Welcome to the New Year

Editors’ Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs

Celebrating 40 years of editorial excellence / Célébrons 40 ans d’excellence en révision 

Welcome to 2019 and a new year of exciting events with the Ottawa-Gatineau Branch. We sincerely hope all of you had a joyful holiday season. As we sally up to the 2019 calendar year, let’s set some New Year’s resolutions to meet our professional goals…much easier and more fun that the usual goals that seem to fail by the end of this month. Emily Stewart, Speaker Night Chairperson, suggests we make five resolutions.  Following is a list of events to choose from:

Attend one or all Speaker Night presentations at Christ Church Cathedral:

  • January 16, 2019:What Do Sensitivity Readers Do?

Elliott Dunstan explains the role and responsibilities of sensitivity readers and shares his experiences reading for d/Deaf, trans, and mental illness representation. Book and Periodical Council members are invited to attend this event for free.

  • February 20, 2019:  Literary Tourism with Nigel Beale

The Biblio File is a popular book podcast with over 300 episodes. Host Nigel Beale discusses blogging and podcasting about books and travel and shares his experiences interviewing authors, publishers, booksellers, editors, book collectors, librarians, conservators, and illustrators.

  • March 20, 2019: Visual and Verbal Aspect of Typography with Andrea Emery

Sure, the words are important, but so is the way the words look. Graphic designer Andrea Emery discusses the importance of typography in layout and design, sharing her over 30 years of experience as a graphic designer.

  • April 17, 2019:  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for Web Authors

David MacDonald covers some of the considerations to keep in mind when writing or editing web content for a broad audience that includes those with disabilities.

Attend a Professional Seminar offered by Editors Ottawa–Gatineau at Capital Hill Suites:

Attend a conference

  • Editors’ Association of Canada / Celebrating 40 years of editorial excellence in Halifax, June 7-9, 2019 at the Westin Nova Scotian in HalifaX

Enhance your interest in words and books

  • Attend the Small press Book Fair on June 22, 2019
  • Check out the Writers Festivals in May and October
  • Don’t forget about the trivia events around the city throughout the year and World Trivia Night! It’s the world’s largest live trivia event and it’s in Ottawa. Teams compete for a $10,000 prize

All the best for a successful, prosperous year.

Editors’ Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs

Celebrating 40 years of editorial excellence / Célébrons 40 ans d’excellence en révision  


From Script to Screen Holiday Party


November 28, 2018

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than to gather for an evening of food, wine, and conversation?

On November 28th, we held our annual holiday party. When we started planning this event in September, we knew we wanted to do something special and memorable for our last gathering of 2018. Director and video editor Matt West helped to make that possible at the Mayfair Theatre—one of Canada’s oldest, surviving, independent movie houses.

Our theme was “From Script to Screen” and our goal—aside from stuffing our faces with delicious nibbles from Epicuria, and enjoying a glass of wine or two—was to learn a little something about a different medium from what most members of Editors Ottawa work in.

After opening remarks and raffle prizes, Matt took to the stage. He has worked on over 800 episodes of lifestyle television and had much to share on directing and editing footage. And he brought a surprise second speaker—writer and producer Kathy McIntyre.

The pair have worked together on various projects for years and recently launched KatMat Media. Together they covered the entire process of bringing a concept to the screen…from early research to final cuts.

Despite the discussions of video editing, some things seemed a bit familiar to the (text) editors in the crowd. For example, anyone who has edited a passage of writing to reduce word count, probably sympathized with Matt’s story about cutting 10 seconds out of a video to meet the proper episode time.

Of course, we also talked about some of the differences between text and video editing. Text often presents alone, unless supported by illustrations or other figures. Television utilizes visuals, dialogue, and music. As Kathy pointed out, action and dialogue should support each other rather than reiterate the same information. All audio and visual elements have to work together to evoke emotions.

The foodies in the audience also enjoyed the stories about cooking on set with chefs like Micheal Bonacini and Spencer Watts. We also had the treat of seeing a few clips of Matt and Kathy’s work. A rousing round of questions followed the presentation and then it was time for more raffle prizes, more food, and more drinks!

