Silencing the inner pedant

10 September 2010

At school, I was taught the order of the parts of a German sentence was time, manner, place. At university, I was told that wasn't true. The correct order was attitude, time, reason, instrument, place, manner. Even if we cull the extra detail, that's a significant change from school: place and manner have swapped positions. That's because the things that are considered places at GCSE level are more likely to be complements that have to be there because there is a verb of movement or positioning. It's just much simpler to teach school students that the order is time, manner, place because it's good enough.

I was reminded of this when I was writing a chapter for my new book Web Design in Easy Steps, last week. After writing something, I thought "hang on a minute: that's not strictly true". It's always easy to think of exceptions to the rule, and sometimes they're important. But in this case, the extra detail required to explain the exceptions would have greatly increased the complexity of what should have been a relatively simple idea.

I concluded that the most important thing is not that you teach readers absolutely everything. Actually, the skill in writing is to work out what's important and to convey it clearly. And sometimes there will be stuff you know that isn't important to the reader at the level they are working at.

One of the challenges is to balance the need to remain accurate with the need to sound authoritative. You wouldn't want to create the impression that there is an absolute rule that can be easily challenged later on, because it makes the text look inaccurate. At the same time, using words like 'generally' or 'most of the time' sounds a bit wishy-washy. For readers who want to stretch themselves, you can always point them to where they can find out about the exceptions.

The key thing is that sometimes when the inner pedant speaks, it's okay to tell it to go away. Not everything that is true is important. At least, not important enough to damage the flow of your reader's learning.

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

How many editors does it take to create a book?

03 September 2010

I've just finished working on my second book for John Wiley's Older & Wiser series, Microsoft Office for the Older and Wiser. As I've been talking to people about it, I've realised that a lot of people don't understand the process behind a computer book. I thought I'd explain the different people who are involved in working on a book project.

Every book project is different, and sometimes there are more people involved and sometimes there are fewer people. Some of the people I've worked with have fulfilled several of these roles at different times in the project. I've worked on some projects with some publishers where I've been pretty much left alone to write, and then just checked the laid out pages at the end. John Wiley has offered me a much greater level of support with these books, which has been extremely valuable. In particular, the level of quality control has been excellent.

Here's an overview of some of the people who might make a contribution to a book coming into being (editorially - lots of people help with other things too):
  • The acquisitions editor: This person is responsible for signing the project in the first place. Much of what they do is hidden from the author, but it includes winning support internally for the project from the marketing and sales departments.
  • The author: His job is to research and write the content and source the images (including creating screenshots). He has to deliver his copy in the publisher's template so that everybody is working to the same standards.
  • Development editor: This person is responsible for keeping the project on track. They'll keep an eye on deadlines and make sure that the content meets the standards required. They'll offer guidance to the author on the project overall.
  • Technical editor/reviewer: This person checks that everything works in the book as it should. In the case of the social networking book and Microsoft Office book, that meant following the instructions to check that they led to the expected results.
  • Copy editor: This person edits the draft of the book to ensure it flows smoothly and is consistently written. They will also fix any typos or grammar issues. They will work to a style guide, and will keep a record of significant new terms that arise for that project, to ensure that they are used consistently throughout.
  • U3A reviewer: The Older & Wiser books are published in partnership with the U3A, so a reviewer was assigned to provide feedback from the point of view of the target readership.
  • Composition team: This team works with the edited copy and screenshots to create the book layout.
  • Proofreader: The proofreader checks the content for any grammatical or typographical errors. Sometimes they check the draft copy before it goes to layout, and sometimes they check it once it's laid out on the page. They can also check layout issues (such as missing page numbers).
  • Indexer: The indexer uses the laid-out book files as the basis for creating the index.
I hope I didn't leave anyone out! What this process means is that at least three people (plus the author) are looking out for the quality of the end result to make sure that it's well-written, accurate and easy to read.

Labels: ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

Lady Gaga is the most followed person on Twitter

Pop star Lady Gaga has become the most followed person on Twitter with over six million followers. The next closest person is Britney Spears with 5.8 million.

