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The Nitpicker’s Nook: February edition

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol Harrison

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected]

By Carol Harrison

Does the current state of world affairs leave you without words? Thankfully Planet Word, the soon-to-be museum of linguistics in Washington, DC, won’t be. And did you know there is also a National Museum of Mathematics in New York? For me, both celebrate languages.

On January 14, Zhou Youguang died at 111 years old. If you’ve learned to read and write Mandarin using Hanyu Pinyin, you have him to thank.

Pardon me while I geek out. I can’t say enough good things about the movie Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Finally, a science-fiction film that’s about communicating with aliens, not shooting them up! If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen a sample of how the language looks. Wired’s Margaret Rhodes talks to the people who created the alphabet. Oh, and a shout-out to Jessica Coon, an associate professor of linguistics at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Syntax and Indigenous Languages, who consulted on the film! Now I’m off to find Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella “Story of Your Life” on which all this is based.

Back down to earth, or perhaps flying a few feet above the ground, the BBC’s Andrew Evans finds out how falconry sank its talons into the English language.

Have current events got you riled? Do you plan to join a march? Want your placard to pack extra punch? Let linguist Daniel Midgley help.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and freelance editor and writer at Muse Ink. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Ambrose Li.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: December’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol Harrison
By Carol Harrison

’Tis the season for giving or gifting?: The Atlantic’s Megan Garber argues against gifting.

Hey, girl! The analytics website FiveThirtyEight crunches the numbers about why so many girls are in book titles.

In this short interview, The Book Wars talks to Inhabit Media’s Kelly Ward about translating First Peoples’ languages into English.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s Word Usage Workout is an online quiz worth your time! Sadly, however, you won’t learn who you were in a past life.

Grappling for words: the language of wrestling. I don’t know about you, but I intend to wrangle a few of these into my daily conversations.

Author–editor lurve: interviews from Quill & Quire.

Ah, yes Down East: according to the Language Portal of Canada, Atlantic Canadians have a distinct way with the affirmative.

The meaning of meme: want to incite a flame war on Facebook? Read>Play>Edit’s Jamie Chavez provides the ammunition!

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and freelance editor and writer at Muse Ink. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Larysa Kormikeva.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: June’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: June’s linguistic links roundup

  • That’s a wrap on the 2016 Editors Canada conference in Vancouver! Paul Cipywnyk shared his photos from the event so you can relive those memories, or see what you missed. (Flickr)
  • Across the pond, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) held a professional development day for fiction editors. Editor Liz Jones discusses some takeaways from the big day. (Eat Sleep Edit Repeat)
  • Brexit: the fun new portmanteau that everyone’s worrying about. And if, like me, you edit in the finance world, you’ve probably seen the term a lot. Linguist Mark Liberman muses on different pronunciations of the trendy word in John Oliver’s must-see Brexit segment from Last Week Tonight, which you can watch within the article. I’m in the [‘brɛk.sɪt] camp. What about you? (Language Log)
  • Perhaps all the complaints about “females” in pop culture have put you off the word entirely and you’ve begun to use “women” as an adjective instead. You wouldn’t be alone. Mignon Fogarty weighs in on the practice, and the sexism that may have caused it, before sharing a practical suggestion. (Grammar Girl)
  • How much do you consider syntax in your edits? Emma Darwin explores the “rhythm, reason, and rhyme” behind strong sentences. (The Itch of Writing: The Blog)
  • As I’ve been learning from Alec Ross’s The Industries of the Future (2016), automation and mechanization will quickly reshape the economic landscape. These changes should improve our health and increase leisure time—but they’ll also allow companies to drastically cut jobs. Stay calm! A recent report suggests writing and editing jobs in Canada are unlikely to be automated in the next 10 to 20 years. (The Globe and Mail)

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant based in Hamilton, Ontario. She’s also a new and enthusiastic co-coordinator of Editors Hamilton-Halton, though she can’t help but shudder at the word co-coordinator.

