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Bugs in Writing: Guide to Debugging Your Prose [Paperback]

Lyn Dupre
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 16.34 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

9 Feb 1998

BUGS in Writing, written with verve and wit, may be the first book on writing that people read for sheer fun. Designed for easy browsing, it comprises 150 independent and easily digestible segments. BUGS was developed for anyone who writes and who works with computers, including computer and other scientists, students, professors, business people, programmers, and technical writers.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 2 edition (9 Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 020137921X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201379211
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 18.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 568,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

"How often does a book come along that has you laughing out loud as it improves your writing, especially of technical and scientific material? How often does a book on writing come out aimed at scientists, mathematicians, and computer specialists in the first place? How often does a book on grammar keep you turning the pages from pleasure? Never, you say? Then get this one."

Jef Raskin
professional writer and creator of the Apple Macintosh project

"As someone responsible for the creation of numerous bugs, literary and otherwise, I heartily recommend Lyn Dupré's exquisite book: a lucid guide to squishing bugs or, even better, exterminating them before they hatch."

David C. Nagel
President, AT&T Labs

"You can borrow my dictionary or steal my thesaurus. Just stay away from my copy of BUGS."

Patrick Henry Winston
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The quality of scientific and technical writing would increase considerably if this book were required reading for all authors."

The Mathematica Journal

"Lyn's style is wonderful: humorous, enjoyable, and incisive. I even liked the plot."

Peter G. Neumann
author of the Dupréved Computer-Related Risks

"Those of us who have worked with Lyn Dupré treasure her keen wit, and, above all, her absolute mastery of writing."

Carver Mead
California Institute of Technology

"BUGS in Writing deserves to become a standard. If technical writing isn't your principal activity, but you find yourself doing a lot of it, you should read this book."

IEEE Micro

"This book will help me/you/we a lot/immensely."

Martin Griss
Laboratory Scientist and Reuse Rabbi, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories

"Lyn combines an intellectual command of her subject with a madcap imagination to take you on a joyous romp through the English language."

Abraham Silberschatz
Lucent Technologies

"I just received a copy of BUGS in Writing, which I think is wonderful. (Reading this sentence again, I realize it is ambiguous; but both its interpretations are true. It is also passive, but since the package was waiting for me when I returned from a trip, it is hard to know just who brought it.)...BUGS will certainly be at my fingertips during the final rewrites.

Andrew Koenig
author of C Traps and Pitfalls and coauthor of Ruminations on C++

"I highly recommend BUGS in Writing, by Dupré. It makes an excellent companion to Strunk & White and the Harbrace College Handbook."

Martin D. Carroll
coauthor of Designing and Coding Reusable C++

A "superior" alternative to Strunk and White.

Computing Reviews

"This book simply sneaks up like a cat and charms you."

Kitta Reeds
SRI International

"Having the examples weave their own story is an outstanding device. Our brains must be wired for learning from stories."

Bruce R. Montague
University of California, Santa Cruz

"Ultimately, it is the playfulness and humor of the author that encourages me to keep this book on my working shelf. I wish I'd had Lyn Dupré as my fifth-grade English teacher."

ANPA West Journal

"An earful of bugs that will learn you right from wrong."

Dick Lyon
hearing researcher, Caltech, and Senior Scientist, Foveonics, Inc.

"It's hard to describe how easy it is to read this book, except to say that it's the first style book that I have ever read entirely, and for pleasure."

Ellen Levy Finch
Expert Support, Inc.

"An indispensible 'bible' for those who believe that clarity and good writing are the key to conveying any message effectively."

Edward H. Shortliffe, MD, PhD
Professor and Associate Dean, Stanford University

"Even my cats seemed to like the book."

