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by Indu Singh
In the first chapter of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, the author poses a challenge to his readers: go a week without writing any of the words out of a list of what he considers pointless adverbs, including very, rather, really, quite, just, so, surely, of course, and in fact. However, Dreyer singles out one adverb for his most extreme dare: “Feel free to go the rest of your life without another ‘actually.’”
According to Dreyer we are all writers now—we write blog entries, term papers, social media posts, emails, memos, product reviews—and he wants us to be better at it. He attempts to not only guide but also bully, cajole, amuse, and even challenge (as demonstrated above) the readers into becoming stronger and more effective communicators on paper and screen. He believes that if he can at least convince us to give up some of these ineffectual adverbs—these “Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers”—he will have automatically transformed us into better writers by the end of the week.
As a practising copy chief for Random House, Dreyer earns his living by polishing others’ work, and his feelings about his profession run the gamut from pragmatism to passion. “On a good day, [copy editing] achieves something between a really thorough teeth cleaning…and a whiz-bang magic act.”
Book Review: Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging
by Indu Singh
Exactly one year ago today, members of Editors Toronto had the privilege of hearing Gregory Younging speak about his recently published style guide, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples, at a regular monthly Editors Toronto program meeting. The standing-room-only program was one of our most popular to date.
Gregory Younging passed away on May 3, 2019. The executive of Editors Toronto was profoundly saddened by this news and issued a statement at the time. We publish this book review to honour his memory and the important work he did, and to mark the one-year anniversary of his presentation to Editors Toronto.
Gregory Younging—publisher, editor, poet, educator, and member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba—is known for his groundbreaking advocacy of Indigenous issues and his enduring legacy of nurturing Indigenous writing and publishing in Canada. In Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education, 2018), he assesses Indigenous literature and publishing from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples. The result is a book of 22 editorial principles that guide readers through a new approach to writing and editing material with Indigenous content.
Younging believes it’s high time to decolonize Canadian English—a trend that he points out is already underway. Problematic terms such as primitive and heathen have largely been dropped from usage, while others like land claim and Native are increasingly becoming outdated.
by Michelle Waitzman
Most people take dictionaries for granted. They are available to us, at home or at school, from the time we first learn to read. Those of us who work with words rely on them regularly. But few of us spend much time thinking about how a dictionary is put together and kept up to date. It’s almost as though we expect them to spring into existence, fully formed. The truth is much more complicated—and fascinating.
Kory Stamper is a lexicographer,* and her book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at one of America’s best-known dictionary publishers: Merriam-Webster. Sound boring? It’s not! Stamper takes us on a memorable journey through the ways in which the English language has evolved (and continues to evolve), the lengths that lexicographers go to in order to describe current usage, and the backlash that can result from a seemingly innocuous definition.
Each of the book’s chapters is named for a word chosen to illustrate the topic of that chapter. For example, the “Irregardless” chapter is about words that many people argue are not “real” words at all; the “Take” chapter discusses the challenges of defining small words that are used in a multitude of ways; and the “Nuclear” chapter is about differences in pronunciation.
by Michelle Waitzman
Can you tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman, based only on the words the author used? Is the road to hell (or at least to bad writing) paved with adverbs, as Stephen King once claimed? Do American authors write “louder” than British authors? If you’re intrigued by these questions, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve will satisfy your curiosity.
Author Ben Blatt uses data journalism to apply statistical analysis to a wide variety of topics. In this book, literary works and bestselling fiction are subjected to his big-data approach, often with surprising results. While this isn’t meant to be an instructional book by any stretch of the imagination, writers and editors might find some of the takeaways applicable to their own work. His statistics on sentence length, repetition, gender balance, and other topics may give readers some additional things to think about when they write or evaluate a novel. But generally, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve is simply an interesting and unusual way to look at writing.
by Summer Cowley
As an editor with editor friends, I find myself often reading works by authors who use citation styles other than the ones I regularly use in my own writing. Even though I become more comfortable with different styles every time I see them, many styles are unfamiliar in my APA-dominated world of the social sciences. Many times, I have wished there were an easier and more reliable way to quickly learn citation styles than running internet searches. Luckily, I’ve recently found Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles—MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More (2018) by Charles Lipson.
Cite Right is a short book (180 pages) in which Lipson provides summary explanations and examples of many citation styles. The book is divided into two general sections: “Citations: An Overview,” which contains introductory material and a general explanation of the practice of citing, and “Citations in Every Format: A Quick Guide,” which addresses Chicago/Turabian, MLA, APA, CSE, AMA, ACS, AIP for physics/astrophysics/astronomy, and mathematics/computer science/engineering citation styles.
by Jaye Marsh
In general, North Americans are stressed, overweight, stuck to our desks, and disconnected from the world we live in. With The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai attempts to help us address these issues by offering tools, including online resources and email support, to “hack” a more balanced lifestyle.
I really wanted to like this book, but it was a challenge. The writing style is the culprit here, not the content. I was pulled out of the messaging, and the information to be gleaned here, too many times not to mention it.
The Urban Monk reads as if the publishers are Millennials/Generation Y or whatever generalization is currently en vogue. Our supposed readers are the ever-taxed and ever-busy 30- to 45-year-olds replete with children, mid-career angst, mortgages, housing problems, and stuff problems, and are in need of a current version of Zen to help them find a way to sanity that allows for who they are rather than completely. To that end, this book has its place, but it ignores a huge segment of depleted populace in need of help: those who don’t live an urban lifestyle. None of the case studies offered in the book take place in non-traditional settings like freelancing, consider people juggling multiple jobs, or explore those facing financial struggles.
by Emma Warnken Johnson
Mindfulness is everywhere these days. There seems to be an endless supply of books, articles, and apps touting its benefits. The practices vary, but they all seek to focus the mind on the present moment, shedding distractions and helping us appreciate the little things in our lives. I’ve been meaning to try mindfulness for quite some time, but never seem to be able to fit it into my busy schedule.
This makes The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People a timely book for me, and I suspect it will be for a lot of other busy editors too. Taoist monk and Qi Gong master Pedram Shojai adapts the 100-day Gong—a traditional Taoist practice—to create a mindfulness routine that can fit into a busy schedule. The book is divided into 100 short chapters, and each one describes a brief daily activity that promotes mindfulness and a healthier relationship to the way we think about and spend our time.
The activities vary widely. Readers are asked to do some breathing exercises, to stretch and relax their muscles, and to eat a meal without the distraction of other activities (like watching TV). Some days include simple activities designed to give your mind a short break, like going for a walk, taking a bath, or making a cup of tea—and several of these seem tailor-made for an editor who takes regular breaks to improve productivity. Other days are more reflective, asking you to think about how you spend their time and review your priorities. Reading through the activities, I found several that I thought I would enjoy and could easily integrate into my daily schedule. (more…)
by Jessica Trudel
Do you find your day job fulfilling? If you answered “no,” Side Hustle is for you. If you answered “yes,” Side Hustle is also for you.
That’s what author Chris Guillebeau gets across in the early pages of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. “Everyone should have a side hustle. Even if you love your job, having more than one source of income will give you more freedom and more options.”
Who doesn’t want the freedom that more money can bring? And if you could start bringing in more money in less than a month, even better.
Side Hustle outlines Guillebeau’s five-week program to launch a successful side hustle. Besides being a veteran side hustler himself, Guillebeau is also the bestselling author of The $100 Startup.
In his book, Guillebeau targets those people who want to want to make money as entrepreneurs but who aren’t prepared to fully commit to self-employment. Perhaps they like their day job and want to keep it, or perhaps they just aren’t ready to quit yet.