We had an attendance of more than 40 and it was truly wonderful to see everyone out especially during this wintery weather. I think it was a delightful way to end our 2018 season and get excited for the new year! A special thanks to those who helped plan the event. Have a happy and safe holiday and we will see you in January!

Emily Stewart, Speakers Night Chair


World Trivia Night – November 16, 2018

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Editors, by nature, are inquisitive and analytical people. They are likely to feel as though their years of sequestered bookishness have afforded them a certain level of intelligence. Dare I say, some may even consider themselves among the smarter people in a room?  If this describes you and you are seeking a reality check – we encourage you to participate in next year’s World Trivia Night. Described by first-timers as a “humbling experience”, this annual event has been held in Ottawa since 1993.

During our retreat this past summer, the Ottawa-Gatineau branch executive thought it would be fun to create an editor’s team. On November 16, four executive members were joined by five branch members for an evening of wine, wisdom, and wonder. Amidst over 1,200 custodians of random facts assembled to vie for the bragging rights of Ottawa’s top trivia team, we reached into the deepest recesses to recall our scraps of knowledge related to geography, music, gastronomy, and (sigh) video games.

Also in attendance was the Word Nerd Herd, another group of Ottawa-Gatineau editors. Veterans of the event, having attended for over a decade, this team is comprised of some of our seminar instructors as well as branch and national executive alumni. This impressive group ranked 14 out of 39.

The new group, simply named Editors Ottawa-Gatineau placed 24th. This humble (yet not bad for a first-time) score did not discourage our team. On the contrary, everyone so thoroughly enjoyed the evening, it inspired us to use the upcoming winter as an opportunity to get in shape for next year. Trivia events are hosted most nights of the week at pubs throughout the city – and we plan to take full advantage. Keep your eyes open for news about where and when we’ll be gathering – we’d love to get more people involved.

Sara Fowler


Check this out!   2018-2019 seminars and events, Ottawa – Gatineau Branch  


black and blue pens beside red covered notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Professional development seminar schedule.

November 21, 2018  Copy Editing 1 (Moira Rayner White)

January 22, 2019      Editing Technical Content (Marta Cepek)

March 6, 2019           Electronic Editing (Graham Young)

April 9, 2019             Writing Effective Procedures (Marta Cepek)

May 15, 2019             The Sweet Spot—Editing Infographics (Laurel Hyatt)


And Don’t Forget to Join us on Wednesday November 28/18 for our annual Holiday Wine and Cheese! 

alcohol alcoholic beverage celebrate
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 This year’s theme is From Script to Screen. Our featured speaker is Matt West, director and video editor. Matt has over 10 years of experience and has worked on such award-winning shows as Fish the Dish. He’ll be discussing storytelling and video production. If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite television shows are created or wanted to learn about the kind of editing based on audio and video rather than words on a page, this presentation is for you!

Get ready for a fun-filled night with snacks, drinks, and good conversation!

Ticket prices:

$25 Members

$35 Non-Members

$15 Students (affiliates or non-affiliates)

All tickets include 2 drink tickets and entrance into raffle for door prizes.

6:30 to 8:00 pm, Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank St., Ottawa

RSVP to https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/wine-and-cheese-holiday-party-from-script-to-screen-tickets-51555897076 or to ottawa-gatineau@editors.ca by November 21, 2018.

October Speaker Night



Chris Johnson

How on Earth Do You Edit Poetry?

On Wednesday October 17, we gathered at Christ Church Cathedral for another speaker night. This month’s topic: How on Earth Do You Edit Poetry?

After some time for networking and what were described by multiple attendees as “the best cookies ever,” Chris began by telling us a little bit about Arc Poetry’s history.  The magazine was founded in 1978, making this year it’s fortieth year!

Poetry can seem mystifying to those with little experience in the genre, but Chris made poetry seem much less foreign by assuring us that many of the skills we have from reading and editing prose are transferable.

