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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…)

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: Make It Happen, by Kari Chapin

(Chronicle Books)

 Make It Happen, by Kari Chapin

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…)

In the footsteps of the bookstore crawl

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.

Ben McNally Books

Ben McNally Books

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…)

Editor for Life: Sally Sparrow, editorial and production manager, Master Point Press

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 Sparrow, Master Point Press

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…)

Oh, the Places You’ll Go: A bookstore crawl


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.

The Word On The Street Toronto festival confirms printed books and literacy never go out of style

Word On The Street

Photo by Deepi Harish

By Deepi Harish

After a decade of calling Queen’s Park home to The Word On The Street Toronto Book & Magazine Festival, organizers have moved the festival to the Harbourfront Centre.

In 2014, the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) announced its new partnership with The Word On The Street Toronto. The Harbourfront Centre has always hosted the IFOA, and with the Queens Quay Revitalization project underway, it made sense to combine two of Canada’s biggest literary festivals. The combination of the festivals at the Harbourfront Centre allows for the use of both outdoor and indoor spaces to create a more enticing and creative exhibitor marketplace for the public.

“At IFOA we have spent decades as a hub for the Canadian and international literary communities, and we are now excited to become even more engaged with the vibrant community of readers and writers here in Toronto,” IFOA Director Geoffrey E. Taylor said at the time.

Returning for the twenty-seventh time, the 2016 Word On The Street Toronto has grown in size and popularity, with more workshops, readings, panel discussions, tents, stages, sponsors, and partners than in previous years.

With more than 200 publishing houses, 70 art organizations, 30 magazine publishers, 20 literacy groups, hundreds of authors, and thousands of discounted books, this festival can get overwhelming — in a good way. (more…)