Workshop: Remedies for Editing Headaches

On March 10, we used a PowerPoint presentation to ponder troublesome text and discuss potential solutions. It was interesting to hear people’s different takes on what the problems were and the best ways to correct them. Here are a few of the headaches and their remedies; that there may be others. To receive the full presentation (24 slides) – in PPTX, PDF, or RTF format – contact Stephanie at sstone4@cogeco.ca.

Problem: redundancy

Faced with a major fiscal slippage, in mid-April the government presented a new tax bill in Parliament, introducing new taxes on the wealthy. It also openly declared war against a powerful group of tax evaders in its new tax reform bill.

Solution

In mid-April 1994, faced with a major fiscal slippage, the federal government tabled a tax reform bill that levied new taxes on the wealthy and openly declared war on a powerful group of tax evaders.

Problem: incorrect parallelism

Thus, federalism not only places limits on a central government for the protection of liberty, a long and commonly held theoretical premise. Rather, it creates institutional arenas for expressing the distinct claims for rights and resources, and establishes procedures for finding a balance between them.

Solution

Thus, federalism does not place limits on a central government for the protection of liberty, a long and commonly held theoretical premise. Rather, it creates institutional arenas in which people can express their distinct claims for rights and resources, and it establishes procedures for finding a balance among them.

Problem: comma placement

Amended in 1967, the limited terms of the original Act were transformed to include not only highly flammable apparel, but also carpets, mattresses, and children’s sleepwear.

Solution

In 1967, the limited terms of the original Act were expanded to include not only highly flammable apparel but also carpets, mattresses, and children’s sleepwear.

Problem: incorrect parallelism

The relationship between federalism and democracy amounts neither to one of inherent compatibility, nor necessarily contradiction.

Solution

Federalism and democracy are neither inherently compatible nor necessarily contradictory.

Problem: too many nouns

There has been a recent shift towards the biopsychosocial model of management, which stresses the importance of psychosocial factors in the development and maintenance of physical pathologies.

Solution: change nouns to verb forms

There has been a recent shift in approach to one that applies the biopsychosocial model of management. This stresses the importance of psychosocial factors in developing and maintaining physical pathologies.

Problems: comma placement

Translating that to the workplace, if there are fewer women, “there aren’t counterbalances to neutralize aggression.”

Zenocrate embodies Tamburlaine’s quest for absolute freedom from servitude and, as such, she appeals to his elegiac iconoclasm more than his martial drive.

Solutions

Applying that to the workplace: if there are fewer women, then “there aren’t counterbalances to neutralize aggression.”

Zenocrate embodies Tamburlaine’s quest for absolute freedom from servitude. In this way, she appeals to his elegiac iconoclasm more than to his martial drive.

Problem: that vs. which

Norm-breaking is simply the practice of departing from conventional standards of behaviour that are usually part of the common values and social conventions observed by a particular social group but are not necessarily inscribed as formally written rules or laws.

Solution

Norm-breaking is the practice of departing from conventional standards of behaviour, which are usually part of the common values and social conventions observed by a particular social group but are not necessarily inscribed as formally written rules or laws.

Problem: text doesn’t focus on the person

The test consists of stepping in place at a comfortable cadence while blindfolded, with the instruction to stay in the same spot and not turn.

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the attention paid to concussions.

Solution

The test has a patient step in place at a comfortable cadence while blindfolded, with the instruction to stay in the same spot and not turn.

Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the attention paid to the effects of concussions.

Problem: incorrect usage

[Table footnote] Significant differences between physiotherapists and students (p < 0.05) are bolded and marked with an Asterix. [Saw a second instance of this recently!]

Solution

[Table footnote] Significant differences between physiotherapists and students (p < 0.05) are set in bold and marked with an asterisk.

Problem: awkward text written by non-native speaker

While establishing federalism aims at protecting minorities, one could pose the question of the over-protection of minorities and therefore the under-respecting of the majority within the federal demos.

Solution

Establishing federalism aims to protect minorities. However, one might ask whether, within a federal demos, minorities are overprotected and therefore the majority not well enough respected.

Upcoming Twig Meetings

Wednesday, April 14 – Kathleen Byrne, an editor of the Hansard debates at the Ontario Legislature, will talk to us about her job and the environment in which she does it.

Wednesday, May 12 – The next instalment of “Authors Talk Editing” – Member Carolyn Heald and her sister, Brenda Gayle, will talk about their author-editor relationship. Brenda has published three books in a romantic suspense series and has just released the fifth novel in her Charley Hall mystery series, set in Kingston in the late 1940s. You’ll find more info at https://brendagayle.com/.

Editors Canada Annual Conference

June 12 and 13 (weekend) – The theme of this year’s virtual event is “Editors Transform | Les réviseurs transforment”. Find all the details at https://pheedloop.com/editors21/site/home/.

Webinars

A schedule of spring webinars is available at https://training.editors.ca/.

“Taxes and Other Issues for Small Business”

For our meeting on February 10, we were looking forward to hearing a presentation by Line Commeau of Shoebox Services, a local business that offers income tax preparation as well as bookkeeping and accounting services. Unfortunately, at the last minute, she was unwell and had to cancel. Nevertheless, everyone had information and experiences to share, and it was a great meeting.

To give us context, we assessed our work situations: five of us are self-employed full-time, one is self-employed part-time and employed by an organization part-time, and one is considering starting an editing business.

Many things need to be considered when starting and running a small business.

Company name

Do you establish a company name that is your own name, or do you create a descriptive name? About half of us use a descriptive name, while the other half use their own name.

Business cards

We agreed that business cards aren’t really a thing anymore. Some members had cards designed and printed when they started their business, but hardly use them anymore. One member used them when she attended networking events early on. (She didn’t get any business out of it.) Still, they can support word-of-mouth advertising. If you have business cards printed, do a test run to see how large or small your company name appears, whether it breaks awkwardly over a line, etc.

Web presence

Of those who are self-employed, all have a web presence of some sort: all are on LinkedIn to some extent, four have websites, and two rely on their Editors Canada online directory profile. Having a website can legitimize your presence and your business. Creating a website was considered a good investment and one that didn’t take a lot of time to set up. Blogs are another type of web presence; they’re a place to write up general information about what you do or information that you’re repeatedly asked for.

Email address

Some people use their own name in their email address, while others use their company name. When choosing a name, be cautious about the spelling: “eagleeyeediting” will incur too many spelling errors, so it isn’t a good choice.

Collecting HST

If you expect your business to bring in at least $30,000 in income per year, you need to collect HST, and to do that, you need to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a business number. One member recommended collecting HST partly because self-employed editors have few expenses to deduct from their business income.