Grammar and spelling, of course, need to be checked in poetry as they do in prose. But, like prose, poetry can also be examined for internal logic—or for a reasoning behind a lack of logic, in some cases—and poems can even be fact checked. Consistent mood and tone are also important to edit for.

To underscore the idea that editing poetry isn’t completely different from editing anything else, we need look no further than the article Chris shared about former Arc editor John Barton’s work on a Maureen Hynes Poem called “Inside the Blind.”

Barton shares his working papers in this article, and these will look very familiar to any editor familiar with Track Changes. Those of us in the audience certainly took comfort in the familiarity of comment bubbles lining the right side of the page and the discussions of word use and alternative phrasings within them.

While we can bring our prose experience to poetry, Chris does admit that editing for meaning can be a challenge. Poems aren’t always straightforward and can purposely obfuscate, depending on the poet’s motives. Chris suggested that when confronted with a poem that doesn’t seem to make sense, we ask ourselves, does this poem intentionally stop making sense? Is it trying to confuse? Is the poet railing against tradition?

Of course, there’s also the matter of poetic structure and form. Chris told us of various formats and stressed that some are easier to edit than others, since some forms have strict “rules” about rhythm and rhyme.

I’m sure many of us would have loved to continue discussing poetry, and that some would have even enjoyed getting into the nitty gritty of stressed and unstressed syllables, but—alas!—speaker night can only last so long.

But luckily, those who weren’t fully satiated and those who couldn’t join us on Wednesday, can attend the Ottawa Writers Festival w/ Dionne Brand on October 27, 2018 at Christ Church Cathedral. Since Editors Ottawa-Gatineau has sponsored the Writers Festival event, members will receive free admission!

Emily Stewart                                        emily-e1540402995248.jpg

Tay River Retreat


Maurie Barrett, Sara Caverley, Béatrice Verley, Emily Stewart, Sara Fowler, Ariel Vered

 Not unlike the ByWard Bear, the Editors Ottawa–Gatineau executive was transported to a lush woodland setting in Lanark County early this September. Animals ourselves, after all, we covet connection to the living world and many kinds of critters.

Some of us started the weekend camping on the bank of Silver Lake that so wonderfully renewed our weary spirits heading into our retreat on the Tay River.  

We ordinarily meet for an hour every couple of months in downtown Ottawa. This year, we have a largely new team leading the branch, who have created more open space and time for groupwork.

Our retreat surroundings had the full spectrum of nature. The slope of exposed Precambrian rocks hinted they could draw deep breaths, and tangles of forest canopy added to its splendour. A walk down to the Tay River gave us the inner calm we needed to let our inspiration flow.

Here, we found creative solutions to some of our challenges. We learned how to better share our leadership. We found exciting ways to promote our community and serve our members into the future.  We left with a stronger bond, a plan for the new season, and a resolve for more spells in wild places.

Our branch executive is made up of volunteers, so we can dedicate funds to serving our members. We’re looking for co-chairs to help spread the load with our existing executive, as well volunteers to lead one-time projects. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do, we would love to hear from you: ottawa-gatineau@editors.ca.

Sara Caverley, Chair




September Speaker Night

by Emily Stewart            Capture

On Wednesday, September 19th we gathered at Christchurch Cathedral for our first speaker night of the season. Our theme: literary potluck. Our speaker: writer, publisher, and blogger rob mclennan.

We kicked off the evening with literary themed food and drink. We had salad (Julius Caesar), devilled eggs (Green Eggs and Ham), pie (Life of Pie), Marilla Cuthbert’s red currant wine (Anne of Green Gables) and more.

After networking time, the executive took the floor for introductions and to announce plans for the year. We’ve got lots of fun stuff coming up, so be sure to check out our programming page if you missed out on the announcements.

Finally, we had our featured speaker, rob mclennan, take the stage. rob is a powerhouse in the Ottawa literary community. He does a lot around town to promote literature and bring words into the world. He:

And all this with two young kids at home!

