Cooking with Adverbs

MARCH 2019 By Jody Gentian Bower, PhD One of my first writing teachers forbade use of the word very, a rule he underlined by asking us to compare the two following sentences: He was an honest man. He was a very honest man. In the first sentence, honesty is absolute: one either is or is not honest, and this man is. But in the second honesty has become relative, with the man in question at the “more honest” end of the spectrum—but not, perhaps, completely honest? The attempt to emphasize his honesty by using very backfires. Many writing experts agree that adverbs can weaken rather than strengthen the point being made. “The adverb is not your friend,” states Steven King, one of the leaders of the movement to avoid adverbs. Some go so far as to say it is the mark of the novice writer to use adverbs when they are not necessary and even redundant: to have someone “shout loudly” or “stomp heavily.” A few advise avoiding adverbs in dialogue altogether to avoid such errors. Overuse of adverbs can also make a writer lazy. It’s easier to throw in an adverb instead of providing enough description that the reader can imagine how someone is behaving. But there is a middle ground between overuse and avoiding all adverbs that most writing mavens fail to address! Used with care, the right adverb can add zing and depth. “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is far more interesting than “To go where no one has gone before.” We understand from this adverb that the crew of the Enterprise is courageous and undaunted, that they welcome challenges. It does precisely what an adverb is meant to do: it tells us how an action is undertaken. Lois McMaster Bujold shows us when to describe action and when to use an adverb in a passage from The Curse of Chalion. The protagonist has been seriously wounded and is recuperating, when: A great party of persons shuffled into his chamber, attempting to make themselves quiet and gentle, like a parade gone suddenly shy. Any adverb attached to the verb “shuffled” would fall far short of evoking the image provided by her simile of the parade. But later on, she reinforces this image by saying: The mob withdrew, tiptoeing loudly. Her use of an adverb that contradicts the verb makes us slow down and think about the scene again. Plus, it’s funny! Much more enjoyable than if she had written “The mob withdrew, trying and failing to tiptoe quietly.” The right adverb enhances prose. The key is to use adverbs deliberately. Think of them as seasoning. Don’t use them to emphasize what the verb already implies; that’s like throwing cayenne pepper on top of a jalapeno. Don’t use them to avoid the time and effort required to describe the scene adequately; that’s like using a lot of imitation lemon extract instead of grated zest and fresh lemon juice when baking lemon bars. It won’t …

Pleased to Meet You

February 1, 2019 The enthusiastic volunteers who guide the Northwest Editors Guild kicked off the year with a daylong board of directors’ retreat on January 13. To ensure a smooth transition, departing, returning, and incoming board members, along with Guild administrator Jen Grogan, joined together at this annual event. Four volunteers—Christina Johnson, Roberta Klarreich, Pm Weizenbaum, and Polly Zetterberg—wrapped up two years of service, making way for new board members: Alison Cantrell, Erin Cusick, MariLou Harveland, and Alicia Ramos. The team is looking forward to meeting up with members at our bimonthly member meetings, regional gatherings, and, of course, the September 21 Red Pencil conference. Until then, here are brief introductions. Executive Committee Elaine Duncan, President After practicing law in California for almost thirty years, I retired and moved to Seattle in 2012. Having always loved the process of writing and editing, I joined the Guild, enrolled in the University of Washington editing program, and started freelancing. I enjoy editing any kind of nonfiction—even arcane technical topics like economics or law—but I hope to branch out in the next few years. Joining the Guild and then serving on its board have been instrumental in helping me feel grounded in Seattle without the backstop of coworkers. I love contributing to this organization and meeting people who enjoy it as well. Aside from editing, I like walking around Cougar Mountain with my dog, Anya, visiting Washington wineries, and trying to be a tourist in Seattle. MariLou Harveland, Vice President of Member Services My editing journey began in 2001, editing technical training manuals for the Microsoft Learning Team, where I also acted as contributing writer and editor for their in-house style guide and trainer for new MS writers in the U.S. and in Denmark. In 2012, I entered the freelance world after publishing my first work of fiction, The Seventh Soul, which won first place in the Indie Reader Discovery Awards—Paranormal category at the International Book Expo in New York, NY. As a freelancer, I mostly focus on developmental, substantive, and copyediting for novels (fiction and nonfiction) and technical content. I have a master’s degree in English from North Dakota State University, where I taught College Composition I & II. Currently, I am balancing writing and editing with spending quality time with my husband, Dan, and our vivacious golden retriever and bossy cat. Alicia Ramos, Vice President of Board Development I’ve always been an editor in one fashion or another. My love of reading led me to an undergraduate degree in literature. I started my professional career practicing law, spent more years than I like to count in corporate communications, and finally made the switch to full-time editing in late 2016 when I joined ECG Management Consultants. I’ve been a Guild member since 2015. My freelance work, which includes everything from proofreading to substantive editing (but not full developmental editing), is focused on popular fiction (particularly queer romance) and memoir. I love working with authors to help them convey their ideas in the most effective …

