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RTFM is an initialism and internet slang for the expression "read the fucking manual" – typically used to reply to a basic question where the answer is easily found in the documentation, user guide, owner's manual, man page, online help, internet forum, software documentation or FAQ.

Usage is variously viewed as a pointed reminder of etiquette to try to find a solution before posting to a mass forum or email alias;[1] helping a noob to improve themselves;[2] as a useless response;[3] or as a hostile and elitist response.[4] Polite usages would mention where one has looked when asking a question, and to provide an exact location or link where exactly to RTFM.

In expurgated texts, substitutions such as "read the frickn' manual", "read the factory manual", "read the field manual", "read the flaming manual", "read the fine manual", "read the friendly manual", "read the [pause] manual" or similar variants are used.[5]

If there is no appropriate content in the manual but the answer is frequently seen in the forum, a similar response might be to Lurk moar, meaning to observe the forum for a time before asking questions.

Possible origins[edit]

The initialism appeared in print in 1979 on the table of contents page of the LINPACK User's Guide[6] 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 during the development of MATLAB led to the anonymous quote.[7]

John Bear's 1983 book Computer Wimp! 166 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Bought My First Computer! discusses the author hearing employees of a computer store mention RYFM ("read your fucking manual").[8]

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. [9]

List of similar initialisms[edit]

  • RTBM – "read the bloody manual"[10]
  • RTFA – "read the fucking/featured article"– common on news forums such as Fark.com[11] and Slashdot, where using "TFA" instead of "the article" has become a meme[citation needed]
  • RTDA – "read the damn article"
  • RTDM – "read the damn menu"
  • RTDM – "read the damn manual"
  • WABM – "write a better manual" – an answer complaining that the manual is not written well[12]
  • RTFD – "read the fucking documentation"
  • RTFE – "read the fucking error"
  • RTFM41 – "read the fucking manual for once"
  • RTFW – "read the fucking wiki"
  • RTFC – "read the fucking chart" – a response that physicians give to coders who submit inappropriate queries
  • RTFS – "read the fucking source" or "read the fucking standard"[13]
  • RTFB – "read the fucking binary"[14]
  • RTFQ – "read the fucking question"
  • RTMS – "read the manual, stupid"
  • STFW – "search the fucking web"
  • GIYF – "Google is your friend"
  • JFGI – "just fucking Google it"
  • DYOR – "do your own research"
  • LMGTFY, LMGT4U – "let me Google that for you"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "RTFM. No seriously, R.T.F.M. Then ask your question". 4 August 2011. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  2. ^ "What is Read The F###ing Manual (RTFM)?". Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  3. ^ "RTFM: I did, and it didn't help". Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  4. ^ "It's Time to Retire "RTFM"". Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  5. ^ Howard, Michael, David LeBlanc, and John Viega. 19 Deadly Sins of Software Security: Programming Flaws and How to Fix Them. New York: McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2005. ISBN 0-07-226085-8.
  6. ^ Dongarra, J.J., C.B. Moler, J.R. Bunch, and G.W. Stewart. LINPACK User's Guide. Philadelphia: SIAM, 1979. ISBN 0-89871-172-X.
  7. ^ Moler, Cleve. "The Tektronix 4081". Cleve's Corner. MathWorks Blogs. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
  8. ^ Sperberg, Luther (1984-04-03). "Don't Be a Computer Wimp". PC Magazine. p. 261. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  9. ^ "RTFM".
  10. ^ "RTBM definition". foldoc.com. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  11. ^ "Routine traffic stop has man up in arms. Er, caught red-handed. Er, never mind, just RTFA". Fark.com. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  12. ^ "RTFM is a four-letter word". Software Sustainability Institute. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  13. ^ "RTFS". The Jargon File – version 4.4.7. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  14. ^ "RTFB". The Jargon File – version 4.4.7. Retrieved 8 March 2017.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to RTFM at Wikimedia Commons