It amazes me when this in day and age any well-known publisher allows instructionally-deficient sentences to grace one of its book’s pages. Even one such sentence is too many.
While reading today the book Value Investing for Dummies, this sentence stopped me in my tracks: “Working capital is the asset base that recirculates through the business as cash, receivables, and inventory and is used to acquire raw materials and to produce and sell products” (p. 34).
So what is working capital?
It’s something that recirculates as cash, among other things. But that doesn’t reveal what it is. This is a form of mystery writing that’s not in a mystery.
A prime cause of the confusion is the verb recirculates.
Unfortunately, neither the online versions of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary nor the American Heritage Dictionary contained the word “recirculate.” However, I did find the word “circulate” in The Free Dictionary. Here are its four definitions:
1. To move in or flow through a circle or circuit: blood circulating through the body.2. To move around, as from person to person or place to place: a guest circulating at a party.3. To move about or flow freely, as air.4. To spread widely among persons or places; disseminate: Gossip tends to circulate quickly.
Ignoring the fact that recirculate means to “circulate again,” none of The Free Dictionary’s four definitions match how the term was being used in Value Investing for Dummies.
If I were the person who edited that sentence, I would have asked the writer, “What are you trying to say in the sentence?”
Too much is left unsaid.
Uncovering what was unsaid and discovering what a writer really meant to say are prime responsibilities of an editor. Apparently, with regard to the sentence quoted earlier in this post, whoever edited it didn’t finish the job.