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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 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 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 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.
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 book: “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.
by Karen Kemlo
Dr. Barbara Moses, known as “Canada’s career guru,” is a leading expert in work satisfaction and career success. This updated third edition of her best-selling book What Next? has something for anyone who is at a crossroads in their career or work life.
From millennials starting out in their job searches to more mature workers changing careers, this is a great step-by-step guide to making the next move. But be warned—it’s a big read with lots of homework in the form of self-assessment questions. Although likely meant to instill greater self-reflection, the detailed questions often bring the book and the reader to a full stop.
The early chapters discuss the notion of identifying one’s “core motivators” for seeking certain types of work. Based on her research, Moses has identified eight motivational types: sociability seekers, career builders, authenticity seekers, personal developers, novelty seekers, entrepreneurs, lifestylers, and stability seekers. The challenge, according to Moses, is “to find a work environment that provides the best possible match.”
It’s a unique approach to career guidance, something I wish I’d known about when starting out in the work world. Perhaps it would’ve focused my early job and education goals sooner. It might have also saved me the horror of dead-end and minimum-wage jobs. But I also know that my 20-year-old self would never have taken the time to fill out all of the questionnaires in this book.
Given the current job market, and the rise of part-time and precarious work, it seems unrealistic to assume that all workers will always have the ability to choose. Sometimes you have to take jobs and work with difficult people, simply in order to pay the bills. Life challenges, such as downsizing, divorce or illness get in the way of career goals.
What Next? is still a great resource for people at different stages in their careers and touches on some of the issues that everyone has to deal with at some point: how to overcome job burnout, how to deal with difficult bosses, what to do if you’re fired, how to write a resumé, and the benefits of networking. These chapters are shorter and less detailed than the ones on self-assessment and motivational types. As a consequence, the author—and the reader—spend more time inside the world of ideas and ideal jobs than in the real world of work.
Karen Kemlo is a freelance editor and writer in Toronto.
This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.
(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…)