Of course, then you need to file HST every quarter. However, you can use the Quick Method of Accounting to pay only 8.8% on your business income rather than the full 13% (5% federal and 8% provincial) that you collect. And you can deduct 1% of your income up to the first $30,000.

If you do work for clients in other jurisdictions, you charge the tax that applies there (e.g., 5% in Quebec, 0% in Alberta).

What about working under the table? It might mean that you always work in the same genre. To avoid this, join Editors Canada and add your profile to the Online Directory. Then you can work on projects that are really varied. For at least one member, this was the best part of her work experience.

You can set up a business in order to write off certain expenses.

Bank account

One member had to set up a business account in order to be paid by direct deposit. Up to that point, she’d used her personal chequing account. For the bank she chose (RBC), she had to have an Ontario Master Business Licence – which she didn’t even know existed. No one else had that experience.

Business expenses

  • We can deduct a portion of our rent or mortgage based on how much space we use for our office (e.g., one room out of the four or six in our apartment or house). The same applies to utilities, house or contents insurance, property taxes.
  • Business bank account; business phone (landline) or cell phone.
  • Memberships in professional organizations (e.g., Editors Canada, Indexing Society of Canada); professional development (EC webinars; conference registrations and meals, although not banquets).
  • Work-related travel, meals (e.g., lunch with a client or potential client), entertainment – can be claimed at 50%. When one member travels for work and stays with a family member rather than in a hotel, any hostess gifts are considered “gifts in lieu” and can be claimed at 100%.
  • Internet expenses (Internet service, paid Zoom calls, email address domain name, creating and maintaining a website, WordPress subscription, etc.).
  • Other marketing and promotion (e.g., having business cards designed and printed, having a head shot taken to put on them).
  • Subscriptions, style guides and dictionaries (print and electronic). One member claims for the Globe and Mail and The Walrus magazine because it keeps her informed of events, opinions, what’s going on in the world. Another member claims for every book she buys (this received an enthusiastic response). Don’t forget that being a member of Editors Canada gives us free access to the Chicago Manual of Style Online.
  • Computer hardware (either claimed as a one-time expense or amortized over a number of years), computer software, office supplies.
  • For homeowners, any cost of home maintenance.

Business taxes

The date to file is June 15, although we have to pay by April 30. One member started to pay in instalments one year, but after realizing that she was being charged interest, paid off the remainder. No one else had that experience.

One recommendation: don’t use your line of credit to pay your business taxes. And remember that not all the income you earn is actually yours.

A potential deduction for 2020, which might affect people who work for an employer, is the expanded allowance for working at home. Ask your tax preparer whether you can claim this.

One member set up a savings account into which she paid 10% of her business income. Then she’d use that money to cover much of her taxes at tax time. If you work for someone else, you can ask to have a higher rate of tax deducted from your pay.

Do I need an accountant?

Most people don’t use one because their business is so small. More important is the person who prepares your business taxes. One member had a good experience with someone who focused on people working in the arts. One member pays $250 for her tax preparation, down from $300 because she’s got organizing her receipts down to a fine art. Another member pays $50 to her tax preparer because he charges her his “family and friends fee.”

COVID-19

No one seems to have their workload affected by the pandemic or the lockdowns, but for two members, it’s taking some clients longer to pay.

Any other considerations?

There can be a lot of administration. Be sure to keep track of the invoices you send out and when they’re paid. One editor makes out her invoice on the day she starts a project: the details are fresh, so she can easily record them on the invoice. This approach is also an incentive to start the work and a reward for doing it.

One member has a client who gives her many small projects and wants to pay right away. This necessitates creating an invoice for each job, which is really time-consuming. She wants to change this approach so that she can invoice for several jobs at once. She could consider working for this client on retainer. (Here’s an interesting article on the benefit of this arrangement for a home-based business.)

Approaching 60?

If you’ve been paying into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), you can apply to start receiving your pension at age 60 (or anytime up to age 70; the longer you wait, the higher the monthly payout). One member’s financial adviser recommended that she start taking her pension at 60 because her monthly income was unpredictable. It’s proved to be useful advice.

Self-employed people pay CPP; it’s added to our taxes automatically. If you’re still working at age 65, you can opt out of this arrangement; speak to your tax preparer.

Editors Canada members who reach 60 years of age and have been a member for 10 years currently pay an Emeritus Member fee of $146 rather than the regular $292.

Personalized info from CRA

CRA offers free, one-on-one seminars on tax preparation for small businesses and self-employed individuals during business hours.

Editors Canada News

  • The annual conference, “Editors21: Editors Transform,” will be held on June 12–13 (weekend), completely online. Cost not announced yet. A keynote speaker will be Joshua Whitehead – author of poetry and fiction, PhD candidate, lecturer, and Killam scholar at the University of Calgary, where he studies Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality.
  • No new webinars have been announced. Recordings of past webinars are available – and the cost is a business expense.
  • A survey has been sent out by the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force. Please take it if you haven’t already; it’s an important piece of this new initiative.
  • The website is going to be upgraded to improve the content management system. This should improve how the content is organized.

Twig News

  • As of end of January, we have 18 members, the highest number in a few years.
  • Let Stephanie or Nancy know if you don’t want to be listed in the twig’s Google Group – the access to Editors Canada’s shared Google Workspace.
  • Emails – Stephanie tries to address the group using Bcc rather than To, but sometimes forgets.

Scholarly Editing Panel

January 13, 2021

Nancy Wills was an enthusiastic and informative host for this discussion.

Panellists: Ellie Barton, Angela Pietrobon, Stephanie Stone (see bios below)

Moderator for Q&A: Wade Guyitt

Q. How would you define scholarly?

A. Ellie described it as a form of nonfiction that has been peer-reviewed, as opposed to other types of nonfiction such as memoir and trade books for a general audience. The main goal of scholarly books is to share research and generate knowledge.

Q. Please describe your scholarly publishing clients.

A. Angela edits for University of Alberta Press and Athabasca University Press, and she works with private clients to develop their scholarly books. She is also the managing editor of Encounters in Theory and History of Education (Queen’s University), Global Africana Review (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Africana Public Interest Journal (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Ellie copy edits for McGill-Queen’s University Press (MQUP) and University of Toronto Press (UTP), and also works with private clients. Stephanie copy edits for UTP.

Q. Do you specialize in a certain subject area?

A. Angela doesn’t like to work only within one subject area because she can get bored with doing the same thing. She doesn’t do math and has edited enough engineering theses. She must be interested in the topic when she takes on a job, and she feels it’s her ethical responsibility to represent the reader. When she does accept a job, her biggest task is to learn the subject matter, to be curious. This gives her the confidence to tackle a manuscript or a new subject; she needs to be willing to learn.

