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(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 Christine Albert
As a student enrolled in an editing program, I’m often asked to reflect on issues that may arise when working with clients. The discussion and module notes invariably focus on respect, clear communications, and diplomacy—about how the language of our queries and comments can affect authors. Yet, accessibility is rarely discussed, and few resources from professional associations or courses exist on how to make editorial businesses inclusive and accessible.
This lack of information on accessibility creates a disadvantage for those potential clients who may be physically or cognitively unable to use the same editing services as their peers. An author with multiple learning disabilities once explained to me that she found it difficult working with other editors: they simply wrote long comments using Track Changes, which she had difficulty reading. As a result, she had to constantly ask her transcriber to read her the edits and comments. After discussing the author’s needs, she and I worked out an alternate method that involved verbally communicating comments and large changes, which would let her work through the draft independently—a tactic that surprisingly hadn’t been considered by the other editors.
Lack of accessibility not only affects the services side of our businesses but it also affects our marketing efforts. Google searches for accessible and inclusive editing services turned up no relevant results. While searching editor websites, I was surprised to find that many do not follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) nor incorporate basic accessibility features. For instance, a number of websites could not be zoomed in when viewed on a tablet, while others did not have enough contrast between the text and background. As someone with moderate vision issues, I struggled to read the content on these websites. Potential clients with visual or learning disabilities may be deterred by these difficulties and look elsewhere for an editor. If we are to operate our editorial businesses successfully, we need to go beyond our assumptions of what clients need and make our services accessible so we can provide them with what they actually require. (more…)
By Alanna Brousseau
“No matter how beleaguered the world of editing has become,” writes Betsy Lerner in The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers (2010), “no matter how short a book’s shelf life in today’s market, no matter how Kindled, downloaded, or digitized, none of us can ever forget the feeling of first discovering the majesty of reading.”
Lerner, an editor turned author turned literary agent, has two books under her belt and a third, The Bridge Ladies, forthcoming in May. I was introduced to Lerner after enrolling in one of my first editing courses in the publishing program at Ryerson University. Her first book, The Forest for the Trees, was one of two primary resources we drew inspiration from over those fast-paced few months. Lerner’s dry wit and self-deprecating humour were invigorating—a far cry from the polite prose we had been reading up until that point.
I did some digging later and stumbled upon Lerner’s blog, and I have been a devout follower ever since. Her posts, often whimsically titled (“You’d Be a Wing in Heaven Blue”), contain the same caustic humour that was the hallmark of The Forest for the Trees. Lerner frequently engages with her readers by posing questions to them at the end of each post. As a result, the comments section has become a lively community where writers encourage each other in their respective endeavours and offer congratulations when the hard work finally pays off. (more…)
(Released October 2015)
By Nicole North
This latest book by world-renowned linguistics authority David Crystal showcases his talent for instructing writers of English while entertaining them with great wit and a punchy narrative style. Punctuation is the focus of Making a Point, and Crystal gives a detailed and straightforward history of its use as well as effective advice.
For Crystal, punctuation is about improving legibility, avoiding ambiguity, reflecting the natural rhythms of speech, and clarifying complex sentences. Editors and writers of all sorts will find this book helpful. Crystal uses examples from an impressive array of works—short stories, poetry, novels, essays, advertisements, and emoji-laden text.
Each example illustrates topics pertinent not only to specific genres of writing but also to greater points about today’s uses of punctuation. This study of punctuation as a window into linguistics in general and effective communication in particular elucidates a key aspect of writing and editing. (more…)