Category Archives: About editing

The importance of copy editing

My membership in the Editors' Association of Canada includes a subscription to its listserve (chat forum). The subject of a current discussion thread is the value of a copy editor, which began with a complaint that if Dan Brown had been provided with a copy editor for his latest novel The Lost Symbol (and his previous novels), he didn't make much use of him/her. This post led to a long discussion. Many of my colleagues are horrified at Dan Brown's appalling sentence construction and plot inconsistencies, all pointing to an apparent lack of good copy editing. Continue reading ➝

When to use “that” and “which”

Many people are confused about the exact usage of the relative pronouns "that" and "which" in North American English. Which is correct and in what context? "That" is always used in a restrictive sense; that is, it defines or narrows a category or identifies an item in a group. A clause using the word "that" is necessary to the sentence or restricts the meaning. For example: The picture that has the gilt frame is up for auction. In this example, we're told specifically that it is only the picture with the gilt frame up for auction and presumably no others. The clause "that has the gilt frame" defines which picture is up for auction. Continue reading ➝

Those darn dashes—which to use where?

Which dashes to use where is a subject of much annoyance and confusion to many writers. Most of us know that there are three common kinds of dashes, but how do we know when to use each of them properly? First, there's the hyphen (-). The smallest member of the dash family, it's used primarily for—rather obviously—hyphenation of compound words. If you follow this simple rule, you can't really go wrong. It's also used to separate numbers (such as in a phone number), or to separate letters in a word that is spelled out (H-Y-P-H-E-N). Continue reading ➝

Vancouver Sun newspaper article about Arlene

In 2006, after I'd been editing books for almost four years, I was interviewed by Rebecca Wigod, editor of the Books section of the Vancouver Sun newspaper. She subsequently wrote the following article featuring me and my colleague, book designer Fiona Raven. It was published Saturday, April 22, 2006. Here is the text of the article: Continue reading ➝

Remove double spaces after periods

Since the advent of proportional spacing that word processing programs provide, it's been deemed unnecessary to place two spaces after a period (or other punctuation at the end of a sentence). This custom harks back to the days of typewriters, when two spaces followed a full stop at the end of a sentence. In a line of nonproportional spacing, this made it easier to discern that the sentence was, in fact, at an end. Today, both word processing and layout software such as InDesign have a tiny, built-in space in the period character, resulting in slightly more than one space after the period and subtly allowing for the visual break the eye welcomes at a sentence's end. Continue reading ➝