Stephanie works in law, government, constitution, philosophy, and social science. These were the areas that her associate managing editor was responsible for when she started working with him. Ellie prefers to edit books on subjects she’s interested in, like history, religion, health care, mental health, culture, and the arts.

Q. How did you come to work for your client(s)? What process and/or experience led up to it?

A. Ellie started working for MQUP after a copy editor friend recommended her, and her work with UTP came as a result of being recommended by Stephanie. Stephanie started working for MQUP after Ellie recommended her. She started working for UTP after an associate managing editor there found her name in the Editors Canada online directory. (He recognized her name from working with her decades before.)

Angela had worked with her own client on a book for which Doug Hildebrand was the acquisitions editor at UTP. When he moved to University of Alberta Press as the new Director and Publisher, she asked him if she could work with the Press as a copy editor. Athabasca University Press approached her because they wanted to try her out after she had been referred to them a few times. Running your own business successfully, for Angela, means you focus on always having lots of work.

Q. How long does it take you to copy edit a manuscript? How much time do you need to commit to a book?

A. For Ellie, it depends on the length of the manuscript. Stephanie agreed, adding that it depends how many elements a manuscript has (beyond the text, citations, and references, there may also be figures, tables, and notes). For example, the most recent manuscript she worked on had 75 pages of references; they didn’t require a lot of work in themselves, but reading them and cross-checking them against the citations took a lot of time. She figures it takes her about two months to copy edit a manuscript. When she receives the files back from the author, it can take a few days to go through the tracked changes and “clean up” the files. UTP asks for about four weeks for copy editing, which she’s rarely achieved.

Q. Please talk about process and workflow.

A. Both Ellie and Stephanie copy edit all the chapters in a manuscript, then send it to the author for review; this was an original instruction from UTP. In some cases, Stephanie receives a manuscript as one file when a book isn’t very long. Ellie finds that once she’s copy edited the entire manuscript, she’s able to make sense of unclear passages and resolve some of the queries herself. The downside of this approach is that the author has to respond to all the edits and queries at once, instead of responding chapter by chapter.

The process that Angela uses is to copy edit and send out individual chapters. This allows her to apply the problems resolved in the early chapters to the later ones. It’s like a conversation in that chapters are passed back and forth until the final version is agreed upon. Wade (who copy edits for Oxford and Cambridge University Presses) uses this process too. It establishes a flow for the rest of the manuscript. One downside is that styles applied in an early chapter may no longer be viable by the time he reaches a later chapter.

We didn’t talk in detail about the sorts of things we look for or correct during copy editing, although everyone does two passes through a manuscript and keeps style sheets. Ellie line edits where necessary and queries ambiguous phrasing. She might research the background for a book by watching YouTube videos on the topic. In addition to copy editing, Angela reads for details, performing content editing. She likes to tidy; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Citations and references are her least favourite aspect of editing. Stephanie does whatever work a manuscript needs.

For MQUP and UTP, the author does the proofreading first, and then the proofs are sent to the copy editor for review. For University of Alberta Press, the proofreading is also done by the copy editor, but this task is paid separately. At Athabasca University Press, proofreading is done by the author.

In talking about ensuring consistency of spelling, capitalization, etc. in a manuscript, Nancy highly recommended using PerfectIt, commercial proofreading software that is an add-on to a word processing program. She uses it as a last consistency check. Angela uses it for her work with the University of Alberta; she receives a PerfectIt report on a manuscript at the beginning and end of the project. [Note: As a benefit of membership, Editors Canada members receive a 30 percent discount on a single licence.]

Everyone agreed that technology has vastly improved the work process, although it’s added a layer of work because everyone now needs to have computer and Internet skills. When Ellie started with MQUP, she used to get a printed version of the page proofs; now the proofs come in PDF format. In Stephanie’s early years as a copy editor, a manuscript after the first copy-editing pass would be full of sticky notes with queries on them.

Q. Is it difficult to juggle your projects and meet your deadlines?

A. Angela stipulates that authors give her the date on which they’ll be sending her something; this avoids too much “stacking” and enables her to better plan her workload. As the managing editor of three journals, she knows each publication schedule, so she can tell how well everything is on track. There is no problem with the contributors meeting their deadlines. There was a time when she’d work in the middle of the night to meet deadlines for clients in other time zones, but she doesn’t do that anymore.

Q. Does working for different publishers and their different approaches present a challenge?

A. For each project, Ellie reviews the publisher’s style and process; she prints out the guidelines and adds to them as she learns more about the publisher’s preferences. For Stephanie, it’s like changing hats; she has the publisher’s style guidelines in front of her and creates her own list of spellings as she works through a manuscript. For Angela, it’s like studying for a test; it takes half an hour at the start of a project. She prints out style sheets and highlights what she might forget. As a journal managing editor, she often sets the style and preferences herself.

Q. Please talk about your communication with an author.

A. Ellie emails an author early on to establish contact and go over some initial queries. She sometimes sends an author the first copy-edited chapter as a sample; the author can then give her feedback on her approach. She finds that she gets to know her memoir and creative nonfiction authors better than her scholarly authors because that work is more personal; it’s easier to develop a relationship with them. She likes to talk to authors on the phone when possible.

Angela keeps up a constant conversation with an author during the editing process. She has always dealt with authors one on one. She assumes that every author is lovely and respectful and gets that back. She doesn’t worry about communication.

Stephanie contacts the author once she’s done a fair bit of the copy editing. She introduces herself and asks a few queries that have come up, such as inconsistencies in spelling or unclear meanings of terms. She also tries to give an estimate of when she’ll send the manuscript to the author for review. It’s an opportunity to get a feel for the author’s personality and approach to the manuscript.

Q. What do you enjoy about the scholarly editing you do? What are some of the benefits?

A. For Ellie, a benefit of working with university presses is that they have high production values. The books are well designed. UTP applies styles to a manuscript before it’s copy edited, which speeds up the process. She learns a lot by copy editing scholarly books and finds the work intellectually stimulating. For both her and Angela, copy editing enables them to inhabit the author’s mind. They enjoy learning about the world and working with people who are passionate about their work. Angela added that the copy editor needs to, in a way, become the author. A great benefit comes when the author appreciates your work. (This can be the result of good communication.)

Stephanie agreed that the work is intellectually stimulating. She enjoys working on the various elements of a manuscript and cross-checking them to make sure that everything is consistent. A negative aspect is that the client doesn’t always seem to understand how much time it takes to do a thorough job.

