An Interview with Letitia Henville, PhD

On Tuesday, April 19, Letitia Henville presented to us on editing research grant proposals.

Letitia (she/her) has a PhD in English Literature and is an award-winning instructor and editor who helps researchers articulate their goals to an audience of their peers. She lives and works on the unceded, stolen territory of the Səl̓ílwətaʔ and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and people on the land now called the Dunbar region in Vancouver, British Columbia. Letitia writes the monthly advice column “Ask Dr. Editor” for University Affairs.

Letitia described the grants landscape, written and unwritten rules for proposals, her top three tips, and your next steps if you’d like to break into this rewarding niche; she’s posted a list of her references and some resources on her website, Things can change quickly in this niche, so instead of writing a synopsis of her talk, we interviewed her. The interview took place on Friday, May 13.

Where are you from, and what is your background?

I was born and raised in Vancouver. I now live about 10 blocks from my childhood home. Sometimes I’ll walk around a corner and see a view that I’ve seen in my dreams and discover that it’s real!

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I always knew that I wanted to pursue graduate studies, so I did my master’s and PhD at the University of Toronto. I studied late 19th-century poetry – really terrible, aesthetically and politically terrible poetry, but interesting. The last year of my PhD was very difficult – I sustained a substantial back injury, a substantial heartbreak, and a six-week strike at U of T. The strike was poisonous and made me think that many of the faculty in positions of power weren’t living by the values they espoused in their academic writing. I was quite disillusioned.

Between submitting and defending my dissertation, I did a lot of informational interviews with other PhD grads and homed in on grants facilitation and grants editing as something I would enjoy. It was the fine-detailed work that attracted me because I’d enjoyed it in my studies.

Please describe your editing path.

After moving back to Vancouver in the fall of 2015, I had a coffee with a member of Editors BC, Erin Parker ( She suggested that, to be an editor, you need to learn about editing. She introduced me to Editors Canada and gently pushed me into taking editing courses. I learned that while I thrived on the fine details of poetry, my editing forte is actually at a high level – big-picture, developmental, structural, and stylistic editing – not copy editing or proofreading, although I do some copy editing. It was a re-imagining of who I am and how I do what I do.

I studied editing while working as a grants facilitator and editor at a small health sciences department at UBC, a job I held for about three years. Then I was very lucky to win the Claudette Upton Scholarship (from Editors Canada) in 2018, which enabled me to attend my first Editors Canada conference.

The conference was a revelation. At academic conferences, people I spoke with during coffee breaks would often be looking over my shoulder in case there was someone more interesting to speak to, and during sessions, their questions were aimed at finding a way to challenge other people’s scholarship. At the editors’ conference, however, there was an entire stream on editing Indigenous texts and working with Indigenous authors. And all the editors in the audience really wanted to improve their practice; they were there to learn, not to schmooze or show off. I was delighted to discover that community and that environment – being around all these people who just wanted to learn and do better – politically, morally, and technically.

I’d started my freelance business as a side business in 2017. I now work part-time at UBC in a careers role – supporting graduate students, helping them have a better experience than I did. I also do academic editing part-time. I love the creativity, experimentation, and freedom that comes with running my own business.

As an example of creativity: I’ve recently created a website ( that helps academic writers better understand their text and how it compares with that of other writers they admire. It allows academic writers to see how the features of their writing – nominalizations, passive voice, “to be” verbs, that kind of thing – compare to a reference text of their choice. I’m excited to help academics to learn more about their own writing patterns. The website will be officially launched on June 14, 2022.

How did you come to specialize in editing academic grant proposals?

I spoke to many people who did different jobs, and I found that there is a real need to help people to win research grants. Research funding was cut substantially under the Harper government, and while Trudeau brought in more funding in response to the 2017 Naylor Report, the percentage success rates remain really low. These are really tough competitions, so more and more universities, research institutes, research hospitals, and regional health authorities are hiring people to help academics to be successful in their grant applications.

Part of my career path was strategic – finding an area where I knew there was demand – and part was having conversations with people who did those jobs, and other jobs, and discovering that the day-to-day work of editing research grant applications fits with my personality, interests, and background.

I got a job as a grants facilitator before ever taking an editing class, so I learned on the job and from my colleagues. And I found that I love it! I was used to teaching university writing, getting students for four months and never seeing them again. Now I work with a subset of the same authors year after year, and I enjoy getting to know individual writers and their writing patterns and to see the impact of my work on their careers.

Later this summer, I’ll be launching a 12-part course called “Editing Academic Research Grants in Canada,” which I’ve designed for academic editors – for freelancers who want to expand the services they offer and for folks who are keen to work in-house at a university. I’ll post an announcement to my email list, The Shortlist, when it’s available – I’m aiming for June 2022.

It seems that you have a large number of clients. How did you build that client base?

My first clients were the faculty with whom I worked in-house. I also got word-of-mouth referrals from people outside my unit. In early 2018, I decided that I needed to synthesize what I was learning from courses and from my reading, and so I started a blog just for myself. After eight months of blogging, I pitched and began writing my “Ask Dr. Editor” column for University Affairs.

That column is my biggest piece of marketing – it’s a content-marketing approach. The intention is to raise the profile of academic editing as a profession. I feature other academic editors too – folks such as Iva Cheung, Cath Ennis, Cara Jordan, and Brianna Wells. The column raises academics’ awareness of the profession of editing. I want readers to understand what we do, respect how we do it, and trust that we know what we’re doing.

When I get a query from someone about editing something, I can say “Yes,” and I can link to a column I’ve written about their type of document, to say, “Here’s a bit more about my approach.” That’s an easy way of converting leads into clients. Readers of my column also get a clear sense of my approach before contacting me. For example, one of my older pieces, “The Politics of Pronouns,” discusses the appropriateness of the singular they. If an academic doesn’t agree with that approach, they know beforehand and won’t even approach me about working with them.

You seem to be a very composed person. How do you manage this when so many of your deadlines seem to fall within a short time frame?

I’m happy to appear that way, but I do have an anxiety disorder! One thing that helped me to develop confidence as an editor and in my approach to my work is that I developed an online portfolio a few years back. I also hosted a webinar for Editors Canada about making a portfolio. The portfolio that I made includes samples from all the things I’d done in the many parts of my life – editing, academic stuff, volunteer work, gardening, disaster response preparedness – and I used it to find what these aspects have in common and to build a picture of who I am. What I learned, when I put all these puzzle pieces together, is that I really enjoy working with people who are under stress and helping them to achieve what they want to achieve. So this surface-level composure that you see is part of how I interact with others – but it doesn’t mean that I don’t experience stress and anxiety! It just means that I manage those feelings and avoid passing them along to others.

You’re very interested in Indigenous cultures. Do you seek work from Indigenous groups?

