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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.”
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…)
By Dimitra Chronopoulos
How do independent bookstores in Toronto survive and thrive in today’s day and age? By knowing and caring about their customers, participating in conferences and community events, hosting events, and specializing. These were just some of the answers Editors Toronto and PWAC members heard during Editors Toronto’s inaugural bookstore crawl on Saturday, November 19, 2016.
We started at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street), a handsome and inviting space intentionally designed to accommodate special events. The dark wooden shelves and tables showcase history, biography, and hardcover fiction, but the store is known for carrying books you can’t find anywhere else and for fulfilling special orders. The staff know their customers and they listen carefully to match readers to the right books. Owner Ben McNally shared so much with us: what it’s like to have a TV show film in the store, why prices are printed on books (against the wishes and better interests of so many), how the economic downturn in 2008 affected his business, and why he fears Amazon but not Indigo (Indigo and McNally’s are in the same business and complement each other; Amazon is “a threat to neighbourhood culture”). One challenge of operating a bookstore in the downtown core? The lack of parking. The solution? Bookstore staff will stand on the sidewalk and hand orders to customers who drive past. Now that’s service. (more…)
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.
Sally, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.
I work for a small independent publisher in Toronto called Master Point Press. We’re pretty niche. We publish books about bridge. Yes, the card game. While a big part of my job involves working in production, I’m very hands on with the books from the beginning. But I’m no bridge expert—bridge is something that can take years to learn well, and I’m only starting out. (more…)
November 19, 2016
1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Editors Toronto and Professional Writers Association of Canada, Toronto chapter members are invited to browse, buy, share, and talk about books, while also learning about how bookstores operate in today’s marketplace. On Saturday, November 19, beginning at 1 p.m., we will visit four independent, specialty bookstores in downtown Toronto. At each store, staff will meet with our group to share insights and answer questions about the store’s offerings and operations. Then we’ll have ample time to talk, to shop, and to talk shop before moving on.
Travel between the stores will be by TTC and on foot. The stores on our itinerary will be confirmed closer to the date.
The bookstore crawl will be run as the monthly program meeting for November.
The cost to participate is $5. To register, please click here.