Textbooks and Good Writing

I have been swamped this week and behind on posting, so I didn’t get one up yesterday (does posting 5 times last week make up for it?) but that’s what it is.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post it’s time for preparing for a new class rather than working on assignments for a course I’m already in.  Right now I’m a few chapters into an 11 chapter assignment for the Marketing course.  The book is Capon’s Marketing Framework.  There are a ton of good nuggets in the book so far but it is oh, so poorly written.  My business writing professor would be aghast!

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m looking forward to the Marketing class.  All of the former students I’ve spoken to say that Dr. Bond is an amazing instructor.  But this textbook is awful to slug through.  Repetitive language and redundancies (see what I did there?) are present repeatedly.  There are great nuggets such as “Unprofitable customers do not add value to the firm.”  Really?  Wow.   I never would have guessed!

Can you tell I’m frustrated?

Sadly, this isn’t the first textbook that has been difficult to read.  And why is that?  Why aren’t textbooks, written by people who are very interested in their topic, incredibly interesting and easy to read?

Consider Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  The book is about punctuation.  Can you think of a topic that sounds more boring than punctuation?  Ok maybe, but can you think of two?  Just not a topic that says “please tell me more!” is it?  But the book is fantastic.  I read it cover to cover, and it was great.  I recommend it to people all the time and I use it as an example in my public speaking classes of an important truth:

Anyone who is interested in any topic can make it interesting to anyone.

It’s true.

And yet, all too often, textbooks do anything but make their topic interesting.  Think about that.  There you are a PhD in [insert subject here].  You were excited enough about [said subject] that you went to school for like 30 years to become an expert in it.  And now you’re writing a book about [yup, same subject] and you do what?  Try to make it inaccessible so no one else will get excited about [subject matter]?  Perhaps, maybe, you could write something that makes [subject] trendy and exciting and be a best seller?  Would they still use it for a textbook?  Oh, I hope so, especially if I have to take that class.

Not all textbooks are like slogging through 3 feet of mud and slush.  But this one is, and I can’t wait to be done with it, despite having a deep interest in learning more about marketing.

I’ll let you know if I survive.


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