About the Panellists

Angela Pietrobon is a scholarly editor who works for University of Alberta Press and Athabasca University Press. She is the Managing Editor of three journals: Encounters in Theory and History of Education (Queen’s University), Global Africana Review (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and the new and forthcoming Africana Public Interest Journal (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Her projects with her freelance clients have resulted in polished manuscripts and indexes for, among others, University of Toronto Press, Routledge, Palgrave Macmillan, Fordham University Press, University of British Columbia Press, University of Alberta Press, and McGill-Queen’s University Press. Angela also works with PhD students through the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at University of Toronto and Queen’s University. You can find out more about Angela’s work on her LinkedIn page.

Ellie Barton is a freelance editor of memoir, creative nonfiction, and scholarly books. She works for McGill-Queen’s University Press, University of Toronto Press, and individual authors seeking to self-publish or to submit their manuscript to an agent or a publisher. Ellie also worked for a decade as a copy editor and proofreader for two academic journals: Canadian Public Policy and the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health. Ellie has a Certificate in Publishing from Ryerson University and an MA in Canadian literature from Queen’s University. She’s a member of Editors Canada. Please visit Ellie at https://www.elliebarton.ca/

Stephanie Stone began copy editing in the early 1980s with Copp Clark Pitman, a textbook publisher in Toronto. Her first manuscript was about the Commodore 64, a very early computer. She then moved to Methuen Publications for the chance to work on trade books and worked as a production editor – not just copy editing but also laying out and proofreading the typeset pages, sometimes indexing, and working closely with the editors, authors, designers, typesetters, and printers. She learned many of her skills from taking courses through the Freelance Editors Association of Canada, the forerunner of Editors Canada.

In 1987, Stephanie moved to Kingston to work as a technical writer and trainer with a local software consulting company. She also copy edited the work of the other technical writers and developed in-house style guides. In 2001, she started her own company, Cornerstone Communications, whose major clients are Elections Canada, University of Toronto Press, and the journal Physiotherapy Canada. She is now starting to retire so that she can focus on other aspects of her life.

“Diversity and Inclusion”

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tom Fairley Award

Editors Canada is accepting nominations for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence. It “recognizes an exceptional editor who played an important role on a project published in 2020” and is worth $2,000. Anyone involved in a work can submit a nomination – publisher, editor, author or designer – even oneself. Deadline for nominations: January 15, 2021. Download the nomination form from www.editors.ca.

Editors’ Challenge

Jim asked us to name a dictionary that doesn’t exist but should. He gave the example of Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places. Jim’s suggestion: an authoritative and up-to-date dictionary that clearly discriminates synonyms and near-synonyms: a differentiating dictionary.

Diversity and Inclusion

We had a general discussion of some of the issues, shared some of the resources available, and discussed what we can do to promote diversity and inclusion in our work and – in Adrienne Montgomery’s words – to support our colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

In the summer of 2020, there was a spate of killings of Black and Indigenous people in the United States and Canada, instances of police brutality and protests against police violence around the world, and a raised awareness of systemic racism in many of our institutions. It seemed important to talk about how editors are affected and how (much) this awareness is reflected in what we edit and perhaps also in our workplaces or those of our clients.

At the time Stephanie was preparing for this meeting, the association’s newsletter arrived, and it announced the new adviser on equity, diversity and inclusion. Her name is Adebe DeRango-Adem. She’s a member of Toronto Branch and an editor and published author who brings diverse experience into publishing, cultural programming, and anti-racism and human rights/equity education. Adebe kindly sent me an extensive list of inclusivity-related documents and links that Editors Canada had assembled. It will be posted on Editors Canada soon and be available to all.

Q. Have you had the experience of editing a piece of writing by someone from another culture, background, sexual orientation, or ability? If so, what was your response, and how did you work through the experience?

A. Stephanie copy edited a book a few years ago called Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto (Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, eds., with Río Rodríguez, University of Toronto Press, 2018). She wondered at the time why the copy editing was being given to a non–queer of colour person. Most chapters used “Black” but one used “black.” She asked the editors about the inconsistency, and they decided to retain both capitalizations.

Q. How does one develop sensitivity to material that describes an unfamiliar context? When should we suggest that material be looked at by a sensitivity reader?

A. An editor needs to bring sensitivity to the material they’re editing – in all areas. We’re used to recognizing biased language and making it bias-free. We need to do the same thing with material describing groups of people.

A skill one encounters is sensitivity reader, a person who is hired to help ensure that a manuscript is authentic and to make recommendations about potential issues with cultural veracity and tone (paraphrased from Tajja Isen, “How Not to Write a Book about a Minority Experience,” The Walrus, July/August 2020). That article examines an example of a novel that didn’t use a sensitivity reader and should have (American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins), and it argues that if the workforce in the publishing industry were more diverse, the function of a sensitivity reader would be a regular part of the publishing process.

Q. To what extent do we bring our own implicit biases to our editorial work, and what can we do to break them down?

A. To a large extent, probably. Without even realizing it. First step: develop awareness. Keep on top of current events, learn what’s driving them. Read about the experiences of people from other cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc. To be a good editor, we have to develop open minds, intellectual curiosity; know what the issues are and where to go to check facts or anything else we think we should verify. Just like editing anything, we need to let the writer’s voice come through but steer it when it needs to be steered. As with other questionable issues, query the author.

Q. Did anyone read something that promoted understanding of the issues or helped you develop a new awareness? Anything you disagreed with?

A. One positive article is “Give Black Employees the Freedom to be Black” (Dori Tunstall, Globe and Mail, August 14, 2020; unfortunately, seems no longer available online). She is the dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, and she describes how the university is fostering a safe, diverse environment by hiring Black employees at every level, creating a critical mass that encourages them to be their Black selves.

Q: What is the current state of diversity in Canadian fiction?

A. See, under “Other Resources” below, the two surveys, also “Lack of Ethnic Diversity in Canadian Publishing” (Sarah McNeil, 2017), which includes examples of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) writers feeling left out of a white-dominated industry – e.g., in nominations for the Giller Prize.

Is it any more diverse three years later? The 2020 Giller Prize winner comes from a Thai background, but how representative is this? Looking back at the finalists since 1994, at least 11 seem to come from diverse backgrounds. Out of 27 winners, that’s 41 percent, so perhaps reasonably reflective of Canadian society.

Q. What can we as editors do to ensure that the material we edit is respectful, inclusive, and sensitive to everyone and/or a readership from diverse backgrounds? How can we support our colleagues from diverse backgrounds?

A. Editors can have a powerful impact on the written word, and we have a responsibility to ensure that we are as intellectually curious about diversity and inclusivity as we are about the other topics we encounter in our work. Material needs to be factually correct, needs to be respectful, needs to speak to an entire audience.

