Honest acknowledgments

Every book has acknowledgments — the page or two where you thank people for helping you. Those pages are filled with lies.

Authors are certainly grateful for the help they get. But acknowledgments leave out so much of what actually happens in creating book. They’re dishonest by omission.

Should acknowledgments be honest? Read this, and let me know.


I’d like to thank everyone who helped in the creation of this book . . . some, more than others.

I’ll start with my parents. Thanks, Dad, for berating me every time I made a mistake. I learned the quest for perfection and the value of fear, both of which have been helpful skills in creating this book.

And thanks as well to Mom, for showing me how food was an effective way to deal with pain. Without my obese and sedentary lifestyle, I could never have sat still long enough to write this volume.

I’d like to thank my dean and department head for motivating me to write and publish this book as an essential step toward attaining tenure. You’ve made clear that my required administrative and teaching duties could be dismissed with cursory effort, allowing me to spend more time on the creation you now hold in your hand.

Creating this book was team effort. Most of the effort came from Stella, my “writing assistant,” who, for an enormous fee, actually wrote most of the words in the book. When I was unable to meet Stella’s requests for additional payments for “efforts outside the scope of the original project,” she informed me that she had secretly included a plagiarized passage somewhere in the book. If anyone discovers it, I’m ruined. Thanks, Stella!

I’d like to thank my research assistants, Marnie Huang and Abdul Khasir. Since their full tuition as foreign students pays all of our salaries, I literally owe them my livelihood. Given the meager wages I pay them, it’s no surprise that their research is shoddy and full of holes. I will doubtless find out that they’ve quoted discredited sources and failed to alert me of another whole book whose thesis makes mine obsolete. Some would say that’s my responsibility, but without Marnie and Abdul, I would have no one to blame, so I am in their debt.

I am grateful for my agent, Ginger, who found the only publisher willing to pay to publish this collection of warmed-over and trite drivel. Ginger is driven exclusively by money, but I choose to ignore this and take her appreciative murmurings as sincere praise.

I want to recognize Alan as the only acquisitions editor willing to take a chance on me. Alan has since left the publisher, orphaning my project. My editor, Jocelyn, made no actual contribution or suggestions, so I thank her for not creating any extra work for me.

The publisher’s copy editor, Eleanor, made an enormous contribution by identifying obscure and obsolete grammar rules to hassle me about while ignoring vast numbers of factual errors that made it into the final pages. I did learn a new word, “stet!” I have attempted to use “stet” to fix many other mistakes in my life that I want to embrace rather than correct, but regrettably, it only works on copy editors.

Regarding Arnold, the indexer, see also excessive cross-references.

The cover was designed by a woman named Regina who appears to see everything through a murky purple haze — a color that will now be forever associated with me. She apparently doesn’t realize that I’m a winter.

The publisher’s marketing staff, Justine and Ed, made an enormous contribution by sending copies of the book to every book reviewer on the planet over the two-week period surrounding the book’s publication date. The result was two reviews in obscure publications. After charging me for the review copies, Justine and Ed have ghosted me. Apparently, my publisher’s book promotion efforts have reached their expiration date.

Finally, I’d like to recognize my wife Tina’s contribution to this book. While I have slaved away on the book on nights and weekends, she and my two children, whose names I can’t recall right now, have gone on various enjoyable adventures and left me alone. Without that solitude, there would be no book. In exchange for her granting me peace, I have agreed not to ask Tina who is constantly texting her or what “Tinder” is. It’s an agreeable arrangement, one without which I could never have completed the work you read now.

And finally, dear reader, I wish to thank you. There are a vanishingly small number of individuals on the planet who are willing to spend a few hours with my insignificant thoughts, rambling sentences, and poorly supported arguments about matters of interest only to pedants. Even if you spend only a short time with my prose, I am grateful for the pain and confusion you will have to suffer. Thank you, from the bottom of my weak and shriveled heart.

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  1. These are great! Only once before has an acknowledgment made me smile this much. It appeared in a 1970s or early 1980s book by a Yale librarian. She was recommending a better way to cite references. I don’t recall the title or the author. But her acknowledgment read something like, “I’d like to thank [Name] for proofreading the galleys. It’s always nice to have someone to share the blame with.”

  2. So often as I read acknowledgements, I found myself cringing, like I would when facing an effusive pack of lies. Now thanks to Josh I understand why and enjoyed the sans-bullshit example he offered.

  3. I had an associate editor role on an anthology: helped read and select the material to include, plus copyedited and prepared the manuscript to the publisher’s specs. In the acknowledgments — the only section I was not asked to review — I was thanked in a single phrase for “minding the details” while other less-involved readers were regaled for their contributions. And my first name was misspelled–by zombies, I presume.

    Acknowledgments, schmacknowledgments. I prefer your approach.