Collaboration and Relaxation at the Oregon and SW Washington Editors Retreat

January 2019 By Alison Cantrell We met . . . In early 2018, fellow Portland editor and Guild member Julie Swearingen and I took over planning of the happy hours for the Portland contingent of the Northwest Editors Guild, hoping to bring our local editors together and continue to provide them with a space for communication and collaboration. We’ve enjoyed the relationships and connections this experience has forged for us. When a conversation with former Guild president Pm Weizenbaum sparked the idea for an editors retreat, we were eager to help create a learning-based experience that would build upon the happy hours we’d started hosting. So, during the last weekend of September 2018, twelve editors gathered in small Rockaway Beach, Oregon, for the first ever Oregon and SW Washington Editors Retreat. Over six months in the making, this retreat was a chance to take part in professional development in the off year of Red Pencil while giving area editors the opportunity to relax in a beautiful local setting. We collaborated . . . Highlights of the retreat were the lively discussions we held around various editing topics. Julie Swearingen kicked off our Saturday morning by leading a talk on how marketing factors into editing, reminding editors that they don’t edit in a vacuum and to stay abreast of how their authors will be marketing their books to publishers and readers alike. In my day job, I do a lot of editing for social media, so I volunteered to lead the group in discussing what makes editing social media different from other types of copy as well as strategies and tips for editing good social content. Together, we explored how to optimize copy based on its audience and platform as well as how to ensure copy is crafted in the best way to make it visible to and searchable for social media users, including effective use of hashtags. Eugene-area editor Sherri Schultz discussed the phenomena of editors moving from large metro areas to smaller, less expensive but still culturally vibrant towns, and taking their editing work with them and the potential benefits of a location-independent lifestyle. We rounded out our day with a discussion period dedicated to planning future Guild events in Oregon and SW Washington. Retreaters enthusiastically suggested new formats for events, in addition to novel topics area editors would like to learn more about. We’re hoping to see some of these ideas implemented in the coming year. We relaxed . . . In between stimulating editing talk, we took breaks, exploring the nearby town and coastline. We were staying just a short walk from the beach, so editors took various trips down to stroll alongside the waves. Some of us also visited the local shops and brought back goodies, including locally made taffy. The group also had time to bond over a movie night, where we chose to settle in with a lighthearted editing-related film and have a few laughs, as well as a blind date book swap activity. …

