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Book Review: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

By Michelle Waitzman

Cover of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

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.

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Book Review: Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt

By Michelle Waitzman

Cover of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben BlattCan you tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman, based only on the words the author used? Is the road to hell (or at least to bad writing) paved with adverbs, as Stephen King once claimed? Do American authors write “louder” than British authors? If you’re intrigued by these questions, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve will satisfy your curiosity.

Author Ben Blatt uses data journalism to apply statistical analysis to a wide variety of topics. In this book, literary works and bestselling fiction are subjected to his big-data approach, often with surprising results. While this isn’t meant to be an instructional book by any stretch of the imagination, writers and editors might find some of the takeaways applicable to their own work. His statistics on sentence length, repetition, gender balance, and other topics may give readers some additional things to think about when they write or evaluate a novel. But generally, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve is simply an interesting and unusual way to look at writing.

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Post-script: Professional Editorial Standards in action

By Michelle Waitzman

Anyone who has considered (or completed) any of the Editors Canada certifications has probably reviewed Professional Editorial Standards (PES). But how were these standards developed, and what do they have to do with the day-to-day tasks of editors and proofreaders?

Editors Toronto’s November program looked at PES through the eyes of four editors, each working at a different career stage and/or in a different editing niche. The speakers made it clear that the standards involve much more than taking tests; they are a practical and evolving guide to professional editing, which editors can use in a variety of ways.

The program started with an overview and history of PES from experienced freelance editor and instructor Elizabeth d’Anjou. Editors Canada first began discussing the standards in the early 1980s, and Elizabeth’s mother was a member of the committee that first created the standards, so Elizabeth practically grew up with them!

One of Editors Canada’s early goals was to set up a certification program so that professional editors could be easily identified (and their work properly valued) by potential clients. But before the organization could create a test for editors, it first had to define what it was testing. They considered questions such as the following: What skills are important? What tasks should editors know how to do? What kind of industry knowledge should they be expected to have? PES was created to answer these types of questions—a task that took many years and involved a number of consultations with members. The standards were not only important for informing a certification program, they were also a key tool for Editors Canada to use to raise awareness about editing as a profession and to explain what editors do.

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Save your eyes! Tips to reduce computer-related eye strain

Monitor glare

By Michelle Waitzman

Working in front of a computer monitor all day, as most editors do, takes a toll on your eyes. Here are some tips on how to reduce the eye strain that can lead to fatigue, headaches, dry eyes, and loss of concentration.

Beware of Glare

Glare is caused by light reflecting off your monitor and into your eyes. It can come from your windows or from light fixtures and lamps. Glare makes it harder to read your documents, reduces contrast, and can reflect bright spots into your eyes causing you to squint. It’s best to reduce glare at the source, but if that isn’t possible you can purchase an anti-glare screen to attach to your monitor.

Glare from daylight can usually be fixed by moving your monitor to a better position. Your monitor should be perpendicular to the window in the room, so that the daylight hits it from the side. Placing your monitor in front of the window will cause the backlighting to be too strong, which makes your monitor appear dark. Placing your monitor across from the window will cause the most direct glare.

Even with the monitor angled correctly to the window, glare can be an issue when the sun is low in the sky. Curtains or blinds are the best way to control the amount of daylight entering the room. (more…)

Retirement savings for freelancers: What you need to know

  • Retirement Saving for Freelancers
  • by Michelle Waitzman

    When you’re self-employed, saving for retirement is anything but simple. There’s no employee pension, no group RRSPs, and no steady paycheque to count on. I sat down with Aldwin Chin, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Toronto, to get his insights on how to save for retirement as a freelancer. This is a very general overview, but you can use the links at the end of the article to find more information.

    How much of my income should I be saving?

    You need to prioritize your money to figure out how much you can and should save. Most freelancers should allocate their income like this:

    1. Pay for your current living and business expenses.
    2. Save three to six months’ living expenses in case of emergency or lack of work.
    3. Anything that’s left should go into long-term savings and investments for retirement or for other major expenses.

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    Book Review: Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

     

    (St. Martin’s Press, 2016)

    Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

    By Michelle Waitzman

    Camille DeAngelis is a novelist whose career has had its ups and downs. Like many writers, she often found herself battling self-doubt, jealousy, bitterness, and frustration. She decided that it was time to re-examine her beliefs about herself and her career and, most importantly, to examine her ego and how it was affecting her professional life.

    Life without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People will resonate mainly with readers who consider themselves “creators” (authors, poets, visual artists, musicians, etc.). Although it is written from the point of view of a writer, and most of the examples in the book revolve around writing, it addresses common problems with working in any profession where success and failure are often subjective and where both praise and criticism are taken very personally.

    Editors may find that this book is not really targeted to them unless they also have a writing career or aspire to have one. Nonetheless, some of the examples are likely to ring true. As an editor, it’s easy to feel envy or frustration after working for months to shape and improve a book, only to see all of the praise and credit for its success go to the author (whose work may not have succeeded without you). Also, many editors suffer from “imposter syndrome,” which is a feeling that you are only pretending to know how to do your job (despite the fact that you are actually well-qualified) and believe that you will be caught out and exposed. (more…)

    Getting to know you

    Speed Networking

    By Ghozt Tramp via Wikimedia Commons

    By Michelle Waitzman

    The new year started with a bang for the Toronto branch’s monthly program. The first event of 2017 dispensed with the usual presenter–audience format and devoted the evening to speed networking.

    Nearly 20 participants paired off to get acquainted for seven to eight minutes at a time. Icebreaker questions were provided for anyone who was uncomfortable striking up a conversation out of the blue. At the end of each session, everyone found a new partner and began again. This cycle repeated six times, and participants were then invited to stick around to continue their conversations after the official networking ended. I spoke to some of the participants at the beginning of the evening about what they were hoping to get out of the session.

    For University of Toronto student Rosie, the event was an opportunity to explore editing as a career option. She is not yet an Editors Canada member, but she has been doing some editing work for her fellow students and may want to continue editing after graduation.

    Adrineh recently joined Editors Canada on the recommendation of one of her editing instructors at Ryerson. Adrineh currently works in corporate communications and she’s taking courses to hone her editing skills. She wanted to meet people who had made the leap to full-time careers in editing. (more…)

    Next-level networking for freelancers

    Diversity Editors Networking

    Photo copyright Rawpixel


    by Michelle Waitzman

    As a freelance editor, you know that networking is an important part of marketing. But the prospect of networking is unappealing to many editors. Freelance editors generally tend to be introverts who are uncomfortable when surrounded by strangers and forced to make small talk. It can be downright nerve-racking! Joining Editors Canada is a good first step toward successful self-promotion, and you may have also explored writers’ groups in hopes of finding clients. But networking with writers and editors will only take you so far. Contrary to popular belief, however, extra networking doesn’t have to mean extra work.

    Clients can come from unexpected places, and the more diverse your network becomes the more opportunities you will have to meet people who can expand your client list. A diverse network doesn’t mean a random one; by finding people you share common interests, skills, or philosophies with, you will increase your chances of working with compatible clients. Follow your passions and interests, and you may just find clients where you least expect them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. (more…)