead of brushing off someone's question. Politely showing someone how you searched or obtained the answer to a question is acceptable, even encouraged.


If you wish to remind a user to use search tools or other resources when they have asked a question you feel is basic or common, please be very polite. Any replies for help that contain language disrespectful towards the user asking the question, i.e. "STFU" or "RTFM" are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Ubuntu Forums

This phrase is also commonly used in Massive Multiplayer Online games, from people frustrated by newbies asking how to do something that is explained in the manual.

Some hackers have suggested that in some situations "RTFM" is actually the best advice that an aspiring hacker can receive.[8] They posit that hacking is a dynamic art which requires independence and drive on the part of the hacker, and see "RTFM" as more of a long-term advisement than it is a response to any single query. This argument is only applicable when used with other hackers, however, given that the concepts surrounding open source software are designed to be suitable for use by non-hackers. In fact, usability experts recommend designing some kind of software to be usable without a manual at all, since users don't ever actually read them.[9] Regardless of original cause, this problem could be mitigated as the 'contextual help' paradigm comes into play.

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