I have been thinking about this. In my younger days, I actually studied rocket science. The mathematics of rocket science is fairly advanced, but there are some physical laws that govern it, an agreed vocabulary, and set of conventions that allow engineers in many different places to understand each others work.
Knitting, on the other hand, is not always that simple. There are regional differences in how things are done. There can be more then one way to knit the stitches to get the same results. To make a left leaning decrease, a pattern may ask you to slip, slip, knit, or slip one, knit one, pass the slip stitch over, or knit two stitches together, through the back loop. All will serve the same function, making a left leaning decrease, and when the sock is finished, it is hard to tell which one was used.
In the case of the shawl pattern, the passage confusing my friend was "knit to marker,m1r, SM, k1, SM, m1l". I don't blame her for being confused. M is used both the mean the marker and to indicate where an increase is required.
I helped her understand, and she finished the row, and did a few more. The shawl is going to be awesome!
No, Michelle, it's not rocket science. Sometimes, it's even harder to understand.