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Book Review: Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar by David Crystal

Crystal against crystallization

by James Harbeck

(Oxford University Press, 2017) MAKING SENSE

How can we have crystal-clear language spoken by people with a crystal-clear understanding of how it works? For one thing, don’t try to crystallize it—just Crystal-ize. Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal, is for anyone who wants to get Crystal clarity on the function and uses of English. Crystal is a world-renowned British linguist, academic, and author. He is one of the leading lights of popularizing linguistic understanding; he has written, co-written, or edited more than 120 books, including the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, The Stories of English, Language and the Internet, and, most recently, a series of books beginning with Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling, continuing with Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, and now adding Making Sense, which gives us what is effectively an introductory course in English linguistics—syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, and history—written for people who want something readable and usable. And he adds some extra details that you’re more likely to get in a course in effective writing.

It can be difficult to review a book that has nothing wrong with it. Honestly, in real life I would normally just say, “If you’re interested in grammar, read this book; if your work in any way involves grammar—and of course it does—read this book; even if you know a lot about grammar already, it will still be worth your time.” But let me give you some more details so you know why I’m recommending it. (more…)

Being a digital nomad: Or how to edit from the beach

Beach editing

Photo by Rachel Stuckey

By Rachel Stuckey

I’m a digital nomad. For years I’ve told anyone who asked that I was a writer and editor (even though editing pays most of my bills). But lately, the way I work has been more interesting than the work I actually do.

But I’m still getting used to saying “I’m a digital nomad” (and sometimes, I confess, I often use air quotes when I do say it). I know what “digital nomad” conjures up: visions of twenty-somethings with no job prospects and an unnatural attachment to their smartphones.

Air quotes aside, such visions are really just the surface of this cultural phenomenon. (And thanks to Insta-influencers and click-bait web content, that surface seems both beautiful and vacuous). But there are plenty of Gen Xers, Xennials, and even grown-up millennials doing marvellous and fascinating things on the road.

I’d like to think I’m one of the grown-up digital nomads. For the last several years, I’ve been seeking out new temporary homes for me and my editorial services business, sometimes spending months in one place and sometimes changing it up every few weeks.

In 2012, I was a burned-out freelancer looking for adventure. After months of preparation, I headed out on a trip around the world, with stops in Thailand, China, Cambodia, India, the UAE, Spain, France, Italy, and the UK before coming home nine months later. Everyone thought that might be it, adventure had.

But I wasn’t ready to settle back into the same old same old. And I’ve been on the move ever since, spending some months each year in Toronto and the rest of my time in Europe, South and Central America, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2018, I’m returning to Thailand, and then on to Southern Africa.

This wanderlust may have begun as therapy for my tertiary life crisis. But over the last five years of living and working abroad and living and working in Toronto, I’ve realized that there is a strong economic argument for tackling our gig economy as a nomad. After several months living at home in TO again, my pocketbook is itching to get the heck out of Dodge! (Also, winter is coming, and I hate wearing socks and shoes.) (more…)

Editor for Life: Rehana Begg, editor of Machinery and Equipment MRO magazine and REM—Resource Engineering & Maintenance, Annex Business Media

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Rehanna Begg


Rehana, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

A couple of decades ago, an internship turned into my first paying job as an editorial assistant at Homemakers Magazine, a women’s lifestyle magazine. I had the pleasure of working with a group of brilliant women who inspired me to change course from being an aspiring news reporter to pursuing a career in magazine editing. I stayed on that course for about 10 years, working at Canadian Home Workshop and launching a freelance writer/editor career. As a freelancer, I was able to peddle my magazine journalism skills all the way to Cape Town, South Africa, where a stint at Best Life, a men’s lifestyle publication, allowed me to interview sources from the sandy beaches of Llandudno. The freelance experience strengthened my belief that journalism nurtures an insatiable curiosity and clued me into what I wanted to focus on in the next leg of my career. When I returned to Toronto in 2008, I decided to pursue a master of journalism degree as a way to foster my interest in business-to-business (B2B) publishing. But the program did not offer business reporting at the time and I had to find a role that would give me hands-on experience. I accepted a contract role as the editor at Benefits Canada, a B2B publication formerly owned by Rogers Media, which was an excellent inroad into the world of finance and institutional investments. From there, I was offered an opportunity at Annex Business Media, where I would edit a couple of maintenance and engineering publications. My role at Annex has been more of a content manager than magazine editor because my multi-platform portfolio includes managing the content of two magazines, two websites, and newsletters, as well as developing events such as webinars, round tables, and video production. It’s a busy desk, but I have still managed to complete an MBA with a project management specialization in my spare time. Staying relevant has been pivotal in ensuring personal satisfaction and career longevity in today’s content farm environment. (more…)

Taming time

Lion tamer

A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency. (more…)

The Nitpicker’s Nook: November edition

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, blog posts, and podcasts. If you read or hear something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

Nitpickers Nook Image by Deven Knill

By Carol Harrison

Need a five-minute break from hacking and chopping and cursing the English language? Open Culture features a short lesson by Yale linguistics professor Claire Bowern on the roots of English. A sweet, simple, and smart TED Talk, cheekily animated by Patrick Smith.

Speaking of roots, The Independent’s Natasha Salmon reports on how the French language is facing a backlash on gender-neutral words.

