On Canadian English and Dictionaries: Q&A

Here’s a list of Canadian dictionaries I have on my bookshelf. Question: What stands out? 

Answers: How old they are. How some are adapted.

In an opinion piece in Quill and Quire, Emma Skagen (a fellow Canadian editor) complains about the lack of an updated, homegrown dictionary of Canadian English. I agree with her concern. Writers and editors have complex relationships with dictionaries.

The fact that Oxford University Press published the Canadian Oxford Dictionary under the outstanding editor-in-chief Katherine Barber was a feat, but today CanOx or COD (as Canadian editors call it) needs to be updated, or some other new, homegrown dictionary of Canadian English needs to be developed.

Back before 1998, I heard things like “Use Gage but change to ‘-our’ and see our style guide for other preferences, and note all variations on the style sheet.” Or “use Gage but use ‘–or’ because this is for the Alberta and B.C. market.” Or “Use Nelson and keep a style sheet, of course.” Or “Use the most-recent Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and check CP Style for anything you can’t find, and keep a style sheet, of course.” And can you imagine teaching spelling in Canadian schools? And what about distinctly Canadian and regional words and their meanings? Keep a style sheet, of course.

The years 1997 and 1998 changed all that. Three different dictionaries of Canadian English were released and CanOx had particular heft (“five years of work by five Canadian lexicographers examining almost twenty million words of Canadian text held in databases representing over 8,000 different Canadian publications” not to mention the regional analysis and the database of citations shared by lexicographers for the Oxford English Dictionary around the world). Canadian editors could look to one source describing Canadian English (and keep a style sheet, of course) as we edited, queried authors, and wrote. We could even compare new dictionaries—word nerd heaven!

The second and last edition of CanOx was published in 2004. So, for a descriptive (not prescriptive) dictionary, that is old. Yes, Oxford University Press (OUP) makes ongoing additions with Canadian English to Oxford Languages. And, yes, a Canadian editor could use a combination of CanOx from 2004 and the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling or specific subject, industry, or government guides. Could Editors Canada collaborate with Canadian publishers to create an up-to-date, homegrown dictionary of Canadian English? Alas, Editors Canada had long negotiations about that, as Emma Skagen recounts in Quill and Quire, but no contract was signed. 

So while editors who edit Canadian English grumble about their patchwork solutions, it isn’t as bad as it once was and yet we still need to find a solution. We can dream.

© Laura Edlund 2010

Advice for Editors: Starting Out or Upping Your Game

Editors have a long tradition of mentoring and sharing advice among colleagues, including those starting out (a.k.a. “newbies”). I suggest the following for editors who are starting out or those wanting to improve their skills or business. (For other advice by subject, such as for editing visuals, please see my other blogs.)

Once you gather all your resources, get ready for ongoing professional development. I mean lifelong learning. Formal training (whether in a certificate or degree program, such as at Simon Fraser University or Centennial College) and formal workshops and seminars along the way (for example, from Editors Canada, ACES, or CIEP) are grand, but learning on the job from experienced colleagues and mentors, from precedents, and using industrial standards and best practices will help an editor become professional, knowledgeable, confident, and flexible. Everyone benefits from such editors—readers, authors, clients, employers, coworkers, colleagues, and the editors themselves. And these editors thrive.

© Laura Edlund 2010

Plain Language & Clear Communications Resources—Updated 2021

In 2015, I wrote about re-energizing my interest in and focus on plain language & clear communications. This is still true: I love this work.

For fellow writers and editors, here are some of the resources I find useful. I will add to this list and tweak it regularly. And if you have any suggestions, please contact me with them. Thanks!

© Laura Edlund 2010

The “What to Do and When” Steps to Publication Series—Write in English, Publish in Second Language

As I wrote in my lead blog for this series, publishing involves a series of steps. Whatever the publication, the steps follow a general process of defining, creating, refining, refining more, and publishing.

Every step in the process adds to the original and transforms it; at each stage, a publishing team looks to ensure that all the old was retained or improved and what was added works for the ultimate goals of the publication. So, for example, when a book is first laid out in designed pages, it is checked to make sure that the design has been applied consistently, that all the finalized text and visuals appear in the laid-out pages, and that everything is working.

Based on my experience, this is true for publication in English but also in other languages. On that point, here’s an example of the process for writing in English and publishing in a second language.

Process: Single Author to Write in English a Book to Be Published Traditionally in a Second Language

  1. Define the project
    • develop the expertise—including translator, second-language editor and proofreader, and designer experienced with multiple languages
    • draft a proposal (that answers what the subject is, who the target readers are, why, and how)
    • draft an outline
    • pitch the publication
    • revise the outline
    • develop the budget, including for English-language editorial, translation, second-language editorial, designer
  2. Create it
    • research further
    • draft the manuscript part by part
    • solicit response in cycles from peer reviewers and editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  3. Refine it
    • send to editor as whole and get feedback
    • draft to address gaps and revisions decided upon
    • send to editor for structural and stylistic edit
    • respond to structural and stylistic edit
    • finalize draft with editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  4. Refine it more
    • send to copy editor for a light* copy edit (* knowing that it will be translated)
    • review copy edit and respond
    • finalize manuscript to go to translator
    • send manuscript to designer at the same time for design development and rough layout in English, to specifications
    • review design with English-language text and respond while translation is being completed
    • translated manuscript to go to second-language editor for review
    • finalized translated manuscript to replace rough layout in English
    • finalize designed/laid-out publication to go to proofreader (possibly two proofreaders—one for layout and one for second language)
    • final changes by design
    • final check of changes by second language editor
  5. Publish
    • go to print

 

© Laura Edlund 2010

The “What to Do and When” Steps to Publication Series—Introduction and Single-Author Self-Publishing

For me, a lot of days are filled with questions and answers about what publishing involves, who does what and why, when to do it and why, what the options are, who has the expertise, what time and money it will take, why should we do this step now and not later, can we jump this step, where we are in the process and what’s next… etc.

So, here are the steps:

  1. define the project
  2. create it
  3. refine it
  4. refine it more
  5. publish it

Yep, it looks simple but like most things, it’s more complex in reality. Below is one long version (and with more to come, which I’ll add over time) for projects. As you can see, the steps might vary somewhat and there might be some circling back to an earlier step or some points to pause and ponder, but there is a logic that is efficient.

See the growing series about process. Each kind of a publication follow the simple process but has its own issues.

Process: Single Author Self-Publishing

  1. Define the project
    • develop the expertise
    • draft a proposal (that answers what the subject is, who the target readers are, why, and how, including specifications such as whether it will be printed traditionally, sold as an e-book, in some combination of printed and e-book and web site, black and white, colour, with or without illustrations, with or without an index, etc., etc.)
    • draft an outline
    • pitch the publication
    • revise the outline
    • develop the budget
    • draft a chapter, etc.
  2. Create it
    • research further
    • draft the manuscript part by part
    • solicit response in cycles from peer reviewers and editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  3. Refine it
    • send to editor as whole and get feedback
    • draft to address gaps and revisions decided upon
    • send to editor for structural and stylistic edit
    • respond to structural and stylistic edit
    • finalize draft with editor (and with reference to those questions what, who, why, and how again)
  4. Refine it more
    • send to copy editor
    • review copy edit and respond
    • finalize copy edited manuscript to go to designer
    • review design and respond
    • finalize designed/laid-out publication to go to proofreader
    • send to indexer
    • review index
    • final changes to be made for final forms (printed paperback and e-book version)
  5. Publish
    • go to print
    • go live with e-version

 

 

© Laura Edlund 2010