EAC National Capital Region’s annual Wine & Cheese reception: Be sure to RSVP 

The Howells, long since recovered from their adventures on Gilligan’s Island, have been invited. And so are you.

Brush up on your wine and cheese trivia: Thurston knows his Chateaux, and Lovey knows her cheese!

Enjoy some word games, or just hang out with the Smart Set. Pearls and ascots optional.

Wednesday, November 19 at 7:30 pm

Capital Hill Hotel & Suites

88 Albert Street, Ottawa

Admission: $10 · RSVP ASAP


It`s getting colder, so let`s hunker down in warm surroundings. And what better way than to sip coffee and engage in a seminar with your writing and editing peers? Writing Proposals is a new seminar, which started off as a presentation during one of our Speaker Nights last winter. Participants were keen on Chris Lendrum`s talk, so we thought a half-day seminar would satisfy those with an additional thirst for information on writing proposals. Time is running out on this November 6 event.

Veteran seminar leader Elizabeth Macfie is back on November 18 for the perennially popular Practical Proofreading. Trained proofreaders see the errors that escape other eyes because they read in a special way using tools and techniques that focus their attention on everything in the document. She`ll show you how it`s done. You are encouraged to bring a laptop (PC or Mac) equipped with MS Word 2007 or newer to facilitate completing the exercises.

Many freelancers eventually find their way to working in the federal government. However, the requirements for government report editing can seem daunting. In this December 3 seminar, which will suit both freelancers and government workers, Laurel Hyatt will demystify the process of Editing Government Reports—from the legislative requirements that start the ball rolling, to the sign-off before publication.

What do you do when your client sends you a document to copy edit, but you quickly realize it needs much more? Substantive Editing requires a whole range of editing skills that go far beyond stylistic and copy editing. In this first seminar of the winter, instructor Jennifer Latham will share with you tips and strategies for dealing with the inherent dangers of substantive editing. This includes knowing when to rewrite and how to avoid being seduced by the text. Share your questions with her during this January 12, 2015, seminar.

Online registration for seminars is available at http://www.editors.ca/branches/ncr/seminars

October Speaker Night – New Technologies: Automated Perfection

Don’t miss Elizabeth Macfie this Wednesday, October 15, at 7:30 pm!

Continuing on our new-technology theme, October’s speaker night will feature a new application that can help us be more efficient at traditional editing tasks.

Elizabeth Macfie will demonstrate PerfectIt, a new application that automates many of our most mundane consistency checks—it’s search and replace on steroids. Watch live as PerfectIt crunches through manuscripts, chewing up capitalization, spelling and punctuation inconsistencies in its path. Learn how software is doing more of our editorial heavy lifting, liberating us for higher-level work only humans can do—for now.


When: Wednesday, October 15, 7:30 pm
Where: Capital Hill Hotel & Suites, 88 Albert Street
Free for members, $10 for non-members

Speaker Night Recap: Magic Tricks and Reference Management

By Jean Rath

When I was in high school in the 70s, I collected references by jotting their details down on index cards. I then used the information to carefully write out my bibliographies according to my teachers’ instructions. This was tedious, but the bibliography instructions were clear. If I got it right, I got better marks. I never dreamed of a day when all of that could be magically done for me. At the September Speaker Night, Carolyn Brown showed us that magic.

Reference management software has been around for fifteen years or so. It’s a tool that allows researchers to collect, manage, and insert information into documents in the preferred style. My inner teenager was most impressed, considering those meticulously written bibliographies. With this software, a reference inserted into a text will automatically update the bibliography. Carolyn also demonstrated how, with one click, an entire bibliography could be restyled.The reaction of Speaker Night attendees was the same as if she’d pulled a rabbit out of her hat.

The shades of my handwritten index card lists were also rattling around my head as I watched Carolyn demonstrate the ease with which she could build up her database of citations. When she found a useful journal article, she sent the metadata to a folder in her software with one click. She cautioned that it was important to proofread the text, since there may be errors in the downloaded data.