No. If someone approaches me to edit an Indigenous text, I refer them to the Indigenous Editorial Association. I suppose that if the client really wanted to work with me, I would, but so far my referrals have been appropriate. A chapter of my PhD dissertation was on Tekahionwake, E. Pauline Johnson, a Haudenosaunee poet from Brantford, Ontario. I’ve edited a SSHRC grant application that involved partnering with Indigenous communities, and I’m currently editing a journal article that focuses on Indigenous works in diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. I strive to do this work in a good way.

What do you enjoy most about the niche in which you work?

It’s very easy for me to get into flow. I can tap into an enjoyable, timeless space where the world around me disappears, and I’m “in the zone.” That’s such a nice feeling! And I hope that other editors can tap into the same feeling too. I consider myself an evangelist for academic editing – and for editing research grants in particular – because I hope that other people will see it as being within the scope of their abilities.

If any of your members have questions about freelance business practices, content marketing, academic editing, or research grant editing, I’d be happy to meet up for a virtual coffee!

Coming Up

Tuesday, May 17 – “The Strange Art of Writing [and Editing] Screenplays” with Clarke Mackey

Screenplays do a lot of heavy lifting in the entertainment industry, and they probably go through more editing by more people than published texts. They must bring stories to life and excite the reader, but they also serve as a technical map for movie productions, much like a composer’s score. Over the decades, people have developed conventions to make all this work. This presentation will provide some basics on how to read, write, and edit screenplays.

Clarke taught screenwriting for many years at Queen’s University. He presented to us in October 2019 on editing films and was an engaging speaker.

Monday, May 30 – Our Annual General Meeting

Calling all members! Please try to attend and contribute to the future of the twig.

“Authors Talk Editing” with Fantasy Writer Nick Eames”

Our “Authors Talk Editing” series focuses on Kingston and area writers, but when Nick Eames agreed to speak to us at our March meeting, he’d just relocated to Victoria, BC. That still worked for us, though, particularly since this series had never featured a fantasy writer before. Nick was an energetic and engaging speaker, a successful writer with a humble personality.

Nick is the author of Kings of the Wyld, published in 2017, and Bloody Rose, which came out the next year. He’s now working on the third book in his Heartwyld trilogy. He first started writing in high school, and even though he received encouragement from Ed Greenwood, the Canadian fantasy writer and original creator of the Forgotten Realms game world (he said that Nick “had the fire of a good storyteller”), Nick put his writing aside for a few years.

He attended college and took theatre arts, but gave up his fledgling acting career to pursue his writing. He was heavily influenced by Canadian fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay; his books made Nick decide to devote his time to writing in the hope of creating something that might affect someone the way Kay’s work affected him. Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie are more recent influences, particularly their fast-paced, dramatic stories laced with a sense of humour.

The Books

Nick’s overriding idea was to write a series in which mercenary bands act, and are treated like, rock stars. The rock band of the 1970s is the metaphor for the mercenary band. In Kings of the Wyld, the members of the legendary band Saga have been retired for 20 years; they’re middle-aged now, with wives and children. But one band member’s daughter, Rose, is trapped in a faraway city, so the main character decides that he and the other band members must come out of retirement to rescue her, even though everyone agrees that it’s a seemingly impossible mission.

The book has many allusions to rock music and rock bands. The main character’s nickname is Slowhand, a reference to Eric Clapton. Another character is Moog, named after the famous synthesizer. The weapons assigned to each of the main characters align with their assigned role in a metaphorical rock band – one wields a pair of “drumstick” knives, and another uses an axe, which is slang for guitar.

Kings of the Wyld is full of dialogue, it’s often funny, and many of the paragraphs are short; all this moves the plot along at a fairly fast pace. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are no long, gloomy descriptions of an eerie, ominous environment, which seem to often be the case in other fantasy fiction. And while the story is infused with humour, there is a poignancy to it that infuses the characters with humanity and makes them realistic and relatable.

There are several female characters, and while they don’t feature prominently, they’re all strong, loved by their men, and, in some cases, mercenaries themselves. Bloody Rose features Rose, having been rescued by the mercenaries of the band Saga, fighting her own battles.

After writing the first manuscript, Nick sent it out to numerous agents. For some time, it wasn’t accepted, although one agent almost took it on. Luckily, a second agent stepped in and sold the manuscript to Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group in New York. Kings of the Wyld has been translated into 10 languages and has sold approximately 400,000 copies. Besides its print edition, there are e-book, Kindle, audiobook, and book-track editions, the latter of which adds a musical soundtrack to the audiobook.

In addition, a Vancouver production company has bought the television rights to the book and is shopping it around. It sounds like the book and the trilogy have an auspicious future.

The Editing Process

What sort of editing process did each manuscript go through? Nick would read it through several times, honing and editing each time. Then he would send it to two beta readers for review. Kings of the Wyld received a lot of very positive comments from its American editor, some of which Nick had already thought about and incorporated into the manuscript while it was being edited. A British editor had been assigned to edit the UK edition and had very little to add to the process.

Both his agent and his US editor gave advice about achieving a better balance between being funny and being poignant, and Nick listened. He was a very easygoing author. He had originally wanted the book to be called The Band, but his editors advised otherwise, and he agreed. The second book in the series, Bloody Rose, received no structural edit at all; it was accepted as submitted. It may be that Nick’s theatre arts training helped with writing his manuscripts: theatre is a collaborative process, as is producing a book.

Both books were copy edited, of course. This process would have included reading the text against the map of the Heartwyld, the forest that the band has to navigate to rescue Rose, to ensure that place names and other geographical elements were consistent. One thing Nick argued for and wasn’t overridden on was, amazingly, using Canadian spelling in the US edition. Both he and his brother proofread the final proofs.

Nick has had an excellent relationship with his editors, and he’s accepted most of their edits and suggestions on both books. He’s good friends with his first American editor and likes to be able to get along with whomever is editing his books. He enjoys getting input on his manuscripts and is open to critique. He sounds like an editor’s dream!

Nick is working on the third book in the Heartwyld trilogy, and he’s co-writing a comic book too, which he says is much easier. We wish Nick the best of luck in his writing career!

Upcoming Meetings

We hope you’ll join us for these next meetings:

Tuesday, April 19, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – “Editing Academic Research Grants”, presented by Letitia Henville. Letitia (she/her) is an award-winning instructor and academic editor. She will describe the grants landscape, written and unwritten rules for proposals, her top three tips, and your next steps if you’d like to break into this rewarding niche. You can send questions ahead of time to Letitia on Twitter @shortishard or through her website at

Tuesday, May 17, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – Clarke Mackey is back, by popular demand! We enjoyed his presentation on film editing in October 2020 and are delighted that he’ll join us again to present on editing film and television scripts. Clarke is an emeritus professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University.

Tuesday, June 21, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – We’re hoping to meet in person for our June social. Stay tuned for details!

“Taxes for Freelancers”

For our meeting on February 15, 2022, we were joined by two liaison officers from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), who discussed preparing and filing business taxes. Shelley Pederson gave a PowerPoint presentation, while Karen Westbrook answered questions in the Chat.