2018 State of the Guild

December 2018 By Pm Weizenbaum Note: Pm delivered this message at our annual potluck on October 7. Her term as board president ends on December 31, 2018. Hello! My name is Pm Weizenbaum, and I’m president of the Northwest Editors Guild. Thank you all for coming and for contributing to this year’s potluck, our eighteenth (although we’re now twenty-one years old, so drink up). It’s great to see so many familiar and new faces here. I joined the Editors Guild about seven years ago, to get the member discount on Red Pencil 2011. When I was a new member—didn’t know anyone, feeling shy and unconfident—I used to experience the Guild as a sort of theatrical troupe, with member meetings as the bimonthly performances, and the Red Pencil conference as the star-studded gala event. By joining the board, I got to step behind the curtain and learn about all the backstage activity that goes on in support of our members. One of the very first things I learned about the board was that each one of these people takes our mission to heart, weighing decisions against these words: “The Northwest Editors Guild connects writers with professional editors of the written word in the Pacific Northwest. We also foster community among our members and provide resources for their career development.” As president for this year, I’ve had the privilege of being “guest director” for eleven bright, engaged, and funny board members. In place of set design, lighting, and costume staff, much of our work is done in committees: Operations, Board Development, Programming, Communications, with the Executive committee providing a supporting role overall. And as a group, the board votes on larger decisions affecting the membership, as well as putting on our potluck and other special events. Keep in mind that the board consists of volunteers—working editors who are busy building businesses, or working full time in-house, and sometimes even both—while I show you what our repertory theater has provided to our audience of 375-odd Guild members, as well as prospective members, clients, and even the broader national editorial community in our 2018 season. I’ll describe highlights of what each of these committees has accomplished this year. First, the Operations committee. It handles the internal nuts and bolts. Talk to our dedicated administrator Jen Grogan about these unsung essentials. Most visible to you was moving our email list from an increasingly obstinate Yahoo to Google Groups. This committee includes our treasurer, who this year has helped the board develop a more strategic budgeting process, and craft banking and investment policies regarding Guild assets. —Curious? Talk to Michael Schuler. And the Board Development committee: In another behind-the-scenes role, this committee of one keeps the rest of us happy in our roles and ensures that the board is well supplied with future board candidates. —Talk to Valerie Paquin if you’d like to hear more. Here, some Programming committee highlights: In addition to fine member meeting topics that the Programming committee presents, of which you’re all …

Unique Holiday Gifts for Editors

NOVEMBER 2018 By Jill Walters   What kind of holiday gifts would a discerning editor enjoy? How about the editor who seems rigid but has a secret sense of humor? The basic go-to coffee shop gift cards and sets of red pens are appreciated, but you can do better than that for your closest edibuddies and word nerds. Below is a list of unique and memorable gifts—arranged alphabetically by store name—suitable for just about every age, size, flavor, and type of editor, plus the tiniest editors-to-be. You might even find something you’ll want to treat yourself to after making that big deadline! Based on suggestions from fellow editors and plenty of searching, these affordable gifts all cost less than $50, and many register under the $25 mark. Most shops listed are owned by editors or wordy types, or are small businesses based in the Pacific Northwest and the western U.S. and Canada. (More small print at the end of the post.) Sorry, bibliophiles, but there are no books included because there could easily be a dozen lists of books alone. This guide is full of clothing, accessories, office supplies, housewares, beverages, and generally fun things any word wizard would want. 1. AP vs. Chicago and Conscious Style Guide (aka Quiet Press) Shops California editing superstar Karen Yin, the founder of the AP vs. Chicago and Conscious Style Guide websites (and 2017 Red Pencil Conference keynote speaker), makes it easy to show your love of editing and respectful language with merch from her two shops. Please note: Order T-shirts from the Uni-T shop which has a wider selection and custom color choices not available on Karen’s Etsy shop. And as an extra-special bonus, Karen is offering a 10% discount for blog readers through December 31, 2018, at both her shops with the discount code REDPEN. Top Picks: Edit or Die Mug ($12) A roomy 15-ounce mug perfect for imbibing while marking Oxford commas. Make Peace With Words T-shirt ($34) Wear your support for conscious and inclusive language choices with these incredibly comfy bamboo/organic cotton blend tees. Available in fitted or straight-cut styles with plenty of color choices for shirts and inks to customize your look. 2. Arrant Pedantry Shop Utah editor Jonathon Owen has been writing about language usage and change for more than a decade on his Arrant Pedantry blog. The store connected to his blog features witty T-shirts in many sizes and styles that will make any grammarian chuckle. Top Picks: Stet Wars: The Editor Strikes Back T-shirt ($14.99–$20.99 depending on style) One of several hilarious Sci-Fi/word nerd mashup tees available at this shop. I Could Care Fewer T-shirt ($14.99–$20.99 depending on style) Make the pedants cringe and the descriptivists cheer with this grammatical shirt. 3. Blackwing The Blackwing 602 is one of the most famous pencils in history due to its impeccable quality and soft lead. Super-editor Mary Norris of The New Yorker even raved about Blackwing pencils in her book and in videos. Beyond the classic Blackwing 602, there are now several custom …

