If I say that I know something, what exactly do you think I know?

Case 1: MS Word

Recently I was updating my resumé and stumbled upon an old problem: do you include that you know software like Word? When you ask around you hear two opinions: half of the people say “yes, why not?” and the other half answers “no, it looks stupid”. My question is really different: if I say that I know Word, what exactly do you think I know?

  • I know how the icon looks like
  • I know how to type text and save a document
  • I even know how to make text bold
  • I mean damnit: I emailed you a good-looking resumé, I didn’t send you a handwritten one by carrier pigeon. Isn’t that a clue that I know Word? (1)

When somebody says they know Word I at least expect them to be good at it. They should be able to make templates and macros and stuff like that. In that case: do I know Word? Not really.

Case 2: MS Windows

Today we got an email at work for an introductory course in a programming language. Prerequisites: knowledge of Microsoft Windows and flow charts. Let’s repeat the exercise: what do you want me to know about Windows?

  • There is a big “Start” button in the lower left corner (2)
  • If you can find Control-Alt-Delete on your keyboard, you’ll be fine
  • It is named after what you will throw your computer through after a frustrating afternoon (3)

Clearly, I’m a Windows-expert. Or do you want me to do hacks in the registry? In that case… nope.

Case 3: Greek

Somebody: “Do you know Greek?”
Me: “Sure”
S: “Can you read it?”
M: “Sure, this is pi, that is a delta and there is an h-bar”
S: “H-bar? Can you really read Greek?”
M: “Sure, it is all over the place in physics textbooks”
S: “Sigh…”

(1) If we are nitpicking: that is not completely true, I wrote my resumé in Pages. That is also why it is good-looking

(2) If you don’t give a version I assume it is still Windows XP

(3) I learned “windows, the operating system” before “windows, the rectangular thingies that you can look through”. When somebody says “windows” I still first think of computers