The presentation covered the following topics, among others: determining deductions; when business taxes are due; when we need a GST/HST number, its benefits, provincial rates, and remittance options; the pros and cons of sole proprietorship versus incorporating; whether we need a company name; whether we need a business bank account; charging a service fee to cover transaction fees; and accepting credit cards and foreign wire transfers.

Most attendees were small suppliers (earning less than $30,000 per year in business income) and sole proprietorships (earning more than $30,000 per year in business income); one was incorporated.

The presentation was thorough and offered a lot of information. Shelley followed it up with two information kits (in PDF format) – one for small businesses and self-employed individuals and the other for incorporated businesses. These kits are available by emailing Editors Kingston at

Liaison Officer Service

This is a valuable and free service. It offers confidential, one-on-one sessions between a taxpayer and a liaison officer; if you’re interested, see the next section for the link. In addition, the CRA website offers a wealth of information on taxes, GST/HST, etc. – chunked into easily digestible topics and including videos – so it’s worthwhile having a look.

Questions and Answers from the Chat

All the information provided in this presentation is available through the Government of Canada website:

Link to the Liaison Officer Service web page, which includes a link to the form to request the service:

Filing deadlines for T1 and self-employed:

Place of supply rules and GST/HST:

Q: I’m wondering specifically about how to charge GST/HST, or if I even need to. Do I understand correctly that you do not owe GST on the sales you made before hitting $30,000?

A: Filing GST/HST returns is only required where you are a registrant. Further information on GST/HST will be provided in the presentation. But yes, you are not required to register until you earn $30,000 or more in four consecutive calendar quarters.

Q: My understanding is that if you charge GST/HST, you charge it based on the person’s province of residence. I currently do not need to register, but I have one client in the US and one in Nigeria. Once I need to register, I’m wondering what rates I should be charging them.

A: Within Canada, if you are a registrant, you will collect the tax based on the province the client is in. Any services provided outside Canada are considered an export and thus a zero-rated supply; therefore, you will not be collecting GST/HST . Shelly will be discussing this further in a few minutes.

Also, remember that if you are offering services outside Canada and are paid in a currency such as US dollars, these monies will have to be converted to Canadian dollars for reporting purposes for both income tax and GST/HST.

Q: Do “supplies” include “services”? Such as what editors do.

A: Yes, “supplies” are both goods and services.

Q: A question about international money payments. Can bank fees for receiving money transfers be treated as a business expense?

A: Yes, any bank charges or fees that are related to your business activities can be claimed 100% as an expense against your business income.

Q: The majority of my work is international, with a small minority from domestic sources. So I assume that even though my total income is above $30,000, because only, say, $5,000 of that is from domestic sources, I wouldn’t have to register for GST/HST as below that threshold, regardless of total income?

A: Your sales determining whether you meet the $30,000 threshold are your worldwide sales, both your taxable and zero-rated sales. Thus, in the example you provided, you would be required to register for GST/HST purposes.

Also, if you are an annual filer, but owe $30,000 or more over a year, in the following year you will be required to remit quarterly – making payments quarterly but filing annually. This is a time someone might choose to elect to file quarterly.

Q: I don’t include payment method on my invoices (as advised in the presentation). What is the purpose of including the method?

A: If you are accepting payments in different ways – e.g., credit card, cash, e-transfer – including the payment method will help you track the payment to the invoice. It is not a requirement. However, if you provide terms or charge interest if not paid within a specific amount of time, those details should be included on your invoice.

Q: I’m semi-retired now so don’t expect to earn over $30,000, even though I’m still a GST/HST registrant. Do I have to cancel my GST number, and how? Is there information on the CRA website that discusses this process?

A: If you are consistently under the $30,000 threshold, you may de-register for GST/HST. The following link will provide information on de-registering:

Also, depending on what your filing periods are, there may be a requirement to file until the end of the year. If, for example, you’re a quarterly filer and ask to close your account in September, you will likely be asked to file up until December 31st. If you request to de-register in February and you haven’t had any sales to date in the current year, you may be allowed to back-date the de-registration to the prior December 31st.

Q: I assume paid parking at a place of business is not an allowable expense?

A: If it is parking at your place of business, that would be considered personal. If you have to pay for parking while visiting a client or providing your services, this expense would be allowable.

Q: If I provide a service in December 2021, invoice in December 2021, but get paid in January 2022, is that income in 2021 or 2022?

A: That is income in 2021. You are required to use the accrual basis for accounting purposes; thus, you include the sales within the period that the service is rendered and invoiced and not when it is paid.

Q: And if the service is rendered in December but invoiced in January?

A: Then you would report the income in 2022, but equally, you would claim any related expenses in 2022.

Q: Are professional development (training) costs and publications subscriptions deductible?

A: Professional development – definitely. Subscriptions could depend on the reason for them. If you have a reasonable explanation for the subscriptions, they could be considered allowable.

Link to the Benchmarking tool, aka Financial Performance Data:

Link to Business Benefits Finder:

These links will be included in the PDF files we provide to you.

The industry code for editing is 561410 (Document Preparation Services).

Please complete our anonymous survey at:

Thanks for answering my questions in the chat!

Thanks to the organizers and Shelly and Karen – much appreciated.

Upcoming Meetings

We hope you’ll join us for these next meetings:

Tuesday, March 15, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – This will be another in our “Authors Talk Editing” series, this time with fantasy writer Nicholas Eames. Nicholas recently relocated from Kingston to Victoria, BC. Some of his titles are available through the Kingston Frontenac Public Library system, either in print form or by download. Check out a copy!

Tuesday, April 19, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – TBD.

Tuesday, May 17, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – Clarke Mackey is back, by popular demand! We enjoyed his presentation on film editing in October 2020 and are delighted that he’ll join us again to present on editing film and television scripts.

How I Became an Editor in the STEM Field: Two Members’ Experiences

At our meeting on Tuesday, January 18, Sarah Anderson and Jennifer Ingham gave an interesting and perceptive presentation on their careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It was clear that they enjoy their work and bring to it a wealth of expertise and authority.

Before the program started, Jodie Lees reminded us that the Editors Canada Facebook group (private group, for members only) often has posts about job opportunities.

Also, Editors Kingston is looking for coordinators for next year. If you’re interested in learning what a coordinator does or doing some volunteering now, please contact Jodie or Stephanie. Coordinators have to be elected at the AGM in May, but this is usually a formality.

Sarah Anderson

Sarah graduated in the mid-1980s, between two recessions, and when someone said that technical writing paid well, she decided to pursue it. She wrote Help topics for hardware but mainly software – first for the Canadian Depository for Securities (which handles physical securities) – then for SAP, IBM, and Qlik. She has also done academic and scientific editing, taught technical writing and editing, and taught academic writers as they produced theses and papers.

