August 5, 2005 fun

I Love Arguing with Ian


Ian and I submitted the final manuscript for Programming Avalon, Beta Edition, on July 13th (right on time, I’ll point out). Since then, the O’Reilly folks have been working overtime to fix my prose (I’m not a big fan of editorial guidelines or templates). As part of that process, they sent Ian and me a 400+ page PDF file for us to check. In the process, I submit changes to the manuscript, Ian argues about the ones with which he disagrees and then I argue with his arguments. It’s great fun.

Here an excerpt in which we’re arguing over a single word that has nothing whatsoever to do with the technical content of the book while two professional editors from ORA watch, waiting for us to decide:

Page 51:  You want to change breathing space” to breathing room”?  Why?  The term breathing space” is a common idiom.  (And judging by Google, that’s not just a UKism.)  I prefer it to breathing room”, so unless there’s a good reason to change I’d prefer to leave it.

[csells] googlefight shows breathing room” to be slightly more popular than breathing space,” plus I’d never personally heard the latter. Also, you use the word space” in a close previous sentence and I liked the variety.

Here we’re arguing over a single word again and, to help make my argument, I claim super powers:

Page 205: Why do you want to change useful” to handy”? Is there something wrong with useful”?

[csells] because you use the word used” later in that same sentence. Having useful” and used” so close together made my spider sense tingle.

Here we’re dealing with the vagaries of our personal styles and my preference for brevity (Ian can highlight a single word and write several paragraphs on it, while I like to highlight several paragraphs and comment huh?“). In this case, I circled an URL and said too big:”

Page 222: Yes it’s a big URL, but there’s not a lot I can do about that — if you can convince Microsoft to make a smaller URL in the next day or so, please do.  There’s a shrinkster URL in there too, so I don’t see what the problem is.  And I’m not going to agree to removing the original URL.

[csells] I didn’t say it was a *long* URL (I can hardly blame you for that, Ian : ); I said it was a *big* URL. What I meant was, the font looks too big in comparison to the size of the fonts around it.

Here we’re arguing over grammatic style, again, while two professional editors look on, letting us fight it out like children in the backseat of the car on a family vacation:

Page 224: I’m not quite sure what you’re proposing as the new text here, although I do see the problem.  How about:

(It doesn’t matter where the UICulture element appears within this section.)”

[csells] I’m suggesting that I prefer parenthetical comments to be part of the sentence, e.g. Foo sucks (and by sucks,’ I mean blows’).” You tend to do it the other way and I find it jarring, e.g. Foo sucks. (And by sucks,’ I mean blows.’)” Plus, there’s the matter of consistency, i.e. I do it in the former way in my writing and you do it in the latter way in yours; we should pick one and stick with it (and to be clear — we should pick my way : ). Unfortunately, I packed my Strunk & White, but I have every confidence that they got it right, too. : )

In this case, after reading several hundred pages of the book again, I was getting a little punchy, so I highlighted a Bezier curve, redrew it by a couple of pixels and suggested that after doing the math in my head, I feared a bug in Avalon’s rendering of Beziers; could ORA check it with their Cray?

Page 252: Well those were all drawn in Avalon using the exact positions chosen for the control points.  Also, I’ve been using Bezier curves for about 15 years now, and they all look exactly as I’d expect them to look.  I just cranked up Illustrator on the Mac.  It seems to agree with Avalon…  So does Acrylic.  What maths are you doing that indicates a different result?

[csells] I was just teasing. If my mention of the use of a Cray wasn’t enough, didn’t the bit about me doing the math in my head” tip you off? I am delighted to know that you spent time double-checking things, however. : )

See? Big fun! : )