I’m a big fan of Words to that Effect, “a literary podcast of the intriguing, the curious, and the unexplored” hosted by Conor Reid from Dublin, Ireland. In episode 9, “Imaginary Countries and the Ruritanian Romance,” Conor talks about making up place names. Lovely stuff!

And for those days when you’ve run so low on dilithium crystals that your flux capacitor just goes kablooey, consider listening to “Technobabble” on Imaginary Words. In this episode, scientists and screenwriters team up to get the words right. It’s the droid you’re looking for.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and quality assurance specialist at CPA Canada. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Afara Kimkeran.

Editors Canada member Michael Redhill wins the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize


Toronto, November 21, 2017—The Editors’ Association of Canada (Editors Canada) congratulates member Michael Redhill, winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Bellevue Square.

Bellevue Square is a darkly comic literary thriller about a woman who fears for her sanity and eventually her life when she learns that her doppelganger has appeared in a local park.

Redhill is an award-winning poet, playwright, short-story writer and novelist, and a member of Editors Toronto. He gave the keynote address at Editors Canada’s 2010 national conference in Montreal, where his clever speech kept the audience laughing (and the interpreters jumping).

Last night, Redhill’s address to the audience in attendance at the gala at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto was an emotional one. He thanked Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding who “over 30 years ago…opened their door to me and I’m grateful for the enthusiasm and encouragement they brought to my life.”

He went on to thank his mother. “Our house was full of books because of [her]. Because of her love of reading, I wanted to make her books,” he said.

The $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize is the richest literary award for a work of fiction in Canada. The prize has been awarded annually since 1994. It was founded by the late Jack Rabinovitch to honour his wife, the journalist Doris Giller, who died a year earlier. Rabinovitch died this year at the age of 87.

An editor all his life, Redhill is no stranger to the “best supporting actor” role that goes along with this invisible art in publishing. Earlier this year, he posted on Facebook looking for editing work. “The ends, they do not meet,” he wrote.

“The ends are going to meet for a while now,” he joked after winning the prize.

Born in Maryland in 1966, Redhill has lived in Canada for most of his life. His career formally began in the early nineties at Coach House Press. He taught “Editing Poetry” at Ryerson University and is the author of the novels Consolation, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Martin Sloane, a finalist for the Giller Prize. He has written a novel for young adults, four collections of poetry and two plays, including the internationally celebrated Goodness. He also writes a series of crime novels under the name Inger Ash Wolfe. He lives in Toronto.

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About Editors Canada
Editors Canada began in 1979 as the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada to promote and maintain high standards of editing. In 1994, the word “Freelance” was dropped to reflect the association’s expanding focus to serve both freelance and in-house editors. As Canada’s only national editorial association, it is the hub for 1,300 members and affiliates, both salaried and freelance, who work in the corporate, technical, government, not-for-profit and publishing sectors. The association’s professional development programs and services include professional certification, an annual conference, seminars, webinars, guidelines for fair pay and working conditions, and networking with other associations. Editors Canada has five regional branches: British Columbia; Saskatchewan; Toronto; Ottawa–Gatineau; and Quebec/Atlantic Canada, as well as smaller branches (called twigs) in Calgary, Edmonton, Manitoba, Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph, Hamilton/Halton, Kingston, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Media Contact
Michelle Ou
Senior Communications Manager
Editors Canada
416 975-1379 / 1 866 226-3348
[email protected]

Save your eyes! Tips to reduce computer-related eye strain

Monitor glare

By Michelle Waitzman

Working in front of a computer monitor all day, as most editors do, takes a toll on your eyes. Here are some tips on how to reduce the eye strain that can lead to fatigue, headaches, dry eyes, and loss of concentration.

Beware of Glare

Glare is caused by light reflecting off your monitor and into your eyes. It can come from your windows or from light fixtures and lamps. Glare makes it harder to read your documents, reduces contrast, and can reflect bright spots into your eyes causing you to squint. It’s best to reduce glare at the source, but if that isn’t possible you can purchase an anti-glare screen to attach to your monitor.

Glare from daylight can usually be fixed by moving your monitor to a better position. Your monitor should be perpendicular to the window in the room, so that the daylight hits it from the side. Placing your monitor in front of the window will cause the backlighting to be too strong, which makes your monitor appear dark. Placing your monitor across from the window will cause the most direct glare.

Even with the monitor angled correctly to the window, glare can be an issue when the sun is low in the sky. Curtains or blinds are the best way to control the amount of daylight entering the room. (more…)

Retirement savings for freelancers: What you need to know

  • Retirement Saving for Freelancers
  • by Michelle Waitzman

    When you’re self-employed, saving for retirement is anything but simple. There’s no employee pension, no group RRSPs, and no steady paycheque to count on. I sat down with Aldwin Chin, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Toronto, to get his insights on how to save for retirement as a freelancer. This is a very general overview, but you can use the links at the end of the article to find more information.

    How much of my income should I be saving?

    You need to prioritize your money to figure out how much you can and should save. Most freelancers should allocate their income like this:

    1. Pay for your current living and business expenses.
    2. Save three to six months’ living expenses in case of emergency or lack of work.
    3. Anything that’s left should go into long-term savings and investments for retirement or for other major expenses.