From Susannah Noel, “5 Steps Freelance Book Editors Can Take to Combat Racism” (blog post, Editorial Arts Academy website, June 2020) – Editors are human, so we must participate. Editors also have a responsibility because we are uniquely suited to recognize the influence words have on readers, populations, and societies. Her five steps:

  1. Read actively – particularly on topics we might feel uncomfortable reading
  2. Edit better – be attuned to words and any inherent biases
  3. Seek out diversity where we live; expand our horizons
  4. Talk about money – transparency about what a BIPOC editor makes vs. a white editor
  5. Volunteer for BIPOC-run organizations – or at least support them

Other Resources

Surveys

Association of Canadian Publishers, “2018 Canadian Book Publishing Diversity Baseline Survey: Summary Report” – respondents 82% white, 74% female, 72% heterosexual

BookNet Canada, “Demand for Diversity: A Survey of Canadian Readers,” 2019 – average reader female, 29 years old, 4-year degree, earns $37,500, lives in Ontario

Background

BookNet Canada, Further Reading: Demand for Diversity (May 2019) – collection of diversity-related content from the Canadian book publishing industry, including videos

Tajja Isen, “How Not to Write a Book about a Minority Experience” (The Walrus, July/August 2020)

Pacinthe Mattar, “Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists” (The Walrus, Nov/Dec 2020); in print, “Canadian Media’s Racism Problem.”

Sarah McNeil, “Lack of Ethnic Diversity in Canadian Publishing” (prepared for a course at Simon Fraser University, Fall 2017)

Associations

Indigenous Editors Association: https://www.indigenouseditorsassociation.ca/about-us/

Style Guides

Gregory Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education Inc.)

Don’t overlook “mainstream” style guides like Editing Canadian English, 3rd ed. (from Editors Canada) and the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., which have a chapter/section on inclusivity/bias-free language

Databases

Book Publishing Freelancers from Diverse Communities Database

Firefly Creative Writing – list of sensitivity readers

Editors of Color (US) – search and/or submit your name to their database

Film Editing with Clarke Mackey

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 – Editors Kingston hosted Kingston media maker, writer, teacher, and cultural activist Clarke Mackey to talk about film editing and its comparisons with print editing.

Clarke has worked as a director, cinematographer, editor, producer, or writer on over 50 film, television, and new-media projects. In recent years, he has been producing micro-budget documentaries about community activism in Eastern Ontario, including ’Til the Cows Come Home (2014) and the feature archival documentary Revolution Begins at Home (2016). In 2010, he compiled his research and experiences into a book called Random Acts of Culture: Reclaiming Art and Community in the 21st Century.

About Clarke

Clarke is an emeritus professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University, where he taught for 30 years. Before that, he was a faculty member at York University and Sheridan College of Art and Design. We thank Clarke for his notes, which form the basis for this post.

When he was asked to make comparisons between film editing and print editing, his initial reaction was that they were two very different processes, with few similarities. But, as he thought about it further, he decided that there were some important similarities.

Cinematic Language

Clarke began by describing how movies communicate story, information, and emotion to audiences. What do we mean when we talk about “cinematic language”? Perhaps surprisingly, words, either spoken or written, are not that important in movies. Movie writers understand that, unlike in a play or novel, dialogue plays a smaller part in screenplays than you might think. Other elements loom larger, as we’ll see.

He broke down cinematic language into the “five building blocks of cinematic storytelling.”

1. Actions: things happen, people do things, the world changes, etc. (Sometimes that might mean speech or even text, but words are overshadowed by other elements in cinema.) It’s no accident that after the camera is turned on, the director yells, “Action!”

2. Mis-en-scène. What is in front of the camera: setting, props, costumes, lighting, weather, etc. What is emphasized? What is background? What is the mood? This can be quite complex and subtle, and it mostly works unconsciously.

3. Shots: area of view, point of view, other types of shots. We see things through a camera lens, which has certain characteristics. Where is the camera placed? What is in the frame, and what is not? Shots are the bricks that construct the house, like the words and phrases of a written text.

4. Cuts: Editing is the most important, most unique element of cinematic language. This is where we can say a film is being “authored” or composed (the music analogy is a good one to help understand how a movie is made). Everything that happened before – the script, the rehearsals, the sets, the shooting – are the materials the editor-composer needs to gather to do their work. The editor uses the shots to build the house.

Clarke spoke about the three Cs of cinematography: conception, capture, composition. A few basic principles:

– The shot-reverse-shot pattern: The looker, the viewed, the response.

– Parallel structure: The chase, the flashback, etc. Meanwhile, back at the … .

– Rhythm, pace, contrast: From whole notes and eighth notes. A very fast sequence of shots is like eighth notes in a melody.

– Ellipsis: Things that are purposely missing, things we have to figure out or can assume from the context. There is a lot of compression of time in movies, similar to text.

5. Sound. There are four layers: dialogue (tone of voice, accent), ambience, sound effects, music. All work together, also mostly work unconsciously.

Like text, movies are linear. They take place over time, one shot after another, just as one word of text comes after another. This horizontal progression of sounds and images is easy to recognize. What is perhaps less noticeable is the vertical layering of the elements. (To use the music idea again, we’re talking about harmony rather than melody.)

He used three clips to show how these building blocks work together to build suspense and kindle emotions in the viewer.

1. A reproduction of a Van Gogh painting: first the image, then the image with music, finally the image with the music after telling us that “this is believed to be the last canvas Vincent painted before he killed himself in 1890 at the age of 37.” Did that change our response to the image?

2. A clip from the Hollywood classic, High Noon (1952), in which the marshal is waiting for the bad guys, who are arriving by train. Medium and point-of-view shots as well as close-ups are used to build tension. The lighting is harsh, with lots of contrast. Sometimes the background is the brightest part of a scene, while one actor’s shadow falls on another. All this has an unconscious effect on the viewer. Extreme close-ups show people’s reactions or anticipation. Tighter shots quicken the pace, while a sequence of four close-up looks creates the effect that time is extended. Dramatic music signals the beginning of the showdown.

3. A clip from The Matrix (1999), in which Morpheus offers Neo two pills: one red, one blue. Different types of shots, the low lighting, the rain, and thunder and lightning establish the mood and add suspense. The camera focuses on important elements: the glass of water, Morpheus’s sunglasses (mysterious), the two pills. Music and sounds support the visuals: suspenseful music, changes in music, lighting strikes, high-pitched sounds, perhaps a clock ticking and ethereal singing. An important moment is reflected in a big swell in the music.

The Job of a Film Editor

The film editor’s job is somewhere between that of a music composer and collage artist, weaving together a complex of pre-recorded material, usually captured by others, into a unified whole. They have a lot of creative leeway, like the print editor, who is “invisible” if they’ve done their job right.