With so much experience under his belt, rob had a lot of anecdotes and wisdom to offer. He told us about how he started writing and publishing and how these efforts led to more creative projects. The discussion also covered the challenges and frustrations of working in literature in Ottawa and some Ottawa history.

He mentioned  literary events that members might be interested in. According to rob, the best way to stay in the know about these events is through Bywords.ca’s events calendar. Check it out or follow Bywords on Facebook or Twitter.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this discussion was “action generates action.” Creating and sharing leads to more opportunities. rob is definitely an example of this and I think this mentality is valuable to keep in mind as we continue building the editing community, our networks, and businesses.

My goal for the evening was to have our members reconnect with one another while learning about the larger literary community in Ottawa. Though we were a small group this month, we had a fun, informal night.

I hope everyone enjoyed it and if anyone has any feedback or ideas for future speaker nights, feel free to let me know.

See you next month!

Emily Stewart, Speakers Night Chair

Interview with Cheryl Stephens

The Plain Language Wizard

 Many of you may know Cheryl Stephens and her editing skills. Cheryl taught me Structural Editing and Stylistic Editing at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Honestly, I was intimidated to take the courses. Cheryl can slash, cut, and burn unwanted words and sentences, and restructure a document in a flash with her magic wand—impressive indeed! But it’s not magic; it’s experience.

Cheryl has many accomplishments in a career dedicated to Plain Language communications:

  • She has published several books on Plain Language in hard and e-copy, and Rapport: News about Plain Language through the 90s.
  • In the early 80s, she worked as a lawyer, and as a legal educator. Her work as a legal editor brought her to plain language.
  • In 1990, she helped develop a training course for lawyers.
  • In 1993, she co-founded, with Kate Harrison, the Plain Language Consultants Network which evolved into the Plain Language Association International Network (PLAIN). The two women later founded International Plain Language Day which is celebrated world-wide each October 13 and is now managed by PLAIN.
  • She co-chaired PLAIN conferences: Winnipeg 1995, Calgary 1997, Houston 2000, and Vancouver 2013.
  • Cheryl has been an innovator and early adopter of technology and social media. She set up Plain Language On line in 1993. She also ran PLAIN’s list serve and internet discussion group and set up their first website.

 Ms. Stephens. Thank you for agreeing to the interview for Capital Letters.

 Q. What was the biggest motivator for you to leave a legal career to become an editor?

Frankly, I burnt out on law practice. I had always wanted to teach adults, so I got involved in paralegal education. An opportunity arose to supervise paralegals while spending half my time on legal editing to set up a document bank. Editing legal materials would drive anybody toward embracing plain language.

Q. Did you have any difficulty persuading your legal colleagues to accommodate plain language?

I had to persuade them to create a style guide and it took a year of committee meetings to work that out. I characterized it as modernizing and rationalizing their templates.

Q. Are you the original initiator of plain language writing in Canada?

 A. No, not at all. I was late to the game. I only learned about plain language from an article written about the 1999 Canadian tour by Australia’s innovator Robert Eagleson. But the federal government and Manitoba, Alberta, and Ontario were already at work on plain language.

Q. Accessibility started years ago with streets and sidewalks. Is Communication Accessibility the new kid on the block?

A. Yes, we have a right to understand. The internet has given us website and content accessibility and standards. Ontario’s disability law provides the right to usable information. The proposed Canadian Accessibility Act will cover communication. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with  Disabilities recognizes the role of  plain  language and provides that when  an  institution  is  required  to  provide  information, it  needs to be understandable.


The Facets of the General Public as Audience

(Cheryl co-authored this paper with Mariah Stufflebeam in February 2017)

Q. You refer to the audience and the reader as a “multifaceted diamond with a multitude of complexities including physical, emotional, intellectual, and mental challenges”. How can we ever, as writers and editors, possibly address all these issues without becoming blocked?

 A. Perhaps you cannot. But you can:

  • Find out as much as you can about your readers and cater to them. Some disabilities and challenges have specific guidelines for communication. Google their needs as readers.
  • Become aware of the many challenges facing even competent adult readers and be as simple and clear as you can be.