Now Sarah is a technical editor with the Transportation Safety Board (TSB); it’s an independent agency of the federal government and the accident investigation group for the federally regulated parts of the transportation network. She works in the Marine Group, which oversees commercial shipping and fishing. The TSB also looks at rail, pipelines, and both pleasure and commercial air. The goal of an accident investigation isn’t to assign liability; it’s to investigate accidents in order to look for systemic issues in the transportation system, and this approach affects how its reports are written.

Sarah did a BA in math and German literature, a diploma in technical writing, then an MA at the University of Montreal in linguistics (which took a European linguistics approach – e.g., machine translation); she wrote her thesis on how well texts retain their coherence when translated among English, French, and German. Later she did a BSc in environmental science, which has led to work in that field. She’s curious, which is important for a technical editor because you’re always encountering new things.

Technical Writing vs. Technical Editing

Technical writing is much broader in scope than technical editing. There are many types of technical writing in the STEM field and many audiences. The purpose of academic writing is often for the writer’s peers; documents contribute to the body of knowledge for that peer group. In some of the applied sciences and engineering, there is also the secondary audience of the practitioners.

Technical editing doesn’t cover all STEM content. It covers editing of academic material, textbooks, etc., but also technical material that is being used to document expert investigations. The author of an academic textbook of a technical nature has a certain amount of credibility. But most expert material is written to be questioned, so the editing and writing challenge isn’t actually technical. An editor has to understand the technical material to some extent to get through the first layer of content, and has to be able to talk to specialists, but the real challenge lies in the fact that audiences are really broad.

Much of the questioning and querying involved in the editing doesn’t focus on the technical material per se; it asks, “Is this explanation solid enough for the policy makers, the general audiences, someone who will query it?” This type of querying makes Sarah valuable as an editor.

All TSB reports are published because it’s a government agency, so the general public is one audience. Even when materials aren’t published, they can be made public through Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests, so anything that is written is potentially going to be read by taxpayers. Most other technical documents that Sarah has edited weren’t made public – environmental assessment reports, for example. However, when she was writing software Help, the general public was definitely an audience.

The other characteristic of technical editing versus other types of editing, including academic editing, is that the writers, the experts, don’t want to write and usually don’t have any training as writers. In academic writing, there is usually a mentorship, an apprenticeship, structure, in which writers are taught how to write. Engineers, master mariners, and naval architects may have had one writing course early in their Coast Guard career, and that might be it. So the relationship between the writer and the editors makes the editing an interesting editing challenge.

Sarah made an interesting point here: position title matters. A “technical writer” is paid a lot less than “information developer” or “information architect”!

Jennifer Ingham

Jennifer came to technical editing through the English language. As a child, she loved English as well as science. She’s an environmental engineer with a BA in modern literature. She learned her editing skills on the job during 30 years of writing in the STEM field and helping other people along the way. That’s a common theme for us editors: we’re the person other people go to, to review or edit their writing.

She had a very good education in English literature and grammar in elementary school in Montreal, ironically, where she was enrolled in French immersion up to Grade 9. In the first three years of high school, there were two English courses – one in literature and one in grammar, vocabulary, and composition. Having a solid foundation in how the language works really helps when you work as an editor. Grammar is all about rules and patterns, as is a lot of math and science, so they probably light up the same parts of the brain; they have the same analytical thinking pattern.

While Jennifer was tempted to study English at university, she wanted a degree with a more obvious career path. She started out in chemistry at Queen’s, but in second year switched to engineering chemistry, which seemed to have an even more well-defined career path. She thought that to have a career in science, she needed an advanced degree. (She realizes now that’s not the case.) She wasn’t able to complete her engineering degree in four years; she needed five. This opened up her a schedule a bit, and she took courses in Russian and German literature in translation. After she graduated, she slowly did a BA in modern literature after all.

First Job: Looking for Contaminants in the Arctic

After graduating in environmental engineering, she began working in a lab at Queen’s, and her professor was doing a lot of work with the Royal Military College (RMC) on testing for contaminants left behind at the abandoned radar stations along the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line. The DEW line was a series of radar stations built by the US Air Force in the late 1950s and 1960s all along the northern coastlines of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, just inside the Arctic Circle. They were built roughly 60 kilometres apart and monitored what the Russians were doing during those decades of the Cold War.

Jennifer illustrated her talk with slides, which included a map of the locations of the radar stations and photos showing what they looked like. They were built as small, self-contained cities – with radars, communication dishes, accommodation, vehicles, maintenance garages, a road network, etc. They were built on a high point of land and had an area down at sea level to receive supplies brought in by barge. Unfortunately, they contaminated the landscape in all sorts of ways – human waste was just dumped, there were fuel spills from the barrels of diesel used to generate electricity, and hundreds of fuel drums were left scattered across the landscape.

In those days, there was no environmental awareness; that didn’t start into well into the 1960s. Also, people had the idea that this was the middle of nowhere, whereas in reality, it was Inuit land, and for the Inuit, there is no such thing as the middle of nowhere; they know every inch. But there was no awareness of this either at that time.

By the 1990s, the DEW stations had long since been abandoned. Technology had evolved to the point where far fewer radar points were needed to cover the whole North. So the infrastructure had to be dismantled, and Jennifer’s group was tasked with locating the contaminants in the dumps, sewage outfalls, and fuel spills and determining what they consisted of. All the equipment used, particularly the electronics – transformer oils and capacitors – had used PCBs, which were simply sent down a long pipe and dumped onto the land. Batteries full of heavy metals were just left lying around.

The group collected ground samples and used GPS equipment to collect data points, for mapping purposes, to locate the contaminants. The group set up a lab to do on-site analysis of PCBs and other contaminants. This work fed into the design for cleaning up the stations. All the stations have been demolished now, the contaminated soil has been dug up, and the sites have been largely restored.

Jennifer went for a few weeks each summer for seven years, from 1993 to 1999, to stations in Yukon, Inuvik, Baffin Island, and Resolution Island. It was a very rewarding experience, and she considers herself very lucky to have had that opportunity.

Writing Reports and Proposals

After the summer field work, Jennifer spent the winters writing up her reports. The professor she worked for reviewed and edited them, which expanded her writing ability a lot. Her familiarity with contaminated sites set the foundation for her environmental engineering career. She later worked mainly at mine sites and with municipalities. Any small municipality with a landfill site operates it under strict rules; this includes monitoring it every year, and this generates a report. Everything needs to be documented; even though it’s the design that goes to the client, a lot of technical writing goes on.

She began to help writing proposals, some for very large bids with clear requirements, and this expanded into a proposal-writing team. They learned what worked, the kind of things a proposal had to include to attract a reviewer’s attention and earn a good score. She also had to manage the subject-matter experts so that the material would get written and shaped into a proposal by the deadline. This involved a lot of coaching, cajoling, and ghost-writing – leadership and management. Some large bids can cost $20,000 to put together, so you don’t want to miss the deadline.

