Capital Letters is recruiting blog writers!

Are you passionate about an aspect of editing? If so, please take some time to share your thoughts and experiences with your editing colleagues.

Are you new to blogging? No problem. We can work together to produce the postings. Write a one-time posting or join the team to be a regular writer. We have topics for you to choose from or you can write about your editing-related favorite topics. If you don’t wish to write but have thoughts on subjects you would like to read more about, let us know. We are looking to increase our postings, but we need your help. Thank-You!

Life Without Commas

Johnny Got His Gun. Dalton Trumbo (1939)

Can you imagine being Johnny, aware of your thoughts but locked in a dysfunctional body? You do not have arms, legs, sight, speech, or hearing. You do have an awareness of presence, and you have a memory, but you are trapped. You are aware of people caring for you, yet you cannot respond in any way…not even with grunts or movements. You feel like you have swallowed dynamite[1] but then again, it might be a hangover.

You sift through your memories to understand, and you remember leaving loved ones behind. You recall the hype of the beginning of a war. You have a flood of recollections from your short lifetime, you are very young. You are one of hundreds of thousands of casualties of WWI and you are trapped in a defunct body in an institution somewhere…you don’t know where, and your caregivers don’t know your name. Would your thoughts require pauses and breathes? Would it matter a damn if you included commas in your narrative? Not likely.

I was reading this book at the fast pace the flooding thoughts of the protagonist were jumping at me from the pages, and it struck me that there were no commas. I thought it was a mistake and so I reviewed the pages again and realized there were absolutely no comas.  How could a prolific screenplay writer and award-winning novelist “forget” about comma usage? As I continued to read on, I understood. As a young victim of war, “Johnny” was the amputee poster child for the anti-war movements; and the book—representative of the devastation war brings. The book, written about WWI, served as a controversial testimony during WWII, the war in Vietnam, and the Korean war.

This narrative without commas far better describes to the audience the agony Johnny is experiencing (but cannot speak to) as a victim of war. It is almost as if there were no breath, no pause…only thoughts constantly rolling around in the mind of a young victim of war.

My son-in-law found Johnny Got His Gun in a used book store in Seattle.  The author, Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten (film writers blacklisted during the McCarthy era). The book, described as a “great anti-war novel” [2], was first published in 1939. Trumbo was blacklisted from 1947 to 1960 for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee (he was jailed). Although Trumbo denies being informed that his book was suppressed, many others believed it went out of print during WWII and the Vietnam war because of the controversial content.

The history of the comma dates to third century BC. Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of dots to separate verses and indicate how much breath is needed to complete a sentence when reading out loud. [3] Discussions about the usage of commas reach the highest level in the “Oxford Comma Wars”.[4]  Personally, I always thought it was rather petty to discuss such trivia but seemingly it is not.

Artists and writers deviate from rules and regulations to freely express themselves. As a student of editing, I am learning that there is a very fine line between artistic expression and regulation. I edited a children’s novel and suggested to the author the insertion of commas at appropriate places. She absolutely reacted…negatively. She did not want commas in her book and while I didn’t agree with her, it was her call…it was her creation.


1 Trumbo, Dalton.1970. Johnny Got His Gun. Bantam Books. New York, pg.3

2 (Trumbo 1970, i

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristophanes_of_Byzantium

4 The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars. (n.d.).  Retrieved 10 16, 2018, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/33637/best-shots-fired-oxford-comma-wars

Editors’ Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs

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

Tay River Retreat

                                                        

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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.

CLOSING

 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!

 

vg

                             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!

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                                      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

Editors Ottawa Gatineau: AGM

 

Barbara Erb

Welcome to the 2018-2019 year of activities for the Ottawa-Gatineau Branch. Thanks to Bhavana Gopinath for her work as the former blog editor. As your current blog editor, I hope I can fill her shoes.

As you may recall, I was the person in the “editing crisis blog entry last year. I will follow-up with more thoughts on editing and the like…with hopes of getting input, comments, and entries from all of you in the near future. I will also be inviting your suggestions as to ways we can continue to make our branch activities meaningful to you.

This entry is to provide you with an update from the AGM which was held on April 16th, 2018 at Christ Church Cathedral. We are hoping to have a much better show of members next year. As we plan for events of the coming year we are also extending the invitation for you to participate and join the team who are currently striving to meet your membership needs. If you wish to review the job descriptions of any of the volunteer positions, they are available on the “About Editors Ottawa-Gatineau” page of the blog.

Please take note of Sara Caverly’s message below:

 “As a member of Editors Ottawa–Gatineau, you’re invited to participate in building our executive team for the year ahead.

Your branch executive for 2018-19 is made up of members in the positions below, but there is still a chance for you to join them. This is an exciting time to volunteer with the branch, as we work together to stay relevant, support professional development, promote editing and build community.

If you would like to hold a position on the executive, please submit your intent to stand to the Acting Chair ott-gat.vicechair@editors.ca by June 30, 2018.

The vacant roles to be filled by board appointment are: (Student affiliate or full members)
Membership Co-Chair                      Speaker Night Co-Chair

The vacant roles to be filled by membership election are: (Full members only)
Chair
                                                   Secretary

Note: Acting officers are assuming vacant seats until members are elected to fill them.

A/chair: Sara Caverley, vice chair      A/secretary: Tom Vradenburg, past chair

Should you have any questions, please contact us at: ott-gat.vicechair@editors.ca. We look forward to sharing results with you in July.”

Thanks for your support and involvement,
Editors Ottawa–Gatineau executive

 Editors Ottawa–Gatineau Executive (2018-19)

Returning executive officers

Vice Chair: Sara Caverley

Past Chair: Tom Vradenburg

Treasurer: Lindsey McDonald

Public Relations Chair: Ariel Vered

Returning appointed board members

Seminars Chair: Sara Fowler

French Relations Chair: Béatrice Verley

Membership Co-Chair: Maurie Barrett

 New appointed board members

Capital Letters Blog Editor: Barbara Erb

Emily Stewart (standing for appointment)