A Dev Editing Handbook with Novelistic Empathy

OCTOBER 2018 By Matthew Bennett In anticipation of our upcoming November 12 member meeting on developmental editing, let’s review a book that’s an inspiring and comprehensive introduction to the craft of “dev editing,” my own preferred corner of the craft. Imagine for a moment you’re an editor in a publishing house, perhaps one of the local presses like Wave Books in Seattle. As you sip your morning coffee, two of your colleagues (frazzled editors in their own right) collide in the hall and mix up their manuscripts. One of these manuscripts is a sly and meticulous instruction manual on the craft of developmental editing. The other is a novel about books, a story driven by conflict and (sometimes) resolution between editors, writers, and publishers. To aid your colleagues, you accidentally shuffle several chapters of each book into the other like a poker dealer with a stack of cards. One would expect the new hybrid manuscript to bewilder the narrative, but the shuffled whole catalyzes so harmoniously that the publisher rejoices in the happy accident. This resulting book is Scott Norton’s Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago, 2009). Norton divides his guide into ten chapters, each describing developmental editing processes and tools, on the one hand, and a fictionalized editing project, on the other. These fictional sections address several aspects of developmental editing by dramatizing a problematic writer-editor relationship, such as an uncompromising writer with a manuscript lacking a concept. To teach the interested writer or editor, Norton creates problems in the novelistic sections that he resolves in the guidance sections. Norton begins with the foundation of any successful editing relationship: to “engage in sustained acts of two-way empathy—toward … authors and their prospective readers.” For the writer, the craft of fiction demands a keenly developed empathetic imagination. For the dev editor as well, robust empathy is necessary for both the writer and their potential audience. Combining his own empathy with a mania for outlining, Norton humorously delivers his lessons for improving troubled manuscripts while encouraging an amicable working relationship between writer and editor. There is a wide variety of editing techniques in Developmental Editing, as well as endearing character studies and even views on the publishing industry, but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on only one section as exemplary of the whole. In chapter two of Developmental Editing we encounter the zombie manuscript: a shambling text that resembles a book and yet has no soul. Here Norton discusses the problem of a manuscript lacking a core concept, and he plops this text down between a first-time author, a New York trade publisher, and a freelance editor. For Norton, a subject is simply a topic that guides a particular discussion, while a concept is something larger, what we might refer to as a position or “an author’s special take on a subject.” Here is Norton’s editing process in a nutshell: interview the writer, read the manuscript deeply (twice is best!), take notes, categorize subjects, synthesize …

Say Hello to Your 2018 Northwest Editors Guild Board

September 2018 Here’s a friendly introduction to the twelve-person all-volunteer board of directors who serve two-year terms and work on committees that support the Guild’s mission: connecting clients with professional editors, fostering community among our members, and providing resources for their career development. In January 2018, our diverse team got right down to business in a spirit of creative collaboration. This year we’ve focused on both accomplishing tasks that have lingered on the board’s to-do list for years—such as officially dropping “independent” from our name—and strategizing how we can best serve the Guild membership in the future: for example, with the help of member and nonprofit consultant Dawn Bass, we’re writing the organization’s first business plan. We’d like to tell you more about what else we’ve been up to—and we want to hear about you! All Guild members are welcome to come and eat, chat, relax, and hear a brief “State of the Guild” recap at the annual board-sponsored potluck on Sunday, October 7, 3:30-6:30 p.m., Lakewood Seward Park Community Club in Seattle. Until then, here’s a little bit more about each one of us: Officers/Executive Committee President: Pm Weizenbaum (Chair, Communications and Outreach committees) I’ve been a content editor in the business and nonprofit sectors for 40 years (Microsoft, MIT, Amazon, Gates Foundation, many others). I am expert in translating tech-speak into language that readers can easily act on. I’ve recently branched out to editing fiction as well. My philosophy is: You mean everything you say—I help you say exactly what you mean. With the Editors Guild, I’ve enjoyed helping to plan Red Pencil 2015 and 2017. Also important to me are my big red poodle and art quilting. Vice President of Board Development: Valerie Paquin (Programming and Renaming committees) I’m a freelance copyeditor and proofreader focusing on nonprofit and corporate communications, specialty nonfiction, and fiction. I have subject matter fluency in woodworking and furniture making, home improvement, vegan and gluten-free cooking, sewing and crafts, basic paleontology and geology, animal welfare, and conservation. In addition to editing and proofreading, I have extensive experience managing a variety of projects, from engineering catalogs and apple juice ads to custom furniture builds and fundraising auctions. I have a BA in Business Administration and a Certificate in Editing, both from the University of Washington, and an AAS in Furniture Design and Manufacturing. Vice President of Member Services: Matt Bennett (Chair, Programming committee) I began editing in 2008 at Ronsdale Press, where I shepherded documents from submission to final print and served as editor for publications such as Sheila James’s In the Wake of Loss (2009). I later acted as a freelance copyeditor for academic monographs, such as Nicholas Hudson’s A Political Biography of Samuel Johnson (Pickering & Chatto, 2013). My recent editing work is largely developmental and includes novels and short stories, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations. I have an English PhD from the University of British Columbia and have been writing, editing, and publishing academic, journalistic, and fictional prose for over a decade. Treasurer: Michael …