Denbigh Starkey
Montana State University Like a deft and brilliant surgeon Lyn takes your mangled manuscript And dexterously cuts away Those dangling participles Those split infinitives Those fatty adjectives And returns to you An (almost) perfect body Of your work (Marred by only a few Feline paw prints). Lightning quick of mind Motion sure and filled with grace Weapon poised With sharp and blackened point She pounces! Leaps upon her prey! Death to the fractured words The split infinitive The dangling participle! The body stirs at last Returns to life Strengthened, renewed, And ready for The publisher. oTrish Hooper

020137921XB04062001

About the Author

Lyn Dupré was born in Manhattan, where her father was an editor for the Wall Street Journal, the Herald Tribune, and the New York Times, and her mother was the buyer for the Teacher's College Bookstore. She studied philosophy and law at Barnard College and at Cambridge University. She has had over 15 years of experience as a freelance copy editor and developmental editor, specializing in computer-science, science, and medical textbooks. She has edited over 400 books for various major publishers, and has worked for numerous academic institutions. She also works directly with graduate students and other authors to help them improve their writing. Lyn edits and writes during breaks from her serious work as a wood carver and photographer. She wrote BUGS in Writing under the close supervision of her cats, BB and Red. Her fondest hope is that the availability of this book will eliminate any future need for her work as a copy editor.



