You Are Thrilled To Read Today’s Blog Entry

No tech today.  Too busy.  But this was too precious to pass up:

The Greenlake neighbourhood in the north end of Seattle does something really cool; they have one weekend in April that everybody knows is "the garage sale weekend".  Everyone who is going to have a spring garage sale has one on the same day, so the whole neighbourhood turns into one big sale.  The stores have sidewalk sales, the community center sets up a market, the bakeries and coffee shops run charity and political fundraisers, everyone has a good time. 

I occasionally make kites, but I've never had my own sewing machine; I've always had at least one housemate willing to let me use her sewing machine since I bought the house.  But Chrissie moved to Ohio a couple weeks ago and took her sewing machine with her.  Fortunately, on Garage Sale Day I managed to find a beautiful 1956 Kenmore Automatic Zig-zag Sewing Machine in great condition with all the original parts, manuals, bill of sale, a sewing machine table, bench, you name it, all for the low, low price of $45!

I haven't had a chance to set it up yet to see how it sews, but I read through the manual, which is hilarious.  It begins like this:

Dear Homemaker,

At last you are the proud owner of an Automatic Zig Zag Sewing Machine.  The machine was explained to you in detail, and you are now eagerly looking forward to the great variety of sewing techniques that can be performed on it.

Although everything is still quite clear to you, it is possible that in time some of the directions given to you for making the various adjustments may escape your memory -- because it is unlikely that you will immediately try your hand at all the different sewing techniques which your machine is capable of performing.

We have therefore prepared this informative book of instructions, and hope you will find it a useful guide.

(You love the second person voice.  You find it calming.  You trust and obey people who use the second person voice.  You are getting very sleepy.  Your eyelids are so heavy… )

It goes on like this for some time, explaining how to read a sewing machine manual in breathless, gushing, congratulatory, second-person prose.  It even goes so far as to suggest that Chapter One would be a good thing to read next.  Imagine if James Lipton wrote sewing machine manuals; that's what it's like.

I have seen worse.  My mother has a cookbook written in 1972 which states "There are six basic ways to prepare eggs and it behooves a good wife to know all of them."  Yes, behooves.

Technical writers, please, please start writing documentation like this. 

You are deeply thrilled that, at long last, Microsoft has provided you with a built-in object-oriented XML-serialized security system in the .NET Framework.  However, it behooves you to use it correctly.  You may find that some of the signatures of certain seldom-used methods fade from memory, so we have provided you with this informative web page.  You will find that more information on any underlined topic can be obtained by clicking the underlined word with your mouse...


Comments (13)

  1. mike says:

    I dunno, Eric … I’ve read worse, even in our own docs. 🙂

  2. bryan says:

    Actually i think I might like to have some tech books in the style of early Victorian novels:

    Chapter One

    In which the reader is introduced to the technical requirements of the technology, its inception, its uses and abuses, and a prophecy is made a propos its eventual triumph in todays competitive software environment.

    Ah Dear Reader, no doubt you have long thrilled to tales of object oriented exploits and have longed to share in those same exploits yourself, but despite working in the pre-eminent desktop environment and using a major microsoft language doing so has seemed an ever elusive dream….

  3. Marcus says:

    I just have to cite Why’s (Poignant) guide to ruby for those who haven’t seen it…

    "I’ll be straight with you. I want you to cry. To weep. To whimper sweetly. This book is a poignant guide to Ruby. That means code so beautiful that tears are shed. That means gallant tales and somber truths that have you waking up the next morning in the arms of this book. Hugging it tightly to you all the day long. If necessary, fashion a makeshift hip holster for Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby, so you can always have this book’s tender companionship."

  4. college techie :-) says:

    Seriously, it would be so so so ……. much better if they wrote docs or even books like that. I would love CS even more. Even my grandma could learn .NET (sorry Heather 😉 ) in her past-time.

  5. Camillo says:

    Maybe… but "behooves" it’s not in my Coolins and I don’t even have a clue on its meaning 🙂

  6. Ron says:

    behoove v.

    1. Be appropriate or necessary

    "It behooves us to reflect on this matter."

    Source: WordWeb Pro (

  7. Eric Lippert says:

    The reason why it’s _funny_ is the same reason why its not in your Collins: "behooves" is an archaic word. It is almost never used in modern English unless you are deliberately trying to sound like someone from the 19th century.

    There’s an old joke that comes to mind — "my English teacher told me that it behooves one to avoid archaic expressions."

    There are a whole series of those of course — "my English teacher told me that prepositions are things to never end a sentence with. Also, no sentence fragments. And run on sentences are hard to read, they should be split into two sentences. My English teacher told me not to carelessly split an infinitive. My English teacher told me to eschew sequepedalian words. My English teacher told me to avoid Latin expressions…" etc, etc, etc.

  8. Centaur says:

    My favorite, and very relevant in the modern Internet:

    “Do not abbr.!”

  9. Peter Torr says:

    Actually I think I still actively use the word "behooves" from time to time… I never knew it was considered archaic. <shrug>

  10. Peter Torr says:

    And that would be "sesquipedalian."

    I love flame mails with "…and lern to use a speel cheeker!!!" or some such similar nonsense at the end 🙂

  11. Sean Schade says:

    This post rates high on my all-time enjoyment list! Wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace to be able to escape the dry, technical nature of our books?

  12. Eric Lippert says:

    Thanks Sean, that’s a nice thing to say.

    This is one of the reasons I like writing a blog — because the tone can be lighter, you can make silly digressions, etc.

Skip to main content