What’s the Big Idea? Four Words that Can Define a Work in Progress

August 2018 By Beth Jusino A couple of years ago, I got the urge to write a book. I’d recently returned from a sabbatical in Europe, where my husband, Eric, and I walked a thousand miles on the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimage trails that date back to the Roman Empire. I hadn’t intended to write about the trip when I left, but when I got back I couldn’t shake the suspicion that there was something book-worthy in the experience. I’d worked in book publishing for almost two decades by that point, including the past seven years as a developmental editor and collaborative writer. I’d seen hundreds of manuscripts, both fiction and nonfiction. And while there was a lot about becoming an author I didn’t know yet, I did know that the first step wasn’t just to start typing away at Chapter 1. Instead, I opened a new Scrivener document and wrote four words: What’s the Big Idea? In publishing circles, we sometimes call the answer to this the hook, tagline, or, in nonfiction, the subtitle. What it’s called doesn’t matter as much as the clarity of the answer, because wanting to write a book is different than having a book that other people want to read. Let’s face it, readers aren’t lacking for good books these days. Half a million new titles hit the shelves last year alone. For a book to find an audience in this crowded market, it needs something new and fresh that’s clear right from the very first page. I’d done my homework, browsing bookstore shelves and Amazon keywords to find out what was already available. I knew my book wouldn’t be the first narrative account of the Camino de Santiago. There were well-respected memoirs from a variety of different voices, including a Catholic priest from Spokane, a German comedian, and the famous spiritualist Shirley MacLaine. There were dozens (and dozens and dozens) of self-published stories from writers of all ages and countries of origin. Considering that crowded field, before I started writing I needed to spend some time with the same questions I’ve asked of every book I’ve edited: What is it about this idea that will catch the attention of a total stranger? What will convince them to invest their money and time in this book when they have so many other options? What is different about the approach this book takes from others like it? What is the future reader of this book looking for that they can’t find now? What will they see in the first five pages that will make them keep reading? That’s what I mean by the Big Idea. It’s not easy for most writers to see their work through the eyes of a stranger, but without that step, we all too often end up losing time chasing an idea without an audience. In fiction, knowing the Big Idea up front can help writers push past predictable (boring) plots and stock characters, as well as avoid …