020137921XAB04062001

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Write better, and kill trees too! 17 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is wonderful; this book rots. One thing for sure -- it's different!
HITS:
1) Informal, nonstuffy feel.
2) Covers a lot of material.
3) Has lots of examples.
4) Does a good job of showing the dynamic and subjective nature of English writing.
5) It is one of the very few style and grammar books that I've read that lends itself to being read like a book of short stories: sit on the john and make yourself a better writer. Now, THAT'S innovative.
MISSES:
1) MUCH physically bigger than it needs to be; thus, it is hard to use as a quick reference. The typeface is too big, but most importantly it is full of completely useless tangential photos. There are between 100 and 200 photos that, while cute, have no place it this book. Some reviewers seem to like this. I find it unprofessional. Would you enjoy paying extra money for a book to look at a stranger's family album? Think of the natural resources wasted on this silliness. If the author wants to write a picture book of her cats, that's fine, but she should market it to people whom get some benefit from it; I submit those people are an extreme minority in the readership of this book.
2) Does not use direct counter examples. So, instead of seeing an example bad sentence corrected, you see a different sentence done right. The author defends this as helping to develop "ear." I usually find it more annoying than helpful.
3) Does not cite sources of her opinions, and therefore it is very hard to take anything this book says as the final word. To be fair, she does warn that it is often just her opinion and not rock-solid fact. Differentiating them is the problem.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely useful, clear and funny. 11 Feb 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this book very handy whilst writing my thesis. It gives advice on a wide range of issues. Examples include the following: how to structure lists, when to capitalise words, where to use punctuation, how to use terms like "respectively", and general advice on making your prose more understandable.
Though the book targets those working with computers, it has a lot to say to anyone wanting to improve their ability to write prose.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Each tiny section deals with a specific class of error, how to do it right, and how to know (or remember) that it's right. If you wonder if you've used the right word among alternatives, for example, you'll have your result in an instant.
And if you don't wonder, browsing this book will give you enough info to *start* wondering if you have been doing things wrong for some time.
END
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
103 of 126 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy a better book 11 Jan 2003
By Barbara Nostrand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an annoying book. The author of this book claims that she wrote it for "computer people" whom she goes on to define as just about anyone who has visited the computer aisle in a bookstore. I was briefly employed as a technical writer while in graduate school and have found writing a constant part of technical employment in industry. I am currently a computer science professor who firmly believes that students need to learn how to write. Consequently, I incorporate writing into many of my courses. However, I can not recommend BUGS in Writing by Lyn Dupre.
Although the author cites the Manual of Style published by the University of Chicago Press, she failed to take to heart a number of its recommendations. In particular, her use of footnotes is excessive and often distracting. The overall design of the book appears very self-indulgent with its copious use of personal photographs unrelated to the text. The author is committed to "gender free" text to the point of altering the accepted names for famous computer science problems such as the Traveling Salesman Problem to suit her personal agenda and insists that others do likewise. She allows other petty issues to spoil her work. For example, she writes: "A dissertation is a document that you write as part of the fulfillment of requirements for a degree¡Ä A thesis is an assertion that you have presumably validated or proved ¡Ä" This is contrary to accepted practice at many and probably most academic institutions. While Martin Luther may have nailed his 95 thesis to a church door, some schools call even the paper presented for a doctorate a "thesis" while others reserve the term for a work presented for a master¡s degree. Current practice is to begin scholarly works with an "abstract" and not a "thesis".
Another of Dupres personal crusades is expressed in a foray against "split infinitives". She writes as if split infinitives are a recent abberation. In The Elements of Style, Strunk and White note that: "There is precedent from the fourteenth century down for interposing an adverb between to and the infinitive it governs." They also note that the "split infinitive" has a role when the author wishes to stress the adverb as in "To boldly go where no man has gone before." Strunk and White go on to note: "Some infinitives seem to improve on being split." Dupres¡ partisanship in the slit infinitive "wars" is much less disturbing than her one-sided account of the split infinitive.
Her diatribe against use of "data" as a singular in computer science is also excessive. Data is the plural of datum in Latin. The problem with treating data as a plural taking "are" in computer science is the distinction in English between enumerable and non-enumerable nouns. While there are uses of the word data where it is clearly plural, this is not the case in much of computer science literature where it is used in a non-enumerable sense. In English, the tradition is to treat non-enumerable nouns as singular. An odd recent development is pluralization of "email" as "emails" while "mail" continues to be treated as non- enumerable. Finally, data is often used as an adjective in computer science. English traditionally uses singular nouns for this purpose such as "horse barn" or "cow pasture" in preference to "horses barn" or "cattle pasture". Similarly, a famous English university is commonly called Oxford and not Oxenford. Insisting upon treating data as a plural would have much more serious consequences than portrayed by Dupres and other opponents of data as a non-enumerable. Under her system, we would properly write of "datum structures" rather than "data structures". In short, English majors should not meddle with semantics of individual words until they learn the field of discourse employing those words.
Although the author claims to have written a book for "computer people" she seems to be unaware of typesetting using LaTeX or the electronic style sheets provided by technical publishers. She also appears ignorant of coupling typesetting equations with output produced by either Maple or Mathematica. Although her book does contain a brief section on theorems and similar material, this section is too short and lacks sufficient detail to aid the reader. Despite her attention to typography, she does not make a clear recommendation on how to emphasize technical words in a work with lots of italicized text.
Some of the author's advice is well taken. She justly condemns use of passive voice in scientific writing. Her insistence on maintaining noun constancy is also well worth reading. Problems with noun consistency is exacerbated if you anticipate translation into Japanese where variation in nouns is less tolerated than it is in English. Unfortunately, even some of her good advice betrays a lack of understanding of computer science. While Dupre correctly argues for using monospace fonts for typesetting code, she appears ignorant of the reasons for preferring this convention. In one piece of advice she uses writing about stacks and queues as an example, but in her example labeled "good" she delivers confused prose which betrays ignorance of the subject. This spoils an otherwise good section.
In a world with many excellent books about writing, I can not recommend buying Dupre's book. If you are specifically interested in writing for computer science, then you should buy and read a copy of Writing for Computer Science by Justin Zobel. If you wish to write mathematics, you should buy and read a copy of How to Write Mathematics by Steenrod. The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch continues to deliver excellent advice on writing in a much more compact package than Bugs in Writing. I also recommend Manual of Style by the University of Chicago Press, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms by Lanham. As for BUGS in Writing, I can only speculate that Ms. Dupre made the error of editing her own book.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sits Beside My Strunk and White 15 May 2001
By John Paul Mueller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a professional author with over 49 books to my credit, I've collected a number of guides to writing over the years. This book sits on my reference shelf right between Strunk and White, and the Chicago Manual of Style. I recommend it to other authors on a regular basis because it contains so many clear examples that are easy to read and understand. As far as I'm concerned, my reference shelf would be incomplete without this book.
There are two reasons that I like this book. First, it isn't dry and hard to understand. I like a little humor when I read. Second, the examples are clear and easy to follow. It's easy to write a book that defines writing in terms that only an English major would love. Writing a book like this is difficult, and I appreciate the author's hard work.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good for reference, or for non-cat people 3 Feb 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a technical writer, I am on the lookout for books I can recommend to engineers and others with whom I work who want to improve their writing. This book's explicit orientation toward "computer people" and the concept of "debugging" prose make it seem like a good candidate. However, the author's self-indulgence in cuteness in this book renders it inappropriate for me to recommend in a professional context.
If you don't mind all the cat pictures and personal references, it is a good book to browse for tips on improving your writing. Dupre states that her goal is to help the reader develop an "ear" for good writing. As you develop an ear, you will gain a sense of which of her rules to take to heart, and which to take with a grain of salt. It is *not* organized or indexed such that you can easily find a topic again. Do not expect to use it as a reference book when you have finished browsing.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of a textbook than a manual of style... 31 May 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If this book had exercises for the reader, I'd have used it as a textbook for introductory technical writing classes. It's organized into big, rich chapters with lots of examples -- which is just the ticket for folks who are learning new skills.
For an experienced writer seeking advance on points of usage, I think there are more concise style guides -- but none funny enough to read for pure pleasure.
One caution: Dupre's prose style, while ornate, is clear and eminently readable, but writing like Dupre takes a great deal of skill and practice. A lot of the examples of "splendid" writing are compound-complex sentences with lots of flourish and flair. Such sentences may be dangerous models for total novices to follow.
35 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Write better and kill trees too! 17 Sep 1998
By Will Sprunk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is wonderful; this book rots. One thing for sure -- it's different!

