Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sloppy Editing

I've written about this before (on the now dormant Cardschat blog), but some things bear repeating:

When I buy an instructional book, I don’t pay money to the authors because they’re so very knowledgeable. I pay them money on the promise that the book will teach me the things they know. I mean, I didn't get Stephen Hawking's book "Cosmos" because he's so very good at cosmology. I got it because I wanted to learn more about it myself. This is an obvious point, I would think.

Let me re-state it in a way that is seemingly less-than-obvious to a lot of poker book authors:

If the book contains great information but does a poor job of explaining it, the book doesn’t deliver. Now, bad grammar or spelling doesn't necessarily mean that someone does a poor job of explaining what they mean. Bad spelling (and/or grammar) doesn’t bother me in itself, either. I’m perfectly capable of understanding what the author means when he writes “stratagy” or "stradegy." What bothers me, and I'm taking the liberty of quoting my original post from Cardschat:

When there are many typos in a published book, it’s an indication that the book hasn’t been proof-read thoroughly. And I want my books to be very thoroughly proof-read, because - as I said above - it’s not what the authors know that I pay for, it’s their ability to explain it to me. A writer of course knows exactly what he’s trying to say. When he reads something he’s just written, it’s probably going to seem crystal clear to him. But he needs other people - preferably people who aren’t already knowledgeable about the subject - to give him feedback on whether or not the explanation is satisfactory.

Certainly a book may be very good in its very first version. Perhaps an author manages to write a full 300 pages explaining the most complex ideas simply without having anyone as much as look at the manuscript before it went to print. Does it seem likely to you, though?

Let me re-state the main point: It’s not the presence of typos that’s the problem. It’s the fact that where there are typos, there generally aren’t proof-readers, and without proof-readers I feel that the the author hasn't gone through the appropriate hoops to make sure he does a good job of explaining the ideas that he’s trying to convey. A good idea would be, in the case of poker books, to let a novice poker player read the chapter that was just finished, and then have the novice explain to the author what the chapter tries to tell him. If he gets it wrong at all, re-write it. Keep this up until the point that you’re trying to get across is crystal clear.

(I was reminded of this pet-peeve of mine when I read some posts over at The Poker Grump.)

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