Q. Many people don’t think about communication when they think of accessibility. In your paper you point out that 48% of Canadians are lower level readers. Is grade six still the level we should consider standard for plain language writing?

A. I am going to start refusing to discuss school-grade reading levels although there is chapter about them in my book Plain Language in Plain English.

The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) is the best framework for discussing reading abilities. These are the levels they have described:

Level 1 – difficulty reading, few basic skills or strategies for decoding and working with text

Level 2 – limited skills, can read, but not well and can only deal with simple material, clearly laid out

Level 3 – can read well but may have problems with more complex tasks

Levels 4 & 5 – strong literacy skills, including a wide range of reading skills, many strategies for dealing with complex materials (only about 3% of readers are at highly skilled readers at level 5)

 Level 3 is the target audience for clear communication. The Canadian government says that Level 3 is the minimum level to function in modern society. The Conference Board of Canada has said that people in the top half of level 3 are employable in an information society. That 48% is the readers at Levels 1 and 2, people who avoid reading or seek help with documents.

People at level 4 will be grateful for clarity of information. As you know from reading the paper, even readers with level 4 skills can suffer situational low literacy.

 Q. To what extent does an editor correct an author’s work to make the communication accessible as described in the paper?

 A. The editor is the reader’s advocate. The editor must negotiate terms with the author, in the best interests of the reader.

Q. In your paper you indicate that more than 50% of medical patients have trouble understanding medical information. Do you know of initiatives by health ministries or hospitals to address plain language issues?

A. Yes, there are many initiatives in Canada, the US, and UK. The term used in that field is health literacy which encompasses the communication responsibilities of professionals and institutions.

Q. Do you think that editors and writers should routinely create personas of their readers for everything they write or edit? Would there be exceptions?

 A. Not routinely, but whenever one needs reminding of a particular reader or a diversity of readers. Personally, I have not used them, but they have been useful tools for teaching—for getting editors to think about their readers.

Q. Your resource posters from the UK are very helpful. How long have the UK and other countries been advocating for plain language in communication.

 A. The recent story of plain language starts from the consumer rights movement in the 70s. There was a convergence of interest in plain language from literacy advocates and proponents of access to justice in the 80s.

Plain Language Association International Network (PLAIN)

Q. In 1993 you co-founded Plain Language Consultants Network. How did this evolve into PLAIN?

A. After being its coordinator for 7 years, I was able to hand it over to others who changed the name and incorporated. I was on the sidelines while that all happened.

Q. You are a strong advocate of social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. How has this enabled your career?

A. For many years, I dominated the first page of a Google search for plain language. I have gotten many clients from a search that turned up my websites. But my use of the internet and social media has allowed me to make connections internationally that have made my life better and my work easier.

I think anyone needs to limit themselves to just a few platforms and the ones that seem most productive and safe. I do tell my students that they should join online editors’ groups.

Q. You have a following of 18,000 in LinkedIn Group Plain Language Advocates. Does this group promote plain language in an organized way?

 A. I had built the LinkedIn Group to 15,000 members before turning it over to PLAIN. I passed on another group for plain language legal writers to Clarity, the international movement for plain legal language. I hope both organizations will be able to maximize the group impact.


 Q. What advice do you have for editing students who hope to have a career in editing?

 A. Unless you can find a staff position, you must learn to run a small business, do the marketing and networking required, and love the work. And join professional associations.

Q. What does the future hold for you? Do you have any new projects underway?

A. I continue to teach online for SFU and for the Plain Language Academy. I am a subject matter expert with skritswap, Inc. which is developing editing software. I will be presenting at Clarity2018 in Montreal in October. I volunteer with 2 community organizations and I am organizing amateur artists in my neighbourhood.

Thank you for your time, Cheryl. It has been a pleasure and a learning experience to interview you.














About Blogging

Vicki Gregory, a student at SFU, will complete the final project for the Editing Certificate in November, 2018. She recently took a web writing class which required her to write a blog post. The post is a recipe but encompasses techniques, length, style, keywords and titles   recommended as good practice in blogging.

