Make Mine Local — with Lots of “Likes”

According to an article in Salon, the American Booksellers Association reported an increase in the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. in the last five years. This is certainly surprising news considering the seemingly increasing popularity of e-books and the convenience and low prices of Amazon.

The article claims that two things are driving the increase in indie bookstores:

  • a desire for authentic local experiences
  • social media marketing

The “local movement” of the last few years has done wonders for our communities. People care about consuming local food and using local services. When local businesses thrive, so do communities. In my own ‘hood, neighbours banded together to form a community association — DECA — that has brought new life to the area by offering incentives to local businesses and by creating and promoting local events like farmers’ markets.

Even big builders have seen the error of creating unwalkable suburban neighbourhoods where driving to large chain stores is the only option for residents.  People want to live near hubs offering something local and unique, and builders now attempt to emulate just that.

As for social media, the Salon article rightly points out that small businesses thrive when their customers create word-of-mouth buzz. Sophisticated consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust their friends — real or online — who let them know where the good restaurants are, what pubs have the best craft brews, and which new books they can’t put down.

Smartphones, of course, allow us to find the best stores and restaurants in any ‘hood in which we find ourselves. No longer is there a need to play it safe by sticking to the big chains. A unique small business with great online ratings can be found in seconds.

Authenticity and word of mouth: sounds awfully old-fashioned, doesn’t it?


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Filed under authenticity, books, future of publishing, new books, online life, online resources, reading, the Internet and us

It’s Not a Foolish Question: A Day Belonging to Fools or a Day for Fools?

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day, and I felt like the biggest fool of them all. Well, I felt more unlucky than foolish: I lost Internet access, and then my laptop died.  It was a cosmic April Fool’s Day prank.

But yesterday reminded me of the variations (and ensuing debates!) I often see in the spelling of such days as April Fool’s. The usual suspects are April Fools’ Day (more than one fool) and April Fools Day (Fools as an adjective).

According to CP Style, the following spellings are correct:

April Fool’s Day

Mother’s Day

Father’s Day

The use of the singular possessive is convention more than anything else — using the plural possessive (Mothers’ Day) would be equally correct.

If you despise the singular possessive being used in this way, you’re not alone. Many people feel that these are days to celebrate all fools and moms and dads — plural, not singular.

According to Wikipedia, Anna Jarvis is the person to blame — at least for Mother’s Day. As the day’s founder, she trademarked “Mother’s Day” because she felt the day should be commemorated by every family celebrating its own unique mother. The use of the singular possessive for Father’s Day and April Fool’s Day is probably for the sake of consistency.

What about forgoing the apostrophe altogether: April Fools Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day. Without the apostrophe, Fools and Mothers and Fathers become adjectives, modifying day. This would mean that the days don’t belong to the fools, mothers, and fathers, but rather that the days are for these groups. See the subtle difference? CMOS admits this difference “is sometimes fuzzy” and omits the apostrophe only in proper names without an apostrophe (usually corporate names like Publishers Weekly) or where it is clear that the meaning is not possessive.

So when in doubt, keep the apostrophe: girls’ washroom. And for you singular possessive naysayers, try to enjoy Mother’s Day anyway.

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Filed under apostrophe s, punctuation, spelling, style guides

Needed: “Require” Inquiry

On editing discussion boards, the personal peeves of various editors inevitably bubble to the surface. A recurring peeve is the use of require for need. This is one particular bugaboo that I’ve never sweated (note to pedants: sweat would be fine here, too. That’s right: both sweat and sweated are acceptable as past tense and past participle of sweat), but it sure raises the ire of some. This week, the issue was raised again on LinkedIn, so I had to haul out the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. (Who am I kidding — the COD is always at hand.)

Here are the definitions:

  • need: require
  • require: need

That’s right, folks. I declare this debate officially over.

Okay, maybe there’s a bit more to discuss. Sure, require is the better choice in some instances:

To clear security, a passport is required (in other words, nothing but a passport will do the trick).

And need is the better choice in others:

This thesis needs a good editor (not a requirement, but a damn good suggestion).

But if the Canadian Oxford isn’t dying on this hill, neither am I.

Now, can we all get back to more important things — like duking it out over the Oxford comma!

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Filed under comma use, Oxford comma, usage

The Art of Negotiation

Freelancers know that the key to successfully landing business contracts is knowing how to negotiate a win-win for the parties involved.

One potential problem is negotiating pay. Often, the client has a firm budget for the work needed, and it’s up to you, the freelancer, to accept the gig or not. If the pay isn’t sufficient to cover the costs of running a business, paying living expenses, paying taxes, and saving for retirement, then it may be best to walk away.