Jennifer sees the interconnectedness between writing and thinking in her environmental science work. She coaches the writers to recognize that the narrative form isn’t appropriate for all ideas. The interpretation is better presented in tables and graphs; save the words for your conclusion. In Sarah’s work too, the format carries information, and graphs are core content, but reports also need to meet the federal government’s accessibility standards. For example, in a TSB survivability table, there is data and colour, but the colour can only be secondary, and table captions have to be carefully worded. An editor’s experience is a big benefit because the job entails not just editing the grammar but also the information structure.

Jennifer worked on two very different proposals recently as a proposal consultant that were 40 pages long. The first was a straightforward assessment of a site with little contamination, so her involvement was minimal. She spent four hours on it, copy editing and proofreading it, making sure that the text was appropriate and the structure made sense. In contrast, she worked on the other proposal for half a year. She edited it, had numerous meetings about it and workshops to develop the content, helped the writers develop the figures, sent it for review, and processed the comments. The 40-page limit was a big restriction on developing the proposal.

Jennifer is employed by RMC, but for a fixed number of hours per year. She also runs her own business as a proposal consultant, a position that has developed organically. It’s hard to describe how to get into proposal writing; the work is proprietary, and the deadlines are fixed. It isn’t a standard role in an organization. But her employer has come to recognize the value she brings to that work and now relies on her more heavily.

Content people don’t understand what editors do, and they don’t recognize their value initially. This can occur in many environments: often, only once an organization takes the leap and hires an editor do people recognize the value of the editor’s contribution.

Technical Writing in the STEM Context

Jennifer agreed with Sarah that there is a noticeable difference between science and engineering in terms of writing ability and attitude toward writing and being edited. Writing is an integral part of learning how to be a scientist; it’s expected that you’ll do a lot of writing because knowledge transfer comes about through writing papers. Part of going through graduate school and science development is writing. In engineering, knowledge transfer occurs more often through design drawings and the specifications that go with them. Reports are part of this, but the design that’s documented in the drawings is the key product. So engineers are generally, although not always, more focused on the design than the writing. Jennifer has encountered many people who need encouragement and help to put their thoughts down on paper.

There is a constant awareness of liability, especially in engineering. In textbooks and academic writing, your peers will challenge your work but not you. Sarah gave the example of a technical report in which the subject-matter experts challenged every piece of information in it because it was an expert report in support of a legal process. The degree of confidence in every statement had to be really clear. In reports written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, statements are codified into “not likely,” “very likely,” etc. The distinction between an expert statement and something else needs to be very clear. Every sentence is going to be challenged.

Camille Croteau also spoke about her work in financial technology, which deals with sensitive banking data and compliance; privacy is a huge issue. She encounters, and has to manage, writers’ reluctance to write grant proposals. It’s a strange experience in the private sector.

Working in a Regulatory Environment

Sarah described how relatively few regulations govern the software industry. This contrasts sharply with working for the TSB, a sector that is highly regulated. The amount of regulation affects how you write. For technical reports, there are many layers of meticulous review because there are so many regulations to certify. There may be many investigators on a project team; they go through the report, then it goes to the quality assurance team, then to the director of the group, then to the board, then to the people involved in the occurrence, then to the regulators. There are layers and layers of review and meticulous commenting.

For example, Sarah is working on what will become a 40-page report, but it started out much longer. She reckons it will be completely rewritten four or five times. When she worked on software Help, her group estimated one to two finished pages per working day; in her current work, it might be much slower. The time involves not just writing but also analysis and discussion of what you want to say.

While peers may challenge the content of a report rather than the writer, they also challenge the expertise of the investigator or engineers. The reports that Jennifer writes go through numerous reviews and a huge comments process before she can finalize them. In comparison, when Sarah was working with professional writers on software Help topics, she had more leeway to determine the cutoff point for comments in order to release the software.

Upcoming Meetings

Tuesday, February 15, 6:45–8:30 p.m. – “Taxes and Freelancers” – Two representatives from the Canada Revenue Agency will give us a slide presentation on all the issues and field our questions. Note the early start time; the program will start promptly at 7:00 p.m., so starting early will give us time for introductions, twig business, etc.

Tuesday, March 15, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – This will be another in our “Authors Talk Editing” series, this time with fantasy writer Nicholas Eames. Nicholas recently relocated from Kingston to Victoria, BC.

Issues for New Editors

The topic of the Editors Kingston meeting on Tuesday, October 19 was “Issues for New Editors.” Five new people attended the event, all of whom were either new or aspiring editors. The event was split into three general topics: different types of editing, how to get freelance work, and pricing and contracts. The speakers’ bios appear at the end of this post.

Different Types of Editing

The first speaker was Kristina Stanley, CEO of Fictionary. Kristina explained that the different types of editing are blurred, so it is not always easy to determine the type of editing required for each project. This is particularly true when the client is not sure what type of editing their manuscript requires.

Kristina explained that there are four “levels” of editing:

  1. High-level editing: a high-level edit requires the editor to determine whether the book flows and makes sense to the reader.
  2. Line editing: this level of editing is at the paragraph level. This involves editing for flow and moving paragraphs and sentences around.
  3. Copy editing: this involves editing for grammar and punctuation.
  4. Proofreading: this is the final check before the manuscript is complete. It involves checking for formatting errors and typos.

Kristina recommended that editors try to focus on the type of editing that they have been hired to do. However, they can highlight consistent errors that are being made at a different level; for example, an editor carrying out a line edit can highlight consistent copy editing errors or rules in their feedback letter. Likewise, a copy editor can mention structural issues to the author without focusing on them.

As many new authors do not know what type of editing their manuscript needs, there is some responsibility on the part of the editor to let the author know what it requires. The best way to determine this is to request a sample of the writing – bearing in mind that an author may send their best chapter as a sample, so it may not accurately reflect the work that is required!

To encourage more fiction writers to return for editing services, Kristina recommends hosting webinars through Eventbrite or StreamYard. Webinars are a great way of demonstrating your skills and the value you can bring to a project, talking directly with your clients, and getting your name out there.

How to Get Freelance Work

The second speaker was Stephanie Stone, editor and co-coordinator of Editors Kingston. Stephanie suggested that one good way to get work is to go where your clients are. This may mean joining a writers’ group to network with people who are currently writing and perhaps looking for an editor. You could also attend conferences for writers (e.g., conferences for fiction writers).

Stephanie also recommended investing in professional development. One way of doing this is by joining Editors Canada; it provides legitimacy in the eyes of potential employees or clients, immediate access to the National Job Board, and access to a local branch or twig. You can also attend other twigs’ meetings or seminars. Furthermore, after registering, you are able to create a profile in the Editors Canada Online Directory so people can search for you and see your skills and areas of expertise.

Other ways to invest in professional development include taking courses, reading books, visiting websites (e.g., ACES, the American Copy Editors Society; Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, CIEP, in the UK), joining social media groups, and posting information online to get your name out there. This can also be achieved by telling friends, family, and people in your professional network that you are looking for editing work. Volunteering can also be helpful, or even working for free to build up experience for your résumé. Creating a strong CV is also really important; a skills-based CV will highlight what you have to offer than one that itemizes your work history.

