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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…)

Editor for Life: Jennifer Croll, editorial director of Greystone Books and author

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.

Jennifer Croll


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

I’m one of those odd birds who is both a writer and an editor, and I’ve been doing both professionally for about 14 years. I attended the master of publishing program at SFU, and after graduating my first jobs were in magazines—a field where it’s easy to both write and edit. I published my first book, Fashion That Changed the World, in 2014, and began working at Greystone Books in Vancouver soon after. I’m now Greystone’s editorial director, and spend my days editing and acquiring books and managing the editorial department. I write books at night, and will be publishing my third and fourth books in 2018 and 2019.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

I’ll say Dorothy Parker. I’m sure she’d be a handful, but I’d get some stories out of it.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

That’s a diplomatic question. Editors, from what I know, spend most of their time hating certain words and punctuation marks! I’ll offer you a favourite letter instead: ø. I just finished working on a book written by Norwegians, and I grew quite fond of the slashed o.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

From a luxurious mansion in the south of France, paid for with the millions of dollars I’ve made editing.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Yes—in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, when I was freelancing and there was very little work. I’m very glad I didn’t retrain to become a dental hygienist.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you? 

 After I finished my undergrad degree, I moved to London, England, and looked for a job. It was the first time in my life I’d needed to consider my actual skill set. I saw a job posting for an editorial assistant, thought, “I could do that,” and applied. I had a job on my third day in the country, jet lag be damned. That pretty much settled my fate.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

Just like that 1970s poster featuring a kitten hanging on for dear life, “Hang in there.”

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Nicole North.



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…)

Book Review: The Story of Be: A Verb’s-Eye View of the English Language by David Crystal

STORY OF BE by David Crystal

(Oxford University Press, 2017)

By Christine Albert

Some words are so familiar that it feels as though we instinctively know what they mean. And when we don’t, we use a dictionary to read its definition and determine how it can be placed alongside other words to form cohesive narratives. But how often do we think about the history behind the word itself, the changes it’s gone through and the nuances it provides the English language and the topics being discussed?

In The Story of Be: A Verb’s-Eye View of the English Language, David Crystal examines the verb to be, highlighting the meanings created and used throughout its long history. A linguist, editor, and prolific writer, Crystal is well-known for his research in English language and has published over 100 books and almost 500 articles on topics such as religious language, Internet language, and clinical linguistics. Each chapter of The Story of Be is dedicated to a specific function of the verb, ranging from the more philosophical (“existential be”) to the scatological (“lavatorial be”). In the latter chapter, for instance, Crystal muses on the origins of the saying “Have you been?” to denote using the washroom, delving into past literature to see when this phrasing began. Alongside these explanations are numerous examples from a variety of sources, including literary, pop culture, religious, and technological. And sprinkled throughout the book are text boxes that focus on the history of the word’s various tenses, showing their development from Old English to modern times and their regional uses. (more…)

Book Review: Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin

Boss Bitch

(Crown, 2017)

By Alethea Spiridon

Nicole Lapin knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wildly successful career woman who has blazed a path for herself as both a businesswoman (launching the CASH Smartwatch) and as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC. A boss bitch is the “she-ro” of her own story, Lapin writes on page 1 of the Boss Bitch: “She is the heroine who doesn’t need saving because she has her own shit handled. I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a ‘boss’ in all aspects of the word.”

That opening sets the tone and pace for this marvellous book that will no doubt empower women who need a nudge, or even an all-out kick in the butt, to take their career—and life—to the next level, and to be as successful as wanted and needed. Lapin’s tone is forthright and honest, and girlfriend to girlfriend, something she says at the outset is exactly how she intends it to be.

Her voice and approach make the content relatable and easy to digest; it’s like going for drinks with a great friend who has your back, but calls you out on your nonsense because all she wants is the best for you. Lapin has plenty of insights to share that can really help women get back on track or consider what track to finally take to become the Boss Bitch in their own lives. (more…)

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]

Editor for life: Marnie Lamb, freelance editor, indexer, and writer

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.

Marnie Lamb

Please tell us a little about yourself, Marnie, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

My first paid editing job was at the, then named, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, in Hull, Quebec. I was hired during the summer when I was doing my master’s degree in English literature. (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was!) The job was quite a coup for a student, considering that most of my classmates stacked books at Chapters or worked as teaching assistants in mandatory English courses for unruly engineering students.

After I graduated, I left Indian Affairs and pursued other goals over the next few years (including a second master’s degree, this one a combined creative writing and English literature program). I then worked for a year as an editor for a professor at the University of Ottawa before moving to Toronto. I freelanced for a few months and then landed a position as a catalogue editor for an advertising agency that produced all of Sears’s advertising. I remained in that job over five years before making one of the best decisions of my life in September 2009, when I left the agency to start my own freelance editing business, Ewe Editorial Services.

Since then, I’ve completed a Publishing certificate at Ryerson University and watched my business blossom. I work mainly in book publishing, with scholarly, educational, and trade publishers. My specialties are permissions research, indexing, copy editing, and proofreading. Like most other freelancers, I love the variety and the freedom that comes with being my own boss.

Outside of editing, I have many hobbies and not enough time to pursue them! My passion is writing fiction. Several of my short stories have been published in Canadian literary journals. My first book, a preteen/teen novel named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, has just been published by Iguana Books, the publishing company of Editors Canada past president Greg Ioannou. (more…)

Book Review: Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis


(St. Martin’s Press, 2016)

Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

By Michelle Waitzman

Camille DeAngelis is a novelist whose career has had its ups and downs. Like many writers, she often found herself battling self-doubt, jealousy, bitterness, and frustration. She decided that it was time to re-examine her beliefs about herself and her career and, most importantly, to examine her ego and how it was affecting her professional life.

Life without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People will resonate mainly with readers who consider themselves “creators” (authors, poets, visual artists, musicians, etc.). Although it is written from the point of view of a writer, and most of the examples in the book revolve around writing, it addresses common problems with working in any profession where success and failure are often subjective and where both praise and criticism are taken very personally.

Editors may find that this book is not really targeted to them unless they also have a writing career or aspire to have one. Nonetheless, some of the examples are likely to ring true. As an editor, it’s easy to feel envy or frustration after working for months to shape and improve a book, only to see all of the praise and credit for its success go to the author (whose work may not have succeeded without you). Also, many editors suffer from “imposter syndrome,” which is a feeling that you are only pretending to know how to do your job (despite the fact that you are actually well-qualified) and believe that you will be caught out and exposed. (more…)