Consistency in Writing

For the last couple of weeks, the SSH Mastery copyeditor has said “There’s something wrong with Chapter 13, but I can’t figure out what it is.” I told her that I had confidence in her ability to figure it out and to just do her best. (I wasn’t actually confident, but telling her that would have guaranteed that she would not have found it.) The copyedits came back this weekend, along with the following table.

ChapterWordsIncidence of HumorWords/Humor
116792839.5
29211921
3588218326.78
416623554
537664941.5
6160301603
7535041337.5
815262763
942898536.13
10109511095
1124933831
1215582779
13257402574
afterword3681368

First off, I’m assuming that she uses the term humor very loosely. That’s a separate discussion.

Second, her table includes a math error in Chapters 6 and 13. I’m aware that dividing a number by zero is an error. Basic calc says that the words per incidence of humor approaches infinity, but I decided to present this as it was offered. I hired her for her lit skills, not her math.

She noticed Chapter 13 because it was “brusque,” not because anything was inherently wrong with it.

Why notice Chapter 13 and not Chapter 6? Chapter 6 covers copying files over SSH. It’s shorter, a fairly simple topic, and was pretty easy to write. Chapter 13 covers setting up SSH VPNs on FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Ubuntu. That chapter was agonizing to write, and destroyed my cherublike demeanor. And I should have at least made some sort of shooting-yourself-in-the-foot-with-sftp comment in Chapter 6. I mean, who hasn’t done that at least once? Sheesh. I’m falling down on the job.

I’ve known for a while that people notice inconsistencies in writing, but this spells it out numerically.

If I graph humor/words, I wind up with the following:

humor/words by chapter

Readability? Ease of writing?

Looking back at this, I have to say there’s a pretty clear correspondence between my mood at the time and/or my comfort with the chapter and the amount of humor in it.

I’m curious to know if this has any correspondence to the chapter’s readability. But that’ll be for you lot to decide.

And if your writing is inconsistent, your reader will notice.

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