This article was copy edited by Joe Cotterchio-Milligan.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: May’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: May’s linguistic links roundup

  • Online tools make plagiarism easier to catch, but plagiarism is still a delicate subject to broach with writers. Adrienne Montgomerie shares some tips that you might find useful next time you query plagiarism. (Copyediting.com)
  • Beyond plagiarism, sharing feedback with writers can be tough in general! Emma Darwin offers some great advice for ensuring that your feedback is not only respectful, but useful. (This Itch Of Writing: The Blog)
  • Bryan Garner’s The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation came out this month. If you’re not sure whether to pick up a copy, you should check out Richard Adin’s review. (An American Editor)
  • Following up on Adin’s April post about the value of editing, Karin Cather calls for uniform copyediting certification. She proposes universal testing because “it does the profession an injustice when we say that anyone should be able to say they are an editor, even though they have no education, training, or experience.” (Plainly Spoken)
  • The value of editing services may not always be as clear to potential business partners as we’d like, but it becomes especially evident when a grammatical mistake completely reverses the intended meaning. Is that always such a bad thing? Here’s one example where a lack of editing may have changed the Texas Republican Party’s homophobic platform for the better. (NPR)*
  • Rachele Kanigel, the Society of Professional Journalists, and other contributors have released the Diversity Style Guide. This guide to best practices for discussing ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, and more is available for free online. (Diversity Style Guide)
  • Conference season is almost upon us! Have you registered for the Editors Canada National Conference on June 10–12 in Vancouver? If you’re on the fence about professional conferences, check out Carol Fisher Saller’s “Should You Attend an Editing Conference?” (The Subversive Copy Editor)

*Thanks to Sara Scharf for submitting this link.

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant based in Hamilton, Ontario. She’s also a new and enthusiastic co-coordinator of Editors Hamilton-Halton, and she can’t help but shudder at the word co-coordinator.

This article was copy edited by Nicole North.  

The Nitpicker’s Nook: April’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: April’s linguistic links roundup

  • As technology improves, is it only a matter of time until translation tools become so adept that language barriers cease to exist? David Arbesú, an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of South Florida, doesn’t think so. He explains why computers can’t match the human mind’s faculty for communication. (The Conversation)
  • A career in editing lends itself pretty well to introversion. Plenty of us relish the ability to work remotely and spend long periods in silence with text. No, really! It’s not just you. A recent study shows that introverts are more likely to care about spelling and grammar mistakes. (The Guardian)
  • Internet: Should the word take a capital when it doesn’t begin a sentence? The folks responsible for the Associated Press Stylebook no longer think so. There’s a good chance this decision will affect some of your edits, and you might not like it very much! (Mashable)
  • In our December 2015 edition of the Nitpicker’s Nook, we saw the Washington Post accept the singular they. Now a major Canadian publication is also declaring its acceptance of the still-controversial pronoun. (The Walrus)
  • Among our colleagues to the south, the singular they and a host of questions about changing usage remain a hot topic. Junnelle Hogen explores some of the discussions that unfolded at this year’s American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland. (ACES)
  • “What are you going to do with a linguistics degree?” If you’re studying linguistics, you’ve probably heard that one a few times. I certainly did before I switched my major to philosophy—ever the pragmatist. Steph Campisi, a copywriter, brand strategist, and children’s author, explains how her linguistics background has helped her career. (Superlinguo)

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant, and she’s also one of those former Torontonians who now call Hamilton home. Despite her philosophy degree, she’s gainfully employed.

This article was copy edited by Sylvia McCluskey.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: March’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: March’s linguistic links roundup

  • According to Michelle Falardeau-Ramsay of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, dyslexia affects one in six Canadians. Victor Widell, a programmer, set up a webpage that attempts to show what reading with dyslexia is like. (Geon)
  • UK schools are implementing new rules to keep students from overusing exclamation marks! But is this measure really necessary? George Elliott Clarke, Tom Howell, and Priscila Uppal weigh in on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. (CBC)
  • One UK student was unhappy with another rule from his English teachers: don’t start sentences with and. He wrote a letter to children’s author Joanna Nadin, who shares some sound advice about grammatical rule breaking. (David Airey)
  • You’re likely familiar with gender-neutral pronouns in English and the push for more inclusive terms. Have you ever wondered how other languages accommodate gender neutrality and identities beyond or between masculine and feminine words? Angela Sterritt explores gender-neutral and non-binary words in Anishinaabemowin, Cree, Kanien’keha, and other Indigenous languages with Fallon Andy, the media-arts justice facilitator for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network from Couchiching First Nation. (The Globe and Mail)
  • How can prospective editors get their feet in the door now that entry-level positions expect so much professional experience? Rosemary Shipton shares some advice with Editors Canada. (Editors Weekly)
  • Have you ever found yourself yearning for the narrative melodrama of Greek mythology but was just not in the mood for the grandiose prose of yesteryear? Well, fret no more. Mallory Ortberg re-imagines Jason and the Argonauts in expletive-laden modern form as part of her “Dirtbags” series. (The Toast)
  • Emerging startups and established sole proprietorships alike both grapple with an important decision: choosing the right business name. Nancy Friedman shares her process for creating brand names with emotional appeal. (Fritinancy)

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant who recently moved from Toronto to Hamilton. She tweets @Savanna_SL.