Carolyn focused on two software products: EndNote and Mendeley. EndNote has become an industry leader; it’s compatible with MS Word and has its own ribbon. The reference library on the computer syncs with the version on the Web, and can be shared—although Carolyn cautioned that she finds the online interface a bit clunky. Many of the hundreds of reference styles in the industry are available on EndNote, allowing for “magical” automatic changes in style. By contrast, Mendeley is free. It uses different terms than EndNote, but the way it works is similar. It has one feature not found in EndNote: when a PDF is dragged and dropped into Mendeley, the software will read and record the metadata.

Word also has a reference management feature, but it is only capable of the basics. Carolyn doesn’t recommend it for anything bigger than a university essay. She further advised that when choosing reference management software, it’s important to know which reference style will be used, and which databases the information will be extracted from.

Reference management software may look like magic, but in fact it’s a usable tool for editors. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, and Carolyn’s talk provided a comforting peek into the ways that writers and researchers can constrain all that data into something useful.

hot topic: Carolyn Brown will talk reference management software at this month’s speaker night

The major theme at the national conference in Toronto this June was new technologies — some that are changing the nature of what we work on, some that help us be more efficient at tasks we’ve always done.

Carolyn Brown will help us carry that theme forward into EAC’s fall season in Ottawa with a presentation on reference management software — EndNote and Mendeley. Learn how these applications can help you manage references, style them, and add them to documents. The best part? It can all be done automatically.

Coffee, tea and light refreshments will be served.

When: Wednesday, September 17, 7:30 pm
Where: Capital Hill Hotel & Suites, 88 Albert Street
How Much: Free for members, $10 for non-members

New Workshops Add to Old Favourites

The National Capital Region branch is proud to be introducing some dynamic new seminars this fall to add to its roster of old favourites. All seminars are designed for editors, but equally appeal to a variety of other communication specialists wishing to upgrade their skills. The NCR branch has built its reputation as a trusted source of quality training; its instructors are seasoned editors whose workshops engage participants through discussion and hands-on exercises and equip them with invaluable communication skills.

Writing and Editing for the Web is the first of the new seminars this fall. It has been developed by Moira White, whose many workshops have been an integral part of the NCR branch’s professional development program over the past several years.

Frances Peck, in demand for her seminars at EAC branches across Canada, is bringing her popular Grammar Boot Camp to Ottawa for the first time. We recommend that you register early if you don’t want to miss out on this extreme workout.

The last of our three new workshops this fall will be given by instructor Chris Lendrum. Some of you may remember Chris from one of our Speaker Nights last winter. We were so impressed that we decided to approach him about delivering a half-day seminar to share his knowledge on Writing Proposals.

The full lineup of fall seminars is listed below. Simply click on the link for a full description of those that interest you.

• Writing and Editing for the Web – September 23 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• Starting a Freelance Career – October 4 (9 a.m.–12 p.m.)
• Social Media 101 – October 4 (1–4 p.m.)
• Grammar Boot Camp – October 23 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• The Secrets of Syntax – October 24 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)
• Writing Proposals – November 6 (9 a.m.–12 p.m.)
• Practical Proofreading – November 18 (9 a.m.–4 p.m.)

What we learn from our mishaps: Tips from editors’ blunders

By Antonia McGuire

Most people would rather not repeat their most embarrassing editorial gaffes, especially in a room full of professionals. But as mortifying or daunting as it may be, sharing these experiences with each other offers an opportunity to learn and grow. Besides, no one’s perfect!

Our last speaker night featured local editors, writers and members themselves, who checked their egos at the door, and chimed in on a lively roundtable discussion. Over 15 brave souls kept the story-telling alive with tales of their biggest blunders and what they learned from them.

Here’s the digest version.

1. Sleep in your clothes. This one is pretty basic but there is something to be said for simply being prepared. Especially when you have a big meeting with clients the next day!