Thank you Vicki. We get to see a well-written blog post and a recipe for our cook books!



                             How to make vegan pâté

This vegan pâté recipe was given to me by my friend Christine. We met about 20 years ago at a homeschool group. We were close friends for many years, but ended up losing touch – lives change, and in our case, got complicated.

Last year Christine passed away, way too young, from long-term health problems. This brought up a lot of sadness, and regret for me, wishing I’d found some way to bridge the gap before it was too late.

This recipe may have come from a book, I don’t recall, and the details are lost to time. In my mind it’s Christine’s creation, and has become a family favorite recipe. I’m sharing it with you as a tribute to her. She was generous, witty, could laugh like a kid, got to the truth in any matter, and raised two great kids – now the nicest men you could ever meet.

A quick and easy meal

If you are looking for an easy lunch idea, this vegan pâté recipe fits the bill!

It’s filled with nutritional yeast, a must have for a vegan’s vitamin B12 intake, and just plain yummy!


                                      Nutritional yeast – versatile and yummy!

Allergy friendly

Free of dairy, eggs, and peanuts –  some of the most common food allergies!

The ingredients

The ingredients for vegan pâté are very easy-to-find, everyday foods. If you’re new to vegetarian or vegan cooking, the only thing just a little off the beaten path is the nutritional yeast (aka yeast flakes). This can be found in the spice aisle at Bulk Barn, or order online at Amazon – and is very cheap, so get lots!

Speaking from experience do not substitute other ingredients, or even think about reducing the salt!

It’s just not the same without each and every ingredient. Try it, you’ll see!

  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup spelt flour
  • ½ cup light olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium raw potato with skin left on, grated
  • 1 medium raw carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp dry basil
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp salt

Making the recipe

  1. Place sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, spelt flour, olive oil, lemon juice, onion, hot water, all spices, and salt, in a food processor and pulse until it’s still a bit chunky but mostly liquid. Like it smoother? Just blend a bit longer.
  2. Grate the potato, and carrot into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  3. Add in your blended ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour the whole works into an oiled no-stick loaf pan, and bake at 350 F (177 C) for 1 hour.

Mix well! Bake! Enjoy!

How to serve it

If you can’t wait, get a fork and eat it straight out of the pan!

Best served warm, but will be very tasty refrigerated, and will last up to 1 week.

Vegan pâté is great in wraps with lettuce, and mustard, or vegan mayo.

Can also be eaten as an appetizer on crackers with Dijon mustard, or Sriracha.

Paleo version

Update! The ‘no substitutions’ rule has been broken! After reading this article my daughter was inspired to create a paleo version – just as yummy!

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment!

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Capital Letters…seeking bloggers! Experience not necessary

I hope you are enjoying the glorious summer.  Do you find it hard to be inside when the sunny blue skies are inviting you to enjoy the great outdoors?

I am a believer in stats. I know they can be used to fulfil numerous needs, but I do try to use them to move forward in positive directions.

I have been looking at Capital Letters stats to find when readers engage and what they want.

Since September 2017, the monthly average is 158 views by 90 people. Wednesday, 7 pm is the most popular day and time for views.

The stats tell me that the Capital Letters Blog has a steady following of 88 people. Imagine if each follower wrote an entry just twice a year, we could have more entries in a year than we have had in six. Since 2012 there have been 130 posts and 75 comments.

I volunteered to be the “motivator blog-editor person”, but this is not my blog, it’s yours!  If I, a novice in the field can do this thing, so can you!

Do you have any thoughts or comments about your editing experience? Is it a lucrative endeavour for you or is it an opportunity for you to express your creativity and love of the written (and edited) word? Or all the above?

I challenge each of you to share your thoughts…be it writing a blog entry about your passion for editing or posting a comment.

It would be so helpful to hear from as many of you as care to share.

Oh, and tell us how you love to spend the crazy, lazy days of summer!

Post comments directly on-line or mail your blog entry for uploading to erb.editing@gmail.com

By Barbara Erb