Creating a website can be a useful way to get your name out there while demonstrating your portfolio. However, a website is not always necessary. LinkedIn can provide you with a platform to demonstrate your experience, and you can even include testimonials from clients. Ensure that you follow up with clients for referrals and testimonials.

PubLaunch is a freelance marketing website where freelancers can find work. The platform takes a cut of the earnings, but you get to set your own rates.

Pricing and Contracts

The final speaker was Elizabeth d’Anjou.


Elizabeth explained that there is no one standard rate that a freelance editor has to charge; professional editors are able to set their own rates. Higher rates may depend on the type of work or client you are working with and how good a businessperson you are.

Being a freelance editor is like running your own business, so you can charge as much as clients are willing to pay. The median rate for copy editing in Canada is $25–$65 an hour. Rates are not necessarily going up, but they are not coming down, either. It is also important to consider non-billable hours: the hours that are not spent copy editing but carrying out other work-related tasks. A full-time editing job will consist of around 25 hours of actual editing, with a 2:1 ratio of working to doing other business-related activities. In addition, when thinking about quotes, it is important to factor in overhead costs, such as computer, Wi-Fi, webinars, books, etc. For a rough estimate of your annual salary, you can take your hourly rate and multiply it by 1,000.

In order to determine an appropriate quote for a job, it is important to find out as much as possible about the job. If the quote is too high, it will put the client off. If the quote is too low, it can also put a client off as it may seem as though you are not serious or qualified enough. Do not be afraid to ask the client for their budget, especially when the client has worked with an editor before.

When preparing an estimate, do not underestimate how long a project will take. Remember that a project will take multiple passes. Depending on the type of project, consider that tables, reference lists, etc. can take longer to edit. New editors may not get it right the first time, but they will get better with experience. Elizabeth also recommended building in three hours of face-to-face time with the client for consultation: one each at the start, in the middle, and towards the end.

Asking for a sample of the manuscript can help provide an estimate. A sample will help you determine the type of editing and the amount of work required. An estimate can be per word or per page; a page is 250 words, on average.


A contract between an editor and a client does not replace a good relationship. A contract makes sure that everyone understands each other and what is expected from a project, so it is clear what editing means. A contract should include clear descriptions of what the project is, clear timelines, and an outline of the process; this helps to determine how long the project will take. Editors Canada has developed a sample contract that can be adapted by freelance editors.

Other useful resources for contracts are

  • The book The Paper It’s Written On: Defining Your Relationship with an Editing Client by Karin Cather and Dick Margulis.
  • The Queen’s University legal team, which provides free legal service and can review contracts.

It is not, however, necessary to have a contract. Ensuring that any phone conversations are written up in an email afterwards will help to develop a mutual understanding between the editor and the client, and sometimes this correspondence can replace a contract.

About Kristina Stanley

Combining her degree in computer mathematics with her success as a bestselling, award-winning author and fiction editor, Kristina is the creator and CEO of Fictionary. She is the founder of the Fictionary StoryCoach certification program and teaches editors worldwide how to perform a structural edit on long-form fiction. She is the story-editing adviser to the Alliance of Independent Authors and was on the Board of Directors of the Story Studio Writing Society. Her dream is to combine people and technology to help writers and editors turn words into great stories.

About Stephanie Stone

Stephanie began copy editing in the early 1980s with a textbook publisher in Toronto, then moved to a trade publisher to work 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 on the job but gained most of her editing skills by taking courses through the Freelance Editors Association of Canada, the forerunner of Editors Canada.

In 1987, she 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, which had a few years of ups and downs but finally landed on its feet with three anchor clients. Some of that success was due to a referral from a member of Editors Kingston. She now retains one client and is one of the coordinators of Editors Kingston.

About Elizabeth d’Anjou

Elizabeth has been an editor for 30 years, most of them as a freelancer with a diverse client base. Typical editing projects in recent years have included research grant applications, educational materials for non-profits, and specialty books by entrepreneurs. She also teaches courses in grammar and copy editing in the Ryerson University Publishing program and is in demand as a workshop presenter on various aspects of editing. She lives in Picton and is a former coordinator of Editors Kingston.

Coming Up

Tuesday, November 16, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Authors Talk Editing” with Kingston author Ying Lee. Ying is enjoying considerable success with the four books in her young adult mystery series, The Agency. Come and listen to her speak about her books and her experience of being edited.

December – We hope to have an in-person social. Date and details to be announced.

September “Meet and Greet”

A small group of members and non-members, and one visitor, gathered at Lake Ontario Park on Tuesday, September 21. We’d postponed the event from the previous Tuesday because of the weather, and this night was perfect. We’d moved the start time to 6:30 from 7:00 since the days are getting shorter.

We introduced ourselves to each other and described our background and careers in editing as well as any courses we’d taken. One member later described being surprised at how varied everyone’s experience has been. We also talked about the job opportunities that have come to our attention recently and that we’ve alerted members to. The discussion then went on to some of the issues involved in starting a freelance editing business and the books and authors we’re reading.

One of our goals was to enable people to meet in person and get comfortable with each other, something that’s awkward, if not difficult, on Zoom. Most of our meetings this year will be on Zoom, although we hope to organize some informal, in-person gatherings as well.

Coming Up

Tuesday, October 19, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Issues for New Editors” – What’s involved in getting started in editing, for both freelance and in-house editors? We’ll pose your questions to the seasoned editors in the group.

Tuesday, November 16, 7:00–8:30 on Zoom – “Authors Talk Editing” with Kingston author Ying Lee. Ying is enjoying considerable success with the four books in her young adult mystery series, The Agency. Come and listen to her speak about her books and her experience of being edited.

December – We hope to have an in-person social. Date and details to be announced.

Other News

Meeting Day – Please note that we now meet on the third Tuesday of the month. Dates for social events may differ.

Calendar of Events – Editors Canada has set up an association-wide calendar of events that all branches and twigs can add to. To see dates and information about upcoming Editors Kingston events, go to our web page at The calendar is at the bottom of the page.

Twitter Account – We hope to set up a Twitter account and will be asking someone to volunteer to manage it. Stay tuned for more details.

“Authors Talk Editing” with Brenda Gayle and Carolyn Heald

Wednesday, May 12

Author Brenda Gayle

My first novel, a romantic suspense, was published by a small press in 2008. At that time, indie (self-) publishing was frowned upon. And the industry barely tolerated small presses. It would be a couple of years before international associations, like the Romance Writers of America, “officially” recognized small-press publishing houses.

I was lucky. My publisher, Wild Rose Press, was, and still is, one of the better small presses out there. Over eight years, I published four full-length novels and three novellas with them. For all those books, I had the same editor—even though the books weren’t all under the same imprint. For example, I wrote a three-book romantic suspense series featuring the same family and an overarching theme. The first book was published under the contemporary romance imprint, the was a second romantic suspense and the third, a Western romance. I still don’t understand the rationale. And this is one of the problems authors have when they’re told that, to be successful, they need to “write to market.”