Editor’s tip: To avoid a rushing around frantically in morning, set aside your outfit the night before. Better yet, when travelling for work be sure to pack your work clothes, including undergarments and all those kinds of essentials. Lie them all out on your bed before stuffing everything into a carry-on piece… that way you won’t just have jogging pants to wear to a business meeting. Eeek.

2. Know your weaknesses and arrange your work around them.

Editors’s tip: If you know you have a tendency to be late, set your deadline a week ahead of schedule.

3. Confirm the goods were received. How many times have you submitted the end product to a client or editor on deadline, only to receive nada in return? No hint of, “yup everything is a-okay on this end.” So naturally, panic sets in when you realize your deadline has passed.

Editor’s tip: Ask client to reply, confirming the deliverable was received. Use read receipt feature in Outlook.

4. Proofread every round as if it’s a new draft – with fresh eyes if possible.

Editor’s tip: try reading each paragraph backwards, starting from the end to the beginning.

5. When networking or trying to make a connection, be respectful and professional. There is an acceptable yet strategic way to reach out to potential clients or new editors to pitch… but pointing out their mistakes in x publication, book, article, etc., is not recommended if you actually want to get work or get a call back. Remain courteous, professional and attentive to their needs at all times. Because a real know-it-all is a real turn off.

6. “Tolkien was not a misogynist.” Find out who you are speaking to before offering your opinion to others, especially before going on a rant in an elevator to the editor of that famous book series, for example.

7. Norwegians know their grammar, but write like Yoda. To make a long story short, check your ego at the door and don’t be afraid to use your reference books or dictionaries to look things up. Always fact-check and proofread your work (sort of obvious) but it’s amazing how many “tweaks” one can find after third and fourth reviews.

8. Commentary or feedback that doesn’t improve the text feels insulting. The 360 feedback loop we get from the editorial process is essential to producing the best quality work possible. And … avoiding career-crushing mistakes or factual errors. Professionally speaking, we all need to learn how to take feedback – the good with the bad. Novice writers especially tend to struggle with this. To survive and thrive in this business, you develop thicker skin and a sense of humour. For editors, reviewers and writers alike, there is a way to give constructive feedback. Ranting and raving is not one of them. If you’re being defensive and difficult to work with, chances are it will be your last chance with that publication.

9. Adjective pile-ups make for translation problems. When working with bilingual documents, it is common to discover the occasional awkward English sentence that is difficult to translate. Editing is an iterative process. Practice doing text concordances by comparing English to French. If your language skills aren’t up to snuff, ask a colleague to help you look it over.

10. Double negatives can stymie readers in both languages. Whether it’s due to poor grammar, false punctuation or simply that the writer failed to explain something clearly, double negatives only confuse the reader. Editors shine in this respect by adding clarity, consistency and polishing to pieces when necessary.

11. Know your terminology limits. Use this rhyme to remember: when in doubt, check it out. Some editors and writers who specialize in technical, medical or financial writing will have acquired this in-depth knowledge and terminology from their studies or years of experience in the field. However, most of us don’t, so acknowledge that limitation and compensate accordingly by using back-up resources, contractors or by reading up!

12. Google before you diss. Or, just don’t throw insults out into the public via your Twitter or Facebook account – ever. It’s a small industry once you’ve been in it for awhile. You never know who will be listening or watching.

13. Rigorous checking of dictionary is a must.

14. Extra-rigorous checking of dictionary. Did I mention that?

Okay, now it’s your turn! What did you learn from an editorial mistake? Did you find this post helpful?
Share your thoughts or suggest a blog topic.

Book Buzz: Why is Q Always Followed by U? A review by Bhavana Gopinath



Book buzz: Why Is Q always followed by U? Michael Quinion, Penguin, 2009

In an office meeting, your boss talks about “pushing the envelope.” Your eyes glaze over at the overused jargon and you wonder how hard it could be to shove around a piece of stationery. But wait! Where did that phrase come from, anyway?