Q&A with Guild Mascot Giant Pencil

The Northwest Editors Guild’s oversized writing implement mascot, Giant Pencil, has been making appearances at events and on social media during the last year. In fact, starting July 23, Giant Pencil will be hosting the Editors of Earth Twitter account—a rotating curator account with a different editor hosting each week. It’s the first pencil to be asked to host. As Giant Pencil’s following increases, we’ve received many questions about this well-dressed No. 2 of large proportions. We sat down with Giant Pencil to get to the point (pencil puns included). Q: What should people call you? Do you have a preferred pronoun? A: My name is Giant Pencil, so you can call me that. My pronoun is “it.” I’m a writing implement, not a human, so he/she/they doesn’t really apply. Q: What do you do as the Guild’s mascot? A: Part of the Guild’s mission is to connect editors with potential clients and with other editors. I’m here to help break the ice—to draw a smooth line between interactions, if you will. I help make editors more approachable—to show that editors can have fun and a sense of humor. So many authors, and even the general public, are intimidated by editors because they don’t know what real professional editors do. Your stereotypical editor is this stern, pedantic grammarian who tears apart writing and scolds people for improper usages, but that isn’t true. Most editors see their work as a collaboration with writers, and don’t belittle others for mistakes. I want to help people start a discussion and learn that the editing process doesn’t have to be scary. Q: How did you get your start as the Guild’s mascot? A: A couple of my large pencil cousins and I started attending events and outreach opportunities with Guild board members in late 2016 and early 2017—mostly as table decorations and in case someone forgot to bring a pencil or pen and had an urgent need to write something down. We’re not your typical No. 2s and that intrigues people, so they’d ask about us. I was having fun, but then I found out I needed glasses last summer when I started having trouble crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s. I was sure that would end my days of going to events because my glasses would get in the way of people writing with me, but it turns out editors and writers love pencils that wear glasses! I was promoted to Guild mascot after that. My cousins without glasses still go to some Guild events and let visitors write with them, but they’re happy about my role as mascot—there’s no hard-graphite feelings there. Q: How do you react to people who find your existence twee or childish? A: I’m not here to delegitimize the editing profession, but make it more approachable and fun. Yeah, I’m goofy. I’m a huge pencil for goodness sake—how can I not be goofy? But if I can get someone to come over and ask about my sweater …

What We Learned at ACES 2018

By Jill Walters – LetterTerrier.com Approximately a dozen Editors Guild members convened in Chicago with more than 700 other editors during the ACES 2018 conference April 26–28. ACES: The Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society), a national organization for professional editors, hosts its annual three-day conference in a different U.S. city each spring. The ACES conference is often the venue where the major style guides and dictionaries announce upcoming changes in spelling, style, and usage. It is especially well known as the conference where each year the Associated Press announces updates to its Stylebook in a room full of gasping and cheering editors. (The 2016 lowercasing of the word “internet” brought a mix of applause and disgusted harrumphs, while this year’s comparatively tame removal of the hyphen in “3D” didn’t cause nearly as many emotional reactions.) Perhaps the largest “gasp” moment this year came when Merriam-Webster’s Peter Sokolowski showed a slide of words that have updated primary spellings—including the now-closed noun, “copyeditor.” Other sessions at this year’s conference covered a wide variety of topics ranging from macros in Microsoft Word to working with made-up fantasy languages. Several sessions focused on the use of conscious language and avoiding unintentional bias when editing, as well as promoting inclusive practices such as plain language and using alternate text with images. Representing the Guild in Chicago Seventeen editors from the Pacific Northwest, ranging from Portland to Seattle to Pullman, met on the final day of the conference for a special PNW lunch hosted by the Guild. Several lunch attendees who are not Guild members were surprised to learn that there is such a strong community of editorial professionals in the PNW. Guild member Janice Lee, a freelance editor from Seattle, presented a session at the conference about editing traditional comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She highlighted ways to think differently about the comic editing process, and the need to allow more flexibility with standard grammar and style “rules” when working with comics. Giant Pencil, the Guild’s oversized pencil mascot that wears glasses, enjoyed unexpected popularity on social media during the conference. You can see photos of Giant Pencil meeting editors from across the world on the Guild’s Twitter feed. What is one interesting thing you learned at the ACES Conference? We asked a few of the Guild members in attendance to share one thing they learned at ACES 2018 that would be of interest to other editors who did not attend. Here are their answers: “In defiance of its own style guide, the Los Angeles Times repeatedly used pejorative language during World War II. Not long before, in 1938, the newspaper had admonished its writers and editors to ‘exercise care in all racial references.’ At ACES 2018, Henry Fuhrmann shared photos of headlines that used one anti-Japanese slur in particular. It’s sobering how quickly the paper set aside its own socially conscious standards and lent legitimacy to prejudice. This example was historically specific, but a certain amount of exigency …