The actors’ eyes are the most important element, capturing emotion and intention. At the same time, the viewer tends to look at the person not speaking, so part of the art of an editor is to know when to use that to advantage. Going from a wide shot to a close-up builds intensity.

Are there different types of editing, as there are in print? In big films, yes; there is an editing team, with a film’s structure and pacing controlled by the editor at the “top”. There is a separate sound department; different people are responsible for dialog, music, and sound. But it can be a two-way street, with editors putting in certain cuts and sound effects, even music. In a documentary, the work of the editor as author is easier to see, since they are structuring the work from the raw material rather than from a script.

The editor and the director will have a high-level conversation before filming to discuss the scope of the film. They watch all the takes in script order, and the editor will take notes. The editor can request a reshoot; it depends on the budget. A smart producer will allow a week for reshooting six months after shooting ends. In the case of a documentary, the editor and maybe also the director will do a “paper edit” after filming to decide how to structure the film.

Film and Print Editing: Similarities

Both the print editor and the film editor are de facto advocates for the end user. It is their responsibility to think hard about how the reader and the viewer are reacting at each moment. Is the work clear and understandable from sentence to sentence, shot to shot? Is it boring, or does it compel the user to turn the page or stay glued to the couch? Is it well paced? Does it hold the reader and the viewer? Does the work both entertain and also delve deeper, and with greater wisdom, into life’s mysteries?

Both types of editor must understand how viewers view and readers read, but they also need to be aware of how genres and styles continue to evolve in a rapidly changing world. How does an editor navigate these changes and contradictions?

In the end, there is also the important question of elegance and polish. There should be no mistakes, no missteps, no awkwardness, no typos or misspellings. No bad acting or continuity errors, no superfluous dialogue in fiction. In these ways, we are comrades. We want the same thing, and we’re responsible for making it happen.

“Complementary Pairs” and “Back to the Future”

On Wednesday, September 8, 2020, five hardy souls braved the cool, early fall air and gathered in the pavilion at Lake Ontario Park, King Street West, Kingston. We welcomed a new visitor, Barbara Muirhead.

“Complementary Pairs”

Jim Penistan had set us an editors’ challenge: why is one word considered obscure (e.g., dysphemism) when its opposite (euphemism) is in almost everyone’s vocabulary?

Everybody knows ambidextrous (the condition of equal adeptness with both hands) but not the condition of equal clumsiness: ambisinistral or ambilaetrous. Most people understand pejorative (“expressing contempt or disapproval”), yet its opposite – meliorative (“making something better”) is barely known.

Among literary academics, exegesis (“reading from the text”) is often used, but eisegesis (“reading into the text”) is used almost exclusively by biblical scholars. Most people know that periphraxis means “talking (or writing) roundabout” or “using many words for something”; few know that monophrasis means “using one word rather than several.”

Other attendees contributed consociation (“companionship,” “fellowship,” “close or familiar association”) and disunion (“opposition,” “disassociation,” “dissimilarity”), orthodox and heterodox, diagonal and orthogonal, transgender and cisgender.

Talking about these examples led into a lively discussion of etymology (in the first example, dys is Greek for “bad,” while eu is Greek for “good”) and the goals of, and approaches to, editing. Sometimes our use of complementary pairs overlaps: using a euphemism, or periphraxis, rather than monophrasis (e.g., where the word feces or excrement becomes poo in everyday parlance and sometimes shit for extra emphasis). New words come into everyday vocabulary in particular situations (fomite, which means “surfaces,” has become more widely known during the pandemic.

“Back to the Future”

Almost six months into the pandemic, most people’s work hasn’t been affected, and aside from trying to finding more work, things will likely carry on like this. Elizabeth’s online copy editing course was affected because of the situation of some participants: they became too busy to complete the course; they had to share their computer; one’s participation was delayed because she came down with the virus.

Wednesday, October 14

At our next meeting, Clarke Mackey will talk to us about film editing and the parallels he has found with word editing. We hope you can join us on Zoom at 7:00 p.m.

POSTPONED: Shelley Tanaka Talks Children’s Books

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUPDATE: Shelley Tanaka’s visit has been postponed (poor Shelley has broken her ankle). The March 11 meeting has been cancelled, but we’ll be sure to have Shelley come speak to us when she’s up and around again!

On Wednesday, March 11, Editors Kingston will welcome Shelley Tanaka at the twig gathering.

Shelley Tanaka is the long-time fiction editor at Groundwood Books, an independent Canadian children’s publisher based in Toronto, where she has edited more than a dozen Governor General’s Award–winning books. She also teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the Masters of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

As well as sharing tales from her career in editing, Shelley will talk about how editing for young readers differs from editing books for adults. She’ll also describe how the children’s book business has changed over the years.

More about Shelley

Climate Change - Tanaka, ShelleyShelley is the author of more than 20 non-fiction books for children and young adults, including seven titles in the award-winning I Was There series (examples are On Board the Titanic, Attack on Pearl Harbor, and Climate Change). She has  won numerous other prizes, and her books have been translated into nine languages.

WhiteAsMilk-coverBShelley is also a translator and has twice been nominated for the annual German Children’s Literature Award. A recent translation is White as Milk, Red as Blood, a collection of 19th-century German folk tales. She not only translated these stories but  also developed the proposal to have them published in English.

Shelley lives in Kingston. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and German from Queen’s University and a master’s in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto.

Coming Up April 8

David Sweet of Books and Company, beloved indie bookstore in Picton, will speak at our April gathering.

Join Us

Ongwanada Resource Centre
191 Portsmouth Avenue
7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)
Free for Editors Canada members
$5 for visitors

Find Us on Facebook

Whether or not you come to our gatherings, feel free to join our Facebook group and chat with other Kingston-area editors and assorted word nerds.

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In the Desert Together: Author Iain Reid Talks Editing

by Cat London

Iain Reid talks editing, film adaptations, and camels at Editors Kingston on November 13.

I don’t think anyone predicted that the November meeting of Editors Kingston would take place as a snowstorm was settling us all into winter, but living in Kingston does come with the occasional weather surprise. We were particularly excited to come together for this meeting because it is not a regular occurrence for our gatherings to feature renowned, award-winning authors — but then, another surprise that comes with living in Kingston is the extraordinary literary scene it boasts for a town this size.

Our guest for the evening of November 13 was Iain Reid, a Kingston-based author of memoir, essays, and, more recently, novels. Surprisingly humble in light of his impressive and continued success — his books have been published in multiple countries to excellent reception — Iain spoke frankly about his writing journey so far and his experiences working with different editors on each of his books, including, in one case, with two editors in two far-flung countries at the same time.