Native speakers of English absorb the language by osmosis and take its quirks for granted. We forget that this vibrant language has assimilated words from many linguistic ancestors and geographies. Until we bump into uncommon words like “scuttlebutt” or “argy-bargy,” or use phrases like “laugh all the way to the bank,” “on a wing and a prayer,” “panic button,” and yes, “push the envelope.” Where do all these words and phrases come from? And while we’re at it, why isQ always followed by U?

Ask Michael Quinion. Having worked on the Oxford English Dictionary for many years, Quinion is well positioned to answer these questions. Indeed he did, in the Q&A section of his website, http://worldwidewords.org. Why is Q always followed by U? is a compilation of the responses to the most popular of these questions.

Quinion’s readers from all over the English-speaking world have submitted wide-ranging questions about usage, origin, spelling, and even pronunciation. Quinion finds clues, connections, and quotations from several sources and answers all of these. For instance, his response to the titular question encompasses the Phoenicians, the Greek, the Etruscans, the Romans, the Old English, and the French. He also provides explanations for such delightful expressions such as “whim-wham for a goose’s bridle,” “trig and trim,” “shaggy dog story,” and others.

My favourite gems:

Spelling bee The “bee” refers not to the insect, but to the English dialect word been. This is a variation on boon, which once meant ‘voluntary help, given to a farmer by his neighbors in time of harvest, haymaking etc.’ Bee is a classic North American word developed among farmers for various kinds of mutual help at key times of the year, hence “sewing bee,” “quilting bee,” and (barn) “raising bee.” In the nineteenth century, informal spelling matches among neighbors or in schools morphed into larger competitions with prizes. These became a big craze. In 1874, the term “spelling bee” first appeared and then spread quickly and widely. For Americans, it redefined bee to mean a public contest.

Lieutenant Ever wondered how to pronounce this correctly? The Americans say “lutenant” while the British say “leftenant”. The word is derived from lieu, meaning place, and tenant, holding. Etymologically, the pronunciation ought to be lieu, so the Americans seem to have gotten it right. Perhaps early readers in Britain misread u as v and therefore settled on “leftenant.” This version was actually taken to the North American colonies, where it changed to its modern pronunciation in the nineteenth century — aided by Noah Webster’s 1928 dictionary, which recommended “lutenant.”

Stationary/stationery These are similar because they come from the Latin “stationarius” and have related meanings. In medieval times, a stationarius was a trader based at a military station, who had a fixed store and not an itinerant business. He usually sold books and had links to universities. The word became stationer in English by the fourteenth century. In the days before movable type, when everything had to be written and copied by hand, a stationer not only sold books but also copied and bound them, and sold related materials such as paper, pens, and ink. By the seventeenth century, when printing had become well established­­, a bookseller sold finished books, while a stationer sold writing materials. Stationery as a term for writing materials appeared in the eighteenth century, while the word stationary became an adjective for things that do not move around.

Push the envelope This term comes from the world of aircraft design. In aeronautics, the flight envelope is the outer boundary of all the mathematical curves that describe the safe performance of the aircraft under various engineering and atmospheric conditions. It is taken to be the known limits for the safe performance of the aircraft. When test pilots test an aircraft, they “push” these limits to compare calculated performance limits against data derived from actual flights and to determine what the plane is capable of doing and where failure is likely to occur. Today, we understand it in the sense of going, or attempting to go, beyond the limits of what is known to be possible.

Suffice to say that Why is Q always followed by U? is a fascinating book for word nerds. Read it to gain a better appreciation of the English language’s dynamic and ever-changing spirit.

Have you read this book? Or perhaps you have read “Port out, starboard home” by the same author? Do share your experiences in the comments section below.

Bhavana is a freelance editor in Ottawa. When not editing, she devours books and really, really, loves her local library.