Editing “The Bitcoin Standard”

The Bitcoin Standard (Wiley, 2018) by Saifedean Ammous, with a foreword by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; currently #1 on Amazon.com in Digital Currencies; #35 in Economics


I was hired by Saifedean Ammous to proofread the manuscript and check it conformed to Wiley’s style guide, and to create the index. As well as finding multiple errors per page in spelling, punctuation and style guide compliance, I also found several factual errors and inconsistencies. Below are some edited highlights from my annotations. Quotes from the manuscript are in red; annotations I added are in green.

Factual errors and inconsistencies

The automobile was invented by Karl Benz in 1855: 1885

Rai Islanders: Yap Islanders (this was a reference to a previous chapter about the Yap islanders and their currency of Rai stones)

Checked consistency of graphs to make sure the discussion in the text matched the data in the graph; changed left axis to right axis, and queried some values quoted in the text that didn’t match the graph

Jastram’s study referenced in Chapter 5: actually chapter 6

Footnote “Nathaniel Popper, Digital Gold (Harper, 2005)”: corrected date to 2015

In the United States, whose defense spending is almost equal to that of the entire planet combined: insert “rest of the” (otherwise it’s logically impossible)

Swedish kronor (in a table of currencies including US dollar, French franc, etc): change to “Krona” (Kronor is plural and the other currencies are given in the singular)

emperor Croesus: king (I think he was only a king – his Wikipedia page describes him as a king and doesn’t mention the word “emperor”)

A mention of “football” at the WW1 Christmas truce, in an American book: It was English football, so do you want to call it soccer?

Linda’s descendants have infinitely higher productivity than Harry’s: not strictly accurate – “vastly”? “immeasurably”?

As H. L. Mencken put it: “Every election is an advanced auction on stolen goods.”: It looks like the original quote is “Every election is A SORT OF ADVANCE auction SALE OF stolen goods.” (based on relative numbers of Google hits – I don’t have the actual book you’re quoting from) If you want to paraphrase, you could take it out of the quotes.

Corrected graph caption Price of gold in silver ounces, 1697–2017 to match 1687 in the graph (I also flagged the graph caption in the list of images to make sure it’s made consistent).

Recurring basic proofreading issues

Several malapropisms (bog for dog, counties for countries, fermented for fomented, tenant for tenet)

Lots of mismatched commas, e.g. Paul Samuelson, the man who literally wrote the textbooks for economic education in the postwar era wrote in 1943 (which needs a comma between “era” and “wrote” to enclose the description “the man who literally wrote the textbooks for economic education in the postwar era”)

Style guide compliance: the style guide requires higher numbers and ordinals in figures, like “20th”, and the manuscript mentioned the “nineteenth” and “twentieth” centuries a lot. The style guide also prohibits “since” used in the sense of “because”, and the manuscript used this a lot.

I standardised on the capitalisation “Bitcoin” for the concept and the protocol, and “bitcoin/bitcoins” for the unit of currency; previously the capitalisation was a bit random throughout the manuscript.

I explained grammatical corrections in comments, for example, on the sentence “It would be trivial for the producers of this good to create very large quantities of it that depress the price, devalue the good, expropriating the wealth of the savers, and denying the good salability across time” I commented: Change to either “depress the price and devalue the good” or “depress the price, devaluing the good” (what you have now is a parallelism error, like “animals that hunt, eat, drinking and sleeping”)

Some of my suggestions about clarity

I also made several suggestions to improve style and readability; for example, in “denying the good salability” from the above quote: This is grammatically correct, but easy to mis-parse as “VERB-ing the [ADJECTIVE]good NOUN”. I suggest “denying salability to the good” or “destroying the good’s salability”.

Policymakers, instead of taking this as a sign to stop tinkering with the value of money and allowing people the freedom to use the least volatile commodity as money, took it as an invitation to micromanage the smallest details of global trade. Change “allowing” to “allow” (you want them to stop tinkering and to allow; not to stop tinkering and stop allowing)

The Bitcoin ledger of transactions is forged through converting electricity and processing power to truth without having to rely on the word of anyone. “Forged” is an unfortunate choice of word, since it also means “counterfeited”! I suggest “created” or “produced”.

Errors and inconsistencies in the spellings of names

Gavin Andersen: Andresen (a central figure in the Bitcoin movement)

Joe Salerno, Money: Sound and Unsound: changed to Joseph to be consistent with the bibliography and the publication data of the actual book

Ibn Khladun: Khaldun; and elsewhere: Ibn Khaldoun: Khaldun

Edmund Elgar: Edward

Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk: Böhm; and elsewhere: Eugene von Böhm-Bawerk: Eugen

Annelies Liena, the world’s largest fishing trawler: Ilena

Tracy Emin, Eleonara Chiara: Tracey, Eleonora

Elis Halevy: Élie Halévy

Kim Jon Il: Jong

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