How do small presses differ from traditional publishers, and how are they similar?

  • They don’t pay advances; however, the royalties are higher—35–45% versus the traditional 7% (paid only after the publisher has recovered your advance).
  • The contracts are book by book—so an author can set her own deadlines.
  • Small presses are known as digital-first: geared primarily to producing and selling ebooks; print books are secondary.
  • Like the big houses, you have virtually no say in your cover design—although you may if have a supportive editor.
  • You have to do most of your own marketing. This isn’t much different from a mid-list author at a traditional house; the big publishers really only promote their top-tier authors.

Publishing with a Small Press

When you submit a story, either it goes into the general (slush) pile (if you haven’t published with the house before or it wasn’t requested from a pitch) or you send it directly to your editor.

Each imprint has a senior editor and several other editors under her. It’s unlikely that any of them are trained or accredited—most are authors themselves. Your editor reads your story, then sends it to several reader-evaluators, and if all agree, it then goes to the senior editor, who has to approve it. Only then will a contract be issued, and you can start working on your book.

The story will receive a combination of structural, developmental and grammatical editing. Once you and your editor are satisfied—for us, this was when we were moving commas around—it’s sent to a copy editor, who, again, is likely to be an author supplementing her income.

Your editor is paid as a percentage of your sales, but the copy editor is paid a set rate—it could be as low as $50 and is unlikely to be more than $300 for a full-length novel. Later, the manuscript goes back to the author for final approval; then it’s formatted, and a release date is set.

All this is done electronically. In all my years with Wild Rose, the only person I every physically met or spoke with was a senior editor—and that was for five minutes when I pitched her my original book at a conference.

I believe small presses are a good way to learn the ropes of publishing because you’re supported all along the way. And when that first bad review comes in, you can at least console yourself that there were several other people who thought your story was good enough to publish.

Becoming an Indie Author

But at a certain point, I wanted more control over my career and decided to take the leap to indie publishing.

In the last 10 years, more and more authors—even some well-known, traditionally published ones—have gone this route or become what is referred to as a hybrid author—meaning that some of their work is traditionally published, while other work—prequels/sequels or stories written in a different genre—is self-published. This has removed a lot of the stigma around indies, although I believe that readers don’t care who the publisher is, provided the story is engaging and readable.

After I’ve written a book and gone through it several times, I send it to a developmental/structural editor who is familiar with the genre and looks for things like consistency, pacing, and blind spots—such as writing a story that takes place around Christmas but never mentions anything Christmasy until the final Christmas Eve scene. That was a major rewrite.

I write my first draft in Scrivener, a comprehensive writing program that helps me keep track of character names and traits for the series as well as for each book. But when I’m in writing mode, I don’t always think to check or record them, so a lot is correcting after the fact using from Carolyn’s notes.

Having a quality product is the key to competing in the new publishing marketplace. This means a professional cover done to market as well as a book that is well edited in terms of content, structure, grammar, and spelling.

Authors can’t edit their own work. The fact that many think they can is the reason self-publishing has a bad rap. In my many years in corporate communications, I edited a lot of articles and reports, even books. I’ve taken editing courses to improve my skills. But I just can’t edit my own work as well as it needs to be done. The mindset of writing is completely different from that of editing, and even if I put my manuscript away for a few weeks and come back with fresh eyes, I can never fully overcome that writer’s perspective.

I believe readers appreciate the care we take in producing these books. Unless they’re complaining, reviews rarely mention a book’s editing, but here is a comment from a book blogger for A Shot of Murder: “The book design and editing are impeccable. In this day of sloppily assembled ebooks, I really appreciate the care that clearly went into this book’s production.”

The Charley Hall Mysteries

I self-published the Charley Hall Mystery Series last fall. These are cozy historical mysteries set in post–World War II Kingston.

Although technically they’re cozies because they’re small town–focused, the murders occur off-screen, there’s an amateur sleuth, and there’s no sex, they diff in that they lack some of the more cutsie or fantastical elements that are often found in cozies today. There are no talking cats. No ancient librarians. No culinary clichés. They’re more like the traditional mysteries of the 1930s and 40s, but with elements of today’s women’s fiction.

I set them in Kingston because I wanted a Canadian location. With its university, military base, prisons, the old asylum, as well as its history, Kingston offered limitless possibilities for plots and characters. The late 1940s interested me because the country was just emerging from World War II. There was a sense of fragility but also optimism as people tried to reclaim their lives. And for my heroine, it meant the expectation that she would give up many of her new-found freedoms to return to the traditional roles of wife and mother.

But setting the story in Canada created a dilemma: spelling conventions. By far the largest reader market is the United States, and in the past, all my books—set in Canada or the US—have used American spelling. For my Charley Hall series, I decided to risk the wrath of Amazon reviewers and use Canadian spelling. I really wanted these books to feature Canada. And so far, so good. I think the fact that they’re historical and have an international feel has helped. But I’m sure there is at least one one-star review complaining of spelling errors in my future.

Editor Carolyn Heald

Before starting to edit for Brenda, my background was in non-fiction—specifically in copy editing and proofreading (history, archival studies, genealogy); emphasis on grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.; emphasis on accuracy, correctness. I thought I wasn’t cut out for editing fiction, but I really enjoy it. It’s definitely a different skill, with different issues to look out for: plot, character, setting; dialogue doesn’t need to be grammatically correct.

The Editing

I do copy editing and proofreading, but will also point out things about plot, character, setting that don’t ring true or are confusing. When I read a manuscript, I look for errors (always see them more readily the first time) and read for plot (can’t read a mystery the same way twice).

For spelling, I use the Canadian Oxford; for style, Chicago Manual of Style, Canadian Press Style, and/or certain author’s preferences (e.g., all plural possessives end in s’). I keep a list of characters’ names, Kingston proper names, physical features, etc., and a list of style choices (e.g., abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, number and time formats). I keep a timesheet (tend to work at 18 pages, or approximately 4,000 words, per hour). I edit in Word using Track Changes.

I act as a “beta reader,” and as a resident of Kingston, I add value by finding inconsistencies in names (Charley/Charlie), facts (Queen’s has a principal, not a president), terminology, and timing within the plot. I think I’ve loosened up (or learned more about fiction editing) over the five books. Sometimes I’ll recommend breaking the rules (e.g., ending a sentence with a preposition because it sounds better) or using fewer semicolons.

The Proofreading

I’ve proofread books as a Word file and as an epub on my Mac. In the latter case, there was a technical problem in that Brenda couldn’t read my edits, so we discussed them by phone. Both she and the designer provide additional sets of eyes.

