A little sugar makes the message go down

There may well be two other Brits who combine humor, scientific knowledge, engineering capability, imagination, and good fellowship in a single package, but I haven't met them yet. I have spent many enjoyable hours, over the years, with Bill O'Neill and Jack Gabzdyl, coincidently both contributing authors to this month's issue.

I honestly can't recall when I first met either of these engaging personalities, and it's not that important, except for historical purposes. What is important is that I do appreciate them because of the pleasurable experiences I have had with them, both professionally and socially.

Readers who know, or who have come into contact with, these two industrial laser process developers will know what I am talking about. Many who have heard either of them present a paper at a technical conference will smile as they recall the humorous and somewhat self-deprecating manner in which they present their latest findings that in some way will influence industrial laser material processing. On many occasions I have heard only positive remarks from attendees exiting after their talks.

When I edit articles they submit to ILS, I have to exercise great restraint with my red pencil, lest I delete some wry comment or observation they slip into their otherwise technically oriented writing. My editorial assistant, when formatting Bill O'Neill's latest contribution, challenged me to not water down the lighthearted nature of Bill's article. "That's Bill O'Neill," she said. "He's so natural." Obviously she knows Bill from countless seminars, conferences, and workshops she has attended.

Far be it from me to alter the tone of a contributed or solicited article to be published in the magazine. Indeed, at an early stage in the evolution of Industrial Laser Review into the current Industrial Laser Solutions, I cautioned my associates to keep the magazine readable. We are dealing with a technology and its consequences that beg for deep technical explanations, but not, in my view, for the bulk of ILS readers who are end users of laser systems.

So while we don't write down for our readers, we do like to keep the technology "light." I'm not above slipping a humorous note into an Update item or a feature if I think it will put the reader in the mood I was in when it was produced. Granted, I tend to have a twisted sense of humor, or so I am told, but most times it does produce a smile when I'm trying to make a point.

The group publisher of this magazine, early in our business relationship, used to comment that my succinct e-mail messages could be construed as abrupt (meaning sarcastic, I think.) So I took to placing these stupid computer-generated smiley faces at the end of sentences that were meant to be humorous. She's used to me now so I stopped this silly practice.

ILS is designed to be a friendly read. It, for the most part, tends to be conversational in tone. Author's texts are edited to put the reader into the message being delivered—just as though the author was sitting across the desk or walking the shop floor with a reader.

So if a little humor is warranted, so be it. It doesn't mean that we, the editors and authors, are not serious about what we write. Nor does it mean we don't respect the nature of what is being said. We think it is much more palatable, and hopefully less forgettable, when delivered in a readable format.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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