- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Lie with Charts 0th Edition
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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.
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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). Still, it wouldn't have been so hard to suggest using log scales for compound-interest or common growth curves, or to give a few examples where log-log scales would turn curves into straight lines with more meaning. Fig 7.17 shows two-sided bars (not usually recommended), without noting that they may be useful when the sum of the two sides has meaning. He discourages the use of "bubble" charts (p.128), even though that notation is common for chemists' phase diagrams or for placing different products along price and performance axes. He doesn't even mention the main value of "stacked" bars (fig 7.13), in showing the total of the stacked amounts. His "donut" chart (fig 2.10) is all but illegible, even though the same notation can be very useful for annotating one loop in many different ways.
Well, you get the idea. There is some good here, but lots that's not so good, including (p.200) reading your slides to your audience! I really can't recommend this one.
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.
I have but one complaint about this book: it was clearly intended to be in a smaller format; each page of writing and illustrations takes up less than half the full-size page of the book. This could have been a trade paperback, and have cost less than it does as a larger book, without losing anything except 3" of empty margin all the way around. I plan to write to the publisher, telling them I really don't like that sort of inflation. However, you may find those margins handy for scribbling notes in; uses of this book are many, so you may need the space.
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.