I appreciate how good a writer Brenda is. The stories are focused and fast-paced. They don’t “head hop” but use close, third-person point of view and one point of view per scene. They don’t include a lot of superfluous detail, and the chapters end with good cliffhangers. I’m in awe that she can construct mysteries with clues and red herrings, and I’m impressed by what she knows or has researched.

Resources for Editing Fiction

About Brenda

Life is messy, and Brenda tries to reflect that in her stories while still leaving readers with a feeling of hope. She wants them to see themselves and the people they know in her characters.

You could say writing is in Brenda’s genes. Her paternal grandmother was a formidable diarist; her father was a journalist and poet; her sister and cousin are both published authors; even her son has shown a talent for putting pen to paper (or thumbs to keypad) to tell awesome stories. So it came as no surprise to anyone when she returned to her love of fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communications—although some might argue there was plenty of opportunity for fiction writing there too.

A fan of many genres, Brenda finds it hard to stay within the publishing industry’s prescribed boxes. Whether it’s mystery, romantic suspense or women’s fiction, her greatest joy is creating deeply emotional books with memorable characters and compelling stories.

Brenda loves hearing from readers. You can connect with her through her website at

About Carolyn

Although not a professional editor, Carolyn has been editing almost all her life. From being asked to look over friends’ and colleagues’ papers and reports to taking on the general editorship of the academic journal Archivaria, she’s honed her skills through practice and editing courses.

She began her career as an archivist at the Archives of Ontario, slid into records management and privacy at York University, and is now the Chief Privacy Officer for Queen’s University, where she also runs the records management program.

Carolyn joined the Editors Association of Canada in the early 2000s, briefly ran her own part-time editorial business, and went back to full-time government work when she realized that a pension and benefits are better than starting on the bottom rung in your forties.

In addition to her day job, she volunteers as co-editor of the annual Irish Palatine Association Journal, based in County Limerick, Ireland, and is editor and proofreader for her sister’s series of mystery novels set in Kingston.

“Creating Hansard” with Kathleen Byrne

On Wednesday, May 14, Kathleen Byrne spoke to us about working at the Ontario Legislature as a transcriber at Hansard. She works in House Publications and Language Services, which is part of the Language Services Division. In this role, she transcribes the proceedings in the legislature as well as in the 10 select and standing committees.

Kathleen has a BA in English from the University of Toronto and an MA in journalism from Ryerson University. She can boast a long career in journalism, having worked as a reporter, freelance arts reporter, and reviewer for the Globe and Mail, Mississauga News, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, and Toronto Star. For 20 years, she was a reviewer mostly for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star but also for the Financial Post, Quill & Quire, Books in Canada, and Ottawa Citizen.

More recently, her roles have included editor/page designer, Globe and Mail; associate editor, Medical Post; senior editor, online news desk, CBC; and content editor, Toronto Star (foreign news and Letters to the Editor page). In addition to working part-time at the Ontario Legislature, she is a freelance editor for a variety of publications, from children’s textbooks to doctor’s e-books to romance novels to scholarly papers. Kathleen lives in Toronto.

Where Does Hansard Come From?

Here is something interesting I found on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website at “Hansard is the word-for-word account of the daily proceedings of the House and its committees. Named for the family that began the tradition in the British House of Commons, Hansard has been the official transcript of Ontario’s House proceedings since 1944. Transcribers sit at a table on the floor of the Chamber and use laptop computers to record the proceedings. The text is then edited and printed overnight, ready for distribution the following day.”

The Work of the House

The House sits from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. It doesn’t sit on Fridays, and sometimes there are evening sittings. Question Period starts at 10:30 a.m.; this is the part of the proceedings most familiar to people because it’s reported on by the media. Sittings are organized into one or more Orders of the Day, which include Second or Third Reading of bills, Members’ Statements, Reports by Committees, Introduction of Bills, Oral Questions, Motions, and Petitions.

Committees examine bills as well as certain issues – for example, throughout the spring and summer 2020, the Finance Committee invited business owners, large and small to present the hardships that they and their businesses were experiencing because of the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, the two reporters still work in the Chamber. They wear masks, as does everyone else in the room – and, indeed, throughout all the legislative buildings.

Transcribing Proceedings

Kathleen’s day is organized into turns. Each turn represents five minutes of proceedings in the House or committee and can take up to one hour to transcribe. During this time, Kathleen listens to, transcribes, and edits the dialogue. She uses a content management system called Sliq to check out each turn to work on it, then check it back in when she’s finished.

She begins by checking the first stage of transcription – closed captioning – and editing it so that it’s clear and correctly reflects what was said. She then checks all proper names, dates, and any sources that Members may have quoted. French-language text is handled by Hansard’s bilingual transcribers. When there is something to verify – such as a word that she can’t decipher or a quotation that she can’t find to confirm – she types two question marks in front it as a reminder to check it. If there is something that she can’t verify in the time allotted, she can send it to the reference department, which does a fantastic job of verifying everything.

After she’s checked in her transcription, it’s picked up by editors, who double-check everything, including the coding. French text is checked by the French-language editors. Any questions that arise from a Member’s speech – such as the spelling of a name that he or she has mentioned – are passed to the Member to answer by one of the pages who work in the Chamber, directed by one of the Hansard reporters.

When the day’s proceedings have been fully edited, the transcript is made available on the legislature website. It’s also printed and distributed to various libraries as well as the Archives of Ontario.

Kathleen reckons that there about 30 transcribers and editors working at the legislature. Their reference sources are the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, an in-house spelling guide, and an in-house style guide that’s 68 pages long.

Newspaper Editing

Kathleen described working as an editor at the Globe and Mail (2004–09) in the News, Arts, Travel, and Books sections. She was also responsible for page design and layout on the news desk. At that time, there were five sets of eyes looking at all the feature stories, columns, etc. that went into the newspaper. That was a lot of scrutiny. And people felt a sense of pride to be working there. Now, however, after rounds of cutbacks, there are only two sets of eyes, and it shows. The copy editing is no longer done in house but by a separate company (and the pay is half what Kathleen used to make).

Kathleen also worked at the Toronto Star, where the transition in editorial scrutiny has taken the same unfortunate path.

At the National and Twig Level

Webinars – There are quite a few coming up. Have a look at

Annual Conference – “Editors Transform”, June 12 and 13, will be completely online. The early-bird price lasts only a few more days – until April 26. Out of the many sessions being offered, you’re sure to find something of professional interest. For example, Kingston’s Adrienne Montgomery will be presenting on “MS Word Essentials – Don’t Start Work Without These”. All the information you need is here:

Nominations for the national executive council and national committees – Members received an email in early April. Consider nominating yourself or someone else. If you no longer have the email, contact Stephanie Stone ( or Nancy Wills ( You may also find details on the Editors Canada website.

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

Twig Annual General Meeting, later this spring – We’ll be electing one or two new coordinators and discussing the direction of the twig and any initiatives you’d like to see carried out. Please think about these issues and join us with your ideas.

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!]


[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.


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

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


A schedule of spring webinars is available at

“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.”


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.