The meeting took the form of a relaxed conversation, and it was made even more interesting by the presence of Alex Schultz, an editor with over two decades’ experience in book publishing, who was an acquiring editor at Penguin when Iain began to explore the process of getting his books into print — with a submission to Penguin. Hearing the story of Iain’s initial contact with the publishing world from the two perspectives was fascinating.

Iain had many kind things to say about his experience of the collaborative relationship between authors and editors, of which this one was clearly the crowd favourite:

It’s like you’re on riding a camel on a journey in the desert, out of water, and you can’t quite make it on your own, but then someone rides up on another camel with fresh water, and they help you get the rest of the way there.

When Adrienne Montgomerie pointed out that sometimes the editor tells the author to go back another 10 kilometres into the desert and travel it again, Iain agreed, but pointed out that at least the editor has more water.

Iain described the skill set of an editor as being different from his own as an author: an editor brings a new level of thoroughness to the table, and an ability to quickly grasp the big picture of a book and identify ways to improve it.

He also talked about where and how he has found and developed ideas, as well as about his recent experiences in the filmmaking world — both his novels, I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Foe, are being turned into movies. Iain is co-writing the screenplay for Foe.

With the usual lovely array of snacks and beverages and a sizable turnout of editors, would-be editors, and other word enthusiasts, the meeting was a bright spot in a gloomy, early winter night. Thanks so much to the Editors Kingston coordinators for bringing Iain to talk to us, and many, many thanks to Iain for coming, and for all his kind words about editors. (He even wrote a short essay in praise of editors for the National Post a few years ago.)

I’m looking forward to our December fête at Milestones.

Announcements

Webinars

Don’t forget to check out the upcoming Editors Canada Webinars: short, practical training units you can attend from anywhere with an internet connection. Registration includes a webinar recording (so you can review it any time, or catch up if you miss part or even all of it) and digital copies of any handouts. Elizabeth can particularly recommend Graphs 101 with Toronto Editor Robin Marwick on Wednesday, December 6.

Conference

It’s not too early to start thinking about attending the Editors Canada annual conference, which will be in Montreal, June 19 through 21 (much closer for twiggers than last year’s conference in Halifax or the previous year’s in Saskatoon). The theme is From Papyrus to Pixels: International Editing Trends. Building on the success of its first international conference in 2015, which included presenters and attendees from the U.S., the U.K., and as far afield as India and Australia, the association expects a full weekend of learning, networking — and fun! The conference is also a great volunteering opportunity for Editors Canada members: contact conferencevolunteers@editors.ca.

Coming Up December 11

Come share some winter cheer with friends and colleagues at our Holiday social on Wednesday, December 11, from 6:30 p.m. at Milestones, 27 Princess Street at Ontario.

Please RSVP to Nancy Wills (nancwills@gmail.com) by Monday, December 9.

Pay as you go. Partners and friends welcome.

Coming Up January 8

You think Kingston is cold in January? Join us for a talk from twig member John Thompson about his work editing in and about the Canadian Arctic!

Our usual date, time, and place: Wednesday, January 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Ongwanada. Watch this space for more details.

Coming Up November 13: Meet Iain Reid

Iain Reid
Iain Reid visits the twig to talk editing and more on November 13.

Iain Reid, well-known Kingston writer of both delightful memoir and chilling suspense, will join us for our November meeting. We’re excited that he’s able to fit us into his busy schedule!

We first tried to book Iain for our 2016 Authors Talk Editing event. At the time, he had recently won the $10,000 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award for The Truth about Luck, his second book of memoir, which tells the story of a five-day “staycation” he took, at age 28, with his 92-year-old grandmother. Unfortunately, our date conflicted with an appearance he was booked for at an authors festival.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Since then, Iain’s literary star has done nothing but rise. He made a major switch in genres, producing two bestselling suspense novels: I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which Vice calls an “unsettling sensation” (and almost every reviewer calls “impossible to put down”) and Foe, which Goodreads calls “an eerily entrancing page-turner.” Both are being turned into films.

So we’re honoured that he was able and willing to come to our November meeting for his own Authors Talk Editing event. (Read about the great authors who did join us that night and the sequel with Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady.)

Foe

We can’t wait to ask him about his experiences of being edited and more—such as the differences in writing two such very different genres, and what it’s like for a former employee of the Screening Room in Kingston to have his novel adapted for Netflix by Oscar-winning director Charlie Kaufman.

Come join us! Whether you’ve read Iain’s work or not, you’ll hear a smart conversation about books and editing. (Read more about Iain Reid in the Kingston Whig Standard, in Maclean’s, or in Vice.)

As always, there will also be news from Editors Canada, networking, and snacks.

We’ve also invited Iain to bring books for sale; please come with cash if you think you might like to shop.

Join Us!

We’ll meet at the usual place and time: Ongwanada Resource Centre, 191 Portsmouth Avenue in Kingston, 7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30). Light refreshments, coffee, and cold drinks. All are welcome. Free for Editors Canada members; $5 for visitors (first meeting free)

Talking Canadian Linguistics and the Strathy Language Unit

by Wade Guyitt

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You knew Anastasia Riehl’s presentation on Canadian linguistics had to include this slide….

As editors, we’re trained to intervene in written language, whenever needed, to maximize its effects. You’ve heard of helicopter parents? Editors are helicopter readers, always poised, proverbial red pen at the ready, to tighten awkward phrases or tidy inconsistencies of spelling.

But if we’re the zookeepers of language, linguists are more like animal biologists – they watch words just as closely but do so while peering through the bushes, trying not to spook their prey. Linguistics seeks not to correct usage but to draw conclusions about it – although editors, like all who work with words, have much to learn from what linguists have to say.

Riehl

Anastasia Riehl, director of the Queen’s University Strathy Language Unit

To find out more about some cutting-edge linguistic work happening right in our own back yard, on April 10 Editors Kingston welcomed Anastasia Riehl, director of Queen’s University’s Strathy Language Unit, to speak about “Exploring Canadian English with Linguistic Corpora.” The unit is a research unit founded in 1981 by Queen’s alumnus J. R. Strathy, who, Anastasia says, observed that “English departments tend to focus on literature instead of language.” Strathy felt that looking at English – and Canadian English in particular, compared to other Englishes spoken around the world – was important. Today, thanks to his bequest, the Strathy Language Unit (queensu.ca/strathy/) is internationally renowned as a centre for Canadian English linguistic studies.

