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Book Review: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

by Indu Singh

Cover of the book "Dreyer's English" by Benjamin Dreyer

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.”

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Book Review: Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging

by Indu Singh

Cover of "Elements of Indigenous Style" style manual next to photo of Gregory Younging

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.

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How to manage translation and still have fun

by Alana Chalmers

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

This is one of those inspirational, yet anonymous, quotes that makes you want to hunt down that person and dump a pile of work on their desk. Or their beach towel. Because they probably have some sweet gig that doesn’t include a desk or deadlines.

Managing translation at a large company can be high stress, fast paced, and unrelenting. But it’s also challenging and fun, and you meet the best people doing it.

What is it like to manage a translation process? Well, it’s really not that different from managing an editing process.

Here are some common phrases you might hear if you manage translation.

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Editor for Life: Alana Chalmers, editorial consultant, Bell Canada

Interview conducted by Adrineh Der-Boghossian

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.

Alana Chalmers

Photo credit: James Harbeck

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

I’m an editorial consultant at Bell Canada and my job is a mix of editing and consulting on document design. Editing people who have to write for their job is different from editing writers and it comes with some interesting challenges. I have to be extra careful of how I give feedback and part of my job is educating the team on clear communication.

I’ve been an editor for about eight years. I live in Toronto with zero cats but two kids who sometimes pretend to be cats.

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Book Review: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

by Michelle Waitzman

Cover of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

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.

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Book Review: Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt

by Michelle Waitzman

Cover of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben BlattCan 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.

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Editing the work of English language learners in higher education

by Summer Cowley

Two laptops open side by side facing right. Stack of papers in between them. A set of hands holding a pen pointing at the papers while another hand (belonging to another person) is also holding a pen pointed at the stack of papers. Image implies one person teaching or reviewing material with another person.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

As classes in universities and colleges move forward, we ought to consider the process of editing the writing of post-secondary students. For me, this has largely meant checking the work of English language learners (ELLs). In my work as a writing centre tutor and as an English as a second language (ESL) instructor at four higher education institutions in Canada, I have noted two common pieces of advice given by instructors to ESL students and three higher-level concerns that editors might consider. ELLs are generally advised to use spelling and grammar software and to have their written work proofread by native English (L1) speakers/writers. For editors, a few higher-level questions may arise concerning the development of a writer’s voice, the question of how much editing is too much, and how editing for ELLs requires an approach different from editing for other groups. Below, I discuss how we might approach these issues when working with ELLs at post-secondary institutions.

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Indigenous editing principles, featuring Gregory Younging and his new style guide, Elements of Indigenous Style

Elements of Indigenous Style by Gregory Younging book coverWhen: NEW TIME: Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 6:30–8 PM

Where: NEW LOCATION: Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina, 192 Spadina Ave., Third Floor, Room F

(CSI Spadina moved across the street, to 192 Spadina Ave., as of late September.)

For the second program meeting of 2018–19, we are excited to feature Dr. Gregory Younging, author of the new and indispensable style guide, Elements of Indigenous Style (Brush Education, 2018).

Gregory’s exciting study—move over Strunk and White—is the first comprehensive style guide on Indigenous writing. It comprises 22 editorial principles or guidelines and explains why each one is needed. The first principle stresses, in part, that Indigenous Peoples must prioritize their self-perceptions and epistemologies. And the last, on the seemingly straightforward matter of verb tense, probes the nuts and bolts of how to write responsibly about Indigenous Peoples past and present. The other 20 supply much needed advice on ensuring appropriate and respectful interaction with Indigenous cultural materials and their custodians.

In introducing his new book, Gregory has recently delivered talks and conducted workshops across Canada. Now, happily, it’s Toronto’s turn! Please join us for what will surely be an enlightening discussion of Indigenous style—a subject of vital relevance for writers, editors, and publishers today.

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