HITS:

1) Informal, nonstuffy feel.

2) Covers a lot of material.

3) Has lots of examples.

4) Does a good job of showing the dynamic and subjective nature of English writing.

5) It is one of the very few style and grammar books that I've read that lends itself to being read like a book of short stories: sit on the john and make yourself a better writer. Now, THAT'S innovative.

MISSES:

1) MUCH physically bigger than it needs to be; thus, it is hard to use as a quick reference. The typeface is too big, but most importantly it is full of completely useless tangential photos. There are between 100 and 200 photos that, while cute, have no place it this book. Some reviewers seem to like this. I find it unprofessional. Would you enjoy paying extra money for a book to look at a stranger's family album? Think of the natural resources wasted on this silliness. If the author wants to write a picture book of her cats, that's fine, but she should market it to people whom get some benefit from it; I submit those people are an extreme minority in the readership of this book.

2) Does not use direct counter examples. So, instead of seeing an example bad sentence corrected, you see a different sentence done right. The author defends this as helping to develop "ear." I usually find it more annoying than helpful.

3) Does not cite sources of her opinions, and therefore it is very hard to take anything this book says as the final word. To be fair, she does warn that it is often just her opinion and not rock-solid fact. Differentiating them is the problem. This shortcomming results in you having to look items up in another book to make sure before you commit something to paper. Need an example? She states that ending a sentence with a preposition is drop-dead wrong. It is not; it is very debatable. I found several more scholarly books that state that is simply not true anymore, if it ever was. One book made an excellent case that this belief is a prejudice stemming from Latin grammar.

4) It's hard to find items in the book. The "Index of Principles" is okay but should probably be called something else and placed in the front of the book. There is no regular index.

5) The cover is butt ugly.

6) The book cover suggests that the book should be filed under General Computing. Now that's insulting. What's this about; do you have to trick technical types into writing better? "Gosh, I was looking for a Java book, and I stumbled on this Bugs book. Now I write much better."

Should you buy this book? I have no idea. Do you like cats?
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