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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.”
by James Harbeck
If you edit academic books or articles, you probably spend a lot of time tidying up references. Sometimes as much time as editing the entire rest of the text. First, you have to pick your style: Chicago (note or name-date), MLA, APA, or, in the sciences, AMA or Vancouver. Then, you have to make everything consistent with it, to the extent possible. On top of that, you may have to look up the sources to double-check them.
I’ve edited medical continuing-education presentations that had no bibliographies and would cite some sources as just, for instance, “Heinz & Wong 2013.” I would have to find the rest of the citation—and I would, nearly every time, with a single search. Which means that anyone else who wanted to know would also be able to find it as quickly. Our citation standards were developed before the wonderful world of high-powered search engines. If we can find the source from an incomplete or inaccurate citation, how much of this tidying up is necessary?
Now, yes, there are more reasons than just findability to give detailed and consistent bibliographic information. You want to be tidy. You want readers not to have to spend undue time and effort: “Wasting our time so that readers don’t have to waste theirs” is in the editor’s job description. You want to give credit where it is due, and accurately. And you don’t want any risk of ambiguity—you don’t want people flipping fruitlessly through the wrong edition, for instance.
But still. Not all standard parts of a bibliographic citation are truly necessary. Here are several things some styles require that we should consider just getting rid of:
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.
Crystal against crystallization
by James Harbeck
(Oxford University Press, 2017)
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…)
(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…)
By Christine Albert
Time is a commodity that often seems to be in short supply. Recognizing the need for professionals to learn not only how they’re using their time, but also how to work more efficiently, Kari Chapin created Make It Happen: A Workbook and Productivity Tracker for Getting Stuff Done. A business consultant, podcaster, and public speaker, Chapin has also authored two books on growing a creative business and has designed an idea-generation workbook. Having worked for 15 years in marketing and publicity, Chapin understands that time is money—so it’s important to work faster, smarter, and better.
As the title suggests, Make It Happen is not simply a time-tracking tool. Part journal, part productivity tracker, it lets users create schedules, track time spent on various tasks, reflect on their work habits and possibly improve their process. The workbook provides prompts, activity trackers, schedule outlines, and blank notes sections. While some elements repeat (such as the “Make It Happen,” “Break It Down,” “My Time Today,” “I Could Swap,” and double-page reflection prompts), they’re not set in repeating order. Instead, Chapin includes a blank date box on each recto page—a good choice as it allows for greater flexibility. This open-ended design lets users tailor the workbook to their own work style and preferences. (more…)
Any good editor will tell you she’d be lost without her well-thumbed, heavily flagged, and coffee-stained copy of The Chicago of Manual of Style. But just what is this mysterious tome? And why is it so critical to the work we do?
This seminar will introduce you to the joys and sorrows of the book that most people simply call Chicago. We’ll start with a brief history of its publication, exploring how it grew from what was essentially a guide for compositors into the most trusted and widely used editorial style manual in North America. But the fun won’t stop there! We’ll also look at what it covers, how to use it, what has changed between the most recent edition and the previous one, and much, much more.
This course is highly recommended for anyone just starting to work as an editor or hoping to become one. (more…)