Jazz Meets Theology

Punctuation to the writer is like anatomy to the artist: He learns the rules so he can knowledgeably and controllédly depart from them as art requires.

—Lynne Truss, in Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, quoting Thomas McCormack, in The Fiction Writer, the Novel, and the Novelist

Here, we revisit all of the Deadly Sins introduced throughout Painting with Numbers. We discuss why they are organized the way they are, and consider some specific situations where it might actually be permissible to (gasp) commit them.

What do a great jazz musician and a great presenter of numbers have in common? Well, for starters, ask a jazz musician about his or her training and background. You'll be hard-pressed to find a good one that doesn't have years of classical (or at least formal) training and a solid grounding in music theory. And yet, great jazz is all about breaking the rules, and not only that, breaking the rules on the spur of the moment and in an improvised way. It takes tremendous skill to play jazz well. You have to know which rules you can break (and when), and you often have to do it in real time.

Presenting financials and other numbers is like playing music: to do it well you have to know the rules, because following the rules makes the quantation understandable (and the music sound good). When a jazz musician breaks the rules, the audience doesn't notice as long as it makes the music enjoyable or interesting to listen ...

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