This article was copy edited by Olga Sushinsky.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: February’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts from around the web. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: February’s linguistic links roundup

  • We all learned some “rules” from English teachers that were questionable at best. And as editors, we have the power to challenge those restrictions! Take starting a sentence with and as an example. Edwin Battistella discusses this superstitious proscription. (Oxford University Press)
  • Another classic silly English “rule” is the sanction against ending a sentence with a preposition. Jonathon Owen unpacks an example from the now-infamous Deadpool marketing campaign. I suspect the pompous-sounding example was tongue-in-cheek, but Owen’s thorough analysis is well worth a read either way. (Arrant Pedantry)
  • Last month, Scots and friends observed Robbie Burns Day in celebration of the Scottish poet with haggis and whisky all ’round. BoldFace’s own James Harbeck marked the occasion with a look at the Scots language. Harbeck examines not Robbie’s Ayrshire dialect but the Doric dialect from Aberdeen, which happens to be the tongue of my ancestors. (Sesquiotica)
  • Most editors have a concrete sense of what proofreading entails, and Editors Canada has its own helpful description in its Professional Editorial Standards. Outside the profession, though, you can run into all kinds of definitions. Louise Harnby compares industry guidelines with client expectations and shares some advice on what you can expect as a proofreader. (An American Editor)
  • Is guys just for men, or has it become a genderless word? Stan Carey explains how historically masculine words can eventually become generic and why we don’t tend to see this development in feminine terms. (Slate)
  • Editors and linguists know dictionaries are descriptive rather than prescriptive. They aim to show how people speak a language—not how people ought to speak a language. But what if a dictionary upholds discriminatory or bigoted views? Canadian anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan criticizes Oxford Dictionaries for its sexist usage examples in some definitions. (The Guardian)*

*Thanks to Sara for submitting this link to the blog!

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant. She recently relocated from Toronto to Hamilton and is enamoured of all things #HamOnt. She tweets @Savanna_SL.

This article was copy edited by Samantha Carr.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: January’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts from around the web. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

By Savanna Scott Leslie

The Nitpicker’s Nook: January’s linguistic links roundup

  • For many of us, this January will stand out as the month when the world lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman to cancer. John Kelly takes a look back at the etymology of cancer and shares some inspiring thoughts. (Mashed Radish)
  • On the lighter side of the news, the latest Star Wars instalment is everywhere. Of course, Force takes a capital in the title The Force Awakens, but what about outside of titles? Can we treat the fictional energy as a sort of religion, or is it more akin to a Platonic form? Mignon Fogarty has answers. (Grammar Girl)
  • Like R2-D2 and C-3PO, Star Wars links are better in pairs. Linguist Gretchen McCulloch sparked an interesting conversation after she saw The Force Awakens. Is BB-8’s Droidspeak just a series of random sounds or does it hold up as a fictional language like Elvish or Klingon? (Storify)
  • What’s in a name? Editors Canada’s own Iva Cheung wrote earlier this month about whether editors with “foreign-sounding” names face discrimination as job applicants. (Iva Cheung)
  • Choosing the right word helps writers express themselves clearly, but sometimes there’s even more at stake. Consider descriptions of serious crimes like sexual assault, where imprecise words or euphemisms can undermine the crimes’ severity. Zosia Bielski explains. (The Globe and Mail)
  • Often science informs fiction, but sometimes the roles reverse! Terry Pratchett fans have petitioned the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to name a newly discovered element octarine after the colour of magic in Pratchett’s Discworld. Melissa Ragsdale explains why the suggestion might not be so strange. (Electric Lit)
  • As you might expect, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, Peter Sokolowski, is a wealth of lexicographical information. He chats with Carol Fisher Saller, of The Subversive Copy Editor fame, about technology to track word usage and the state of language today. (CMOS Shop Talk)

Savanna Scott Leslie is an editor and publishing consultant. She recently relocated from Toronto to Hamilton and is enamoured of all things #HamOnt. Her Twitter handle is @Savanna_SL.

This article was copy edited by Alanna Brousseau.