What is Canadian English? It’s typically described as a mixture of US and UK styles, but of course, it has aspects all its own. And it contains multitudes: British English, American English, Canadian French, Aboriginal languages, and a host of immigrant languages from around the world influence what English is in Canada. The Strathy website says, “We are interested in English as it is used by all speakers throughout the country, not just those from a particular region or with a particular background. The variety we find within communities and throughout the country is in part what makes the study of Canadian English such an engaging one.”

What Does the Unit Do?

Probably the Strathy Language Unit’s most prominent achievement – and the one that intersects most directly with the world of editing – is the Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage (full disclosure: I worked on this and other Strathy projects while a student years ago). Falling “somewhere between an encyclopedia and a dictionary,” according to Anastasia, this usage guide uses real examples gathered from quoted Canadian English to explore thorny style questions and offer guidance to help Canadians feel more confident in their writing and speaking, particularly in situations where existing US and UK guidebooks don’t quite fit.

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Wade, Bob, and Kait listen to Anastasia Riehl talk about the Strathy Language Unit’s work.

The Strathy Unit has also produced series of occasional papers, digital publications, corpus projects (more on this later), and an online bibliography for the study of Canadian English (4,000 sources to date). It supports Canadian English courses at Queen’s and also hosts and supports conferences. (One upcoming will focus on “nonbinary pronouns” – not just the generic singular “they,” with which editors must often grapple, but also pronouns preferred by those not identifying with a particular binary gender, an increasingly important social and grammatical issue of recent years.)

A number of exciting projects are in progress. One is a student project on Canadian slang that will include videos on YouTube (“everyone wants to work on slang,” Anastasia says). Another project is a “digital voice map,” allowing contributors to upload samples of their own speech and listen to others, all pegged to location. The unit also contributed to a recent mammoth scholarly achievement, the second edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, which charts changes in Canadian English over time. (To keep up, check out the Strathy blog at queensu.ca/strathy/blog.)

The Strathy Corpus

Much of this work is underpinned by the Strathy Unit’s secret weapon: its corpus. A corpus is essentially a large sample of language that meets the requirements of researchers: in this case, multiple examples of English as written or spoken by Canadians, in different registers and contexts – formal, informal, academic, creative, and so on. By gathering enough examples of usage, a corpus allows language use to be studied systematically, in statistical fashion, rather than based on assumptions that may or may not be correct.

Anastasia recounted a story about an early meeting of the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada (FEAC), at which the editors attending were polled about “preferences when editing for the Canadian market.” As it turned out, she quoted, “the response of a handful of editors to the set ‘mould/mold’ was quite dazzling and typified the confusion, if not mayhem, that we occasionally encounter” (Lydia Burton, 1982, “In search of a Canadian style,” Scholars Publishing 13.4.347–54). The twig members were amused to inform Anastasia that FEAC had ultimately morphed into Editors Canada, and thus the meeting where this polling took place was a precursor to the one at which she was speaking!

Today, with access to a resource like the Strathy Corpus, national preferences can be explored much more precisely. Targeted searches show exactly how often writers use “travelled” compared to “traveled,” say, or which adjectives most often complement which nouns. The group was pleased to learn that the Strathy Corpus is available online at www.english-corpora.org/.

Most linguistic work on Canadian English today, Anastasia says, would be termed “variationist sociolinguistics.” Speaking simply, this means looking at, first, how language changes over time and, second, how it varies based on social factors like gender, race, region, education, class, ethnicity, and so on. By comparing speech patterns of, for instance, young and old speakers, we not only gain insight into how language has changed but can also start to make guesses about how it will change in years to come.

The Wolfe Island English Corpus

The bulk of Anastasia’s presentation looked at a more specific corpus she has been assembling. Because most of the larger Strathy Corpus is written English, Anastasia sought to develop a unique spoken corpus, gathered in partnership with the Wolfe Island Historical Society. Comprising over 90 hours of interviews (with respondents between 55 and 97 years of age), totalling over a million words, the Wolfe Island English Corpus (WIEC) is starting to reveal fascinating conclusions about how the rural island life of the past has shaped language use among residents. Spoken informal usage is the most difficult to capture without subjects becoming self-conscious, distorting their true way of speaking.

File:Wolfe island canada.jpg

Wolfe Island (NASA photo)

Today the island links up easily with mainland Kingston, but for most of its history, its four separate communities saw very little interaction, and islanders were likely more closely connected to Cape Vincent, New York, than to Kingston. Pre-ferry, a crossing in winter meant travelling over ice by horse and later by car. Farming, fishing, cheese-making, and boat-building industries gave otherwise specialized vocabulary common currency on the island.

Analysis of the material in the corpus is only just starting, but Canadians will surely be interested to know that “eh” – a “discourse particle, seeking confirmation or analysis” – constitutes a full 0.21 per cent of the WIEC. How that, and other vocabulary, compares to other regional corpora across Canada is sure to turn up fascinating insights into language formation and how – and why – the places we live in help to determine how we speak.

In the brief recording excerpts Anastasia played, we also heard how what we as editors would likely consider “non-standard” usage brings a richness and evocative musical tone to language. For instance, one dramatic story about a horse almost drowning ended with the memorable phrasing “after that I never had any time for crossing the ice none” – no doubt a reminder that editing that removes style is not good editing at all.

Have Your Say!

Do you have ideas about how a corpus could be useful in your editing work? Contact Anastasia Riehl at the Strathy Language Unit, Queen’s University: riehla@queensu.ca.

Announcements

The meeting included, as usual, some national announcements from coordinator Elizabeth d’Anjou:

  • The conference is coming up in Halifax! Celebrate Editors Canada’s 40th anniversary with hundreds of fellow editors. Full program now available on the conference website.
  • Some great webinars are coming up! Two fantastic instructors in May:
    • Frances Peck presents “Plain Language Tips” on May 8
    • The inimitable Dr. Freelance, Jake Poinier, offers “Strategic Pricing and Persuasive Estimating” on May 21

Also, past webinar recordings are available for sale (you get a download of the video and audio session to watch any time, plus a copy of all the slides and any handouts). Great training at a bargain price! Some more are in the works (including, soon, Elizabeth’s own “Top Ten Things I Wish I’d Known When Starting as a Freelance Editor”); check the webinars website for updates.

Coming Up May 8: Workspace Show-and-Tell

We at the twig often share about what we do; for our May gathering, we thought it would be fun to talk about where and with what. Come join us and share whatever details you’d like about your workspace.

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Does your workspace include easy access to snacks? Our twig meetings do!

Tell us about your desk/chair/monitor(s)/local café/cubicle. Snap a photo if you like and send it to Stephanie Stone (sstone4@cogeco.ca) or post it on the Facebook group’s page — we’ll have a slide show.

(Feel free to participate even if you can’t make the meeting!)

See the blog post for more details.