To put those numbers in context, the UK Prime Minister has about 1.7 million Twitter followers, Yoko Ono has about a million followers and Stephen Fry (who's used Twitter to connect to a whole new audience) reaches 1.7 million.

Lady Gaga was also the first to have over 10 million Facebook fans, and now has 16 million.

It shows how powerful a medium social networking can be for connecting artists with fans. I've been writing for some time about how you can promote your music on the internet. For a long time it was all about attracting listeners to your content. Now it's about seeding your content where the fans are already, so sites like Twitter and Facebook are key. For pop acts who want to reach more than just hardcore music fans, mainstream social networks are probably more important than places like MySpace and which have a focus on music. But then the nature of your content has to change accordingly. It's about what you say and what you look like, and less about what you sound like. Attitude sells.

The other side of this is that fans can connect with their favourite acts without any filter now. Before artists started setting up their own websites, everything was filtered through the prism of music journalism. Now people can use sites like Twitter, as I explain in my social networking book, to keep in regular contact with artists. It's only 140 characters, so most artists update their own Twitter feeds, although a few delegate it to their staff.

Although there's some debate about the future of the music industry, these social networking statistics show that pop music still has the power to move the masses, more than any other artform. Whether that level of interest will translate into a sustainable business model remains to be seen.

Labels: ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

Sign the petition to support libraries and authors

The Society of Authors has created a petition urging the government not to cut the public lending right budget. The public lending right (PLR) is a legal right that authors have to be paid when their books are borrowed from libraries. The amount has been about 6p per loan, and the total per author is capped at £6,000 to stop JK Rowling from getting all the money in the pot.

For many people, especially if you're a business and computer book author, library sales represent the bulk of the potential market, and PLR is an important factor in enabling those authors to create the books they do. If the authors can't afford to create the books, then publishers can't publish them and libraries can't lend them.

There are big budget cuts on the way to help tackle the deficit, but PLR has already been cut for some years. While public spending has been relatively healthy in the last three years, the PLR budget has fallen by 3%, which is a 10% cut in real terms. The Society of Authors notes that the PLR Office has already cut its administrative costs significantly too, which means any cut in the PLR budget will have an immediate impact on authors.

Please support authors and libraries by taking a moment to sign the petition, which is hosted by the ALCS.

Labels: , ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | September 2005 | January 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | October 2017 | November 2017 | January 2018 | February 2018 | August 2018 | October 2018 | November 2018 | December 2018 | January 2019 | March 2019 | June 2019 | August 2019 | September 2019 | October 2019 | January 2020 | February 2020 | March 2020 | April 2020 | May 2020 | June 2020 | September 2020 | October 2020 | December 2020 | January 2021 | February 2021 | May 2021 | June 2021 | October 2021 | November 2021 | December 2021 | January 2022 | February 2022 | March 2022 | May 2022 | July 2022 | August 2022 | September 2022 | December 2022 | March 2023 | April 2023 | May 2023 | June 2023 | October 2023 | November 2023 | January 2024 | February 2024 | May 2024 | June 2024 | Top of this page | RSS


© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

Visit for free chapters from Sean's coding books (including Mission Python, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Coder Academy) and more!

Discover my latest books

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

Power up your Microsoft Excel skills with this powerful pocket-sized book of tips that will save you time and help you learn more from your spreadsheets.

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Scratch Programming IES

This book, now fully updated for Scratch 3, will take you from the basics of the Scratch language into the depths of its more advanced features. A great way to start programming.

Mission Python book

Mission Python

Code a space adventure game in this Python programming book published by No Starch Press.

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps book

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Set up your Raspberry Pi, then learn how to use the Linux command line, Scratch, Python, Sonic Pi, Minecraft and electronics projects with it.



In this entertaining techno-thriller, Sean McManus takes a slice through the music industry: from the boardroom to the stage; from the studio to the record fair.

Walking astronaut from Mission Python book Top | Search | Help | Privacy | Access Keys | Contact me
Home | Newsletter | Blog | Copywriting Services | Books | Free book chapters | Articles | Music | Photos | Games | Shop | About