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How to Lie with Charts Paperback – February 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583487670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583487679
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gerald E. Jones is a freelance writer who works in book publishing, motion pictures, and video production. He is the author of Fonts: A Guide for Designers and Editors, also published by iUniverse.

More About the Author

When I was in high school, my chemistry teacher approached me and asked with a sly grin, "You interested in mining?"

I told him absolutely not. I was going to be a writer.

Little did I suspect that he wanted to send me to a student conference on metallurgy where I could seek the fellowship of like-minded teens on a minimally supervised road-trip to the Big City.

Undeterred by my abrupt negative response, he grumbled, "Well, you're interested in mining your own business, aren't you?"

And he sent me anyway.

Now I realize I should've listened more carefully to everything he said.


Gerald Everett Jones holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the College of Letters, Wesleyan University. Author of more than 25 nonfiction books on business and technical subjects, as well as being an award-winning screenwriter, he is a member of the Writers Guild of America (IWC), Dramatists Guild, and the Independent Writers of Southern California. His "How to Lie with Charts" has become something of a classic on the subject of presentation design, with new translations published recently in Chinese and Italian. His books on digital movie production techniques, coauthored with director Peter Shaner, have been among the first to teach the Hollywood-style film-look approach to low-budget digital video.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Broderick VINE VOICE on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
A better title would be HOW TO AVOID BEING FOOLED BY CHARTS AND HOW TO PREPARE CLEAR INFORMATIVE ONES. This sounds pretty dull, but it isn't. The book is readable and interesting. The subject is also an important one, at least if you depend on information from charts. It is especially valuable if you regularly prepare charts for others. The title is sort of stolen from an even better book called HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS. That is an even more valuable book which teaches some of the same lessons as this one.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Kelly Wagner on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very funny book, but it's also quite informative. There are discussions of each kind of graph (or "chart") that you are likely to make, particularly if you use the spreadsheet software Excel. What types of graphs are appropriate for what types of data? When should you use a pie chart? How can you emphasize one piece of data in a chart, to make it stand out from others? This book answers these questions, and more. For algebra students learning to graph things on graph paper or on the computer, this may be interesting, or even more so for the teacher, who can use some of the funnier examples as a way to spice up the subject and keep students interested.
Besides discussions of the charts themselves, the author discusses how to write and display captions, how to put charts into slides, how to make an effective slide, how to change fonts and background colors to make your chart stand out, and more.
Reading this book will also help you to discern when other people have fooled with their charts to distort them. Local newspapers, news magazines, etc. are often guilty of playing with the scale of charts, stretching things, leaving labels off of axes, and so on - you'll be able to spot these manipulations better.
I teach a college freshman course in "Quantitative Applications Software" using MS Excel; I already have a lecture I usually call "How to lie with charts and graphs" and this book will help me add more details to that lecture, which teaches students that not every graph that CAN be made, SHOULD be made. With a good graph, you should always be able to start a sentence with "This graph shows that..." and complete it with some kind of comparison.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book could have value for some students, or anyone just beginning to create (or interpret) charts of quantitative information. Its friendly tone stresses the basics, like decent grammar, clear labeling, and thoughtful use of color. It also emphasizes the kinds of charts commonly created by PC desktop tools.

Lots of things get in the book's way, though. It dates from 1995, so lots of its advice about computer specifics (especially color) is dated. Although (fig. 10.4) he suggests underlining as a way to emphasize text, it was never a very good idea and has been given new meaning by conventions for hypertext links. Also, this edition is a black and white reprint of a book that seems originally to have been printed in color. That doesn't have to be a problem, but many of the original colors were replaced by annoying stipples or uneven screens, and one photo (11.2) makes no sense at all in black and white.

The worst problem is that the book often fails to follow its own good advice. Fig 3.14 uses cute 3D-ish cylinders as the bars in a bar chart, leaving the reader wondering just which part of the rounded end was meant to be the bar's end. Fig 7.8 is a supposedly good example tainted by the perspective distortion that Jones notes elsewhere. The "linked bar" of Fig. 7.10 is deceptive in that the bars themselves appear to cover some span of time, when they really represent instantaneous values.

Good advice, and there is a fair bit, often doesn't go far enough. P.105, for example, mentions log and log-log axes. Admittedly, the basic math is beyond this book's level (as shown by the blooper on p.140).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
IF Edward Tufte might is the theoretical guru of analyzing the visual presentation of quantitative information, Gerald Jones might be the maestro of maestro of translating numbers to visuals to effectively score points against competitors.
Don't be fooled by the "Lie" in the title; the tongue-in-cheek tone of book livens up the practical nature of this book, and reflects on its mission to present facts in the most convincing, but still ethical, manner. By using popular office applications to produce the charts in the book, the information is readily translatable into solutions to everyday business challenges.
It's a great book for people who will be using facts, and presentation or spreadsheet applications, to influence decision makers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Bennett on August 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Are you tired of watching managements', employees' or politicians' deceptive presentation with graphs? Do you want to call their bluff? "How to Lie with Charts" is your secret weapon. This book along side with Darrell Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics" gives you all the amunition you need to cut through those presentations that create optical illusions.
The author explains all of the various charts available, their characteristics and how people alter their graphic works of art to influence the audience to buy into whatever the presentor wishes.
Not only does the author talk about the graphs but he explores the area of our subconcious and how this strongly influence our positive or negative perception of a chart.
The book goes into great detail and is quite humorous. The only cirticism that I have about this book is located in chapter 10. The author talks about the importance of color and how it influences the audience but he explains all of this in black and white. If you are going to encourge people to use color presentations and graphs, stop being such a tight wad and use color in your own book. Explaining tones, shades, etc., in fuzzy gray color doesn't do the job. Practice what you preach. Use color to explain color.
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