But before you do, make sure you’ve exhausted your options. Perhaps the job could be altered in some way, so that the client can afford your services. The job could be done in instalments, or a payment plan could be proposed. Maybe only part of the project could be acquired, or maybe you could suggest ways of reducing the amount of work required, so that the budget is met.

If, on the other hand, you name a price, and the potential client balks, explain the value that editing services add:

  • a professional image that attracts clients
  • audience reach and retention from ideas well communicated
  • freedom from embarrassment resulting from poor copy and the subsequent loss of goodwill and profit
  • time savings from efficient content creation

If possible, offer a freebie that won’t cost you much. If you know a client needs promotional material or other content, throw in a press release or a reworked blog post from your archives.

If the timing of delivery is a problem, don’t simply decline the job — suggest delivery alternatives.

As a last resort, refer the client to another freelancer in your network. What goes around comes around, after all.

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Filed under freelancing, negotiating, work issues

Stop Subvocalizing and Start Spritzing

So many books, so little time.

I’m envious of people who — like my husband and seemingly everyone on Goodreads — effortlessly finish book after book after book. I admit I’m a slow reader. I notice the structure and the copy editing choices of a text, and sometimes I read a powerful sentence over and over again to mine its nuances. My dalliance costs me dearly in books read per year.

I recently picked up (good thing I’ve been working out) Eleanor Catton’s Luminaries. Weighing in at several hundred pages, the book is longer than an Ayn Rand novel. Really? I thought. She couldn’t tell a story in 500 pages? (Her first novel is a perfect 300 pages of pure pleasure.) I couldn’t commit to spending so much time on one book, so I passed the book on to my husband, and now it’s back on the shelves of the public library — just like that — while I’m still lingering over my latest Ali Smith novel.

A big part of my problem is subvocalization: I read printed words at the rate of speech, which is about 180 words per minute (wpm). To increase my reading rate, I need to stop reading like I’m mouthing each word — simply a matter of practice.

But to read even faster? There’s an app for that!

Spritz Inc. has created a reading app for digital devices that allows users to read from 250 to 1000 wpm. Words — in red and in an appropriate font — are flashed one at a time in a “redicle,” a special visual frame. “Spritzing” saves time by eliminating saccades, which are the movements of the eye as it seeks out words from left to right. Readers choose the reading rate they feel comfortable with; apparently, five minutes is all it takes to adapt to this way of reading. Spritz claims that retention is just as good as with traditional reading.

(Eye problems, brain changes, privacy issues? Not to worry, the company says: Spritz works for good, not evil. So if your Spidey senses are tingling with visions of Big Brother spoon-feeding propaganda to the masses, stop it. Stop it, I said.)

Unfortunately, spritzing won’t automatically cure my subvocalization. To do that, Spritz suggests humming while reading. Sounds like madness, quite literally, but I’m willing to give it a try.

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Filed under reading, technology

Finding Your True Self

I’ve posted before about Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, which explores the two halves of life, represented by the false self and the true self. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Is this all there is to life?” then you’ve probably succeeded in creating your false self — which isn’t bad per se, it just doesn’t go far enough — and are ready to seek your true self.

For me, reading Falling Upward was like having a conversation with a wise, beloved friend. The pithy book is over much too soon, however, so I went looking for more.

In Immortal Diamond, Rohr carries on the conversation. The content makes clear that Falling Upward left readers wanting more — more tangibles in the form of explanations and practical guidelines (which are actually not necessary once you’ve discovered your true self). Immortal Diamond describes key concepts, such as the false and true selves, in greater depth than Falling Upward does, and the end matter includes six appendixes (or appendices, if you prefer — the Canadian Oxford lists both as acceptable) replete with diagrams and a list of personal practices to implement.

But these concessions to readers taking preliminary and tentative steps away from their false selves don’t diminish the book one bit. The fact that Rohr felt the need to write a second book on the subject fills one with only comfort and hope that such demand exists.

Any writer who synthesizes the world’s knowledge — as Rohr does — is a must-read. Rohr is a Franciscan priest, but trust me: you need not be religious to benefit from his work. That’s the thing about truth, it’s too big for any one tradition — religious or secular — to contain.

“Healthy religion,” Rohr writes in Immortal Diamond, “should be the most inclusive system of all, making use of every discipline, avenue, and access point for Big Truth.” It is this inclusiveness that, unlike in mere personal therapy, allows the spiritual teacher to identify false problems and wrong frameworks, in effect zeroing in on the big — and it is big — picture.

Ultimately, both Falling Upward and Immortal Diamond are about claiming the good news of the Gospels: you can have life and have it abundantly. That’s right: you can. And no, it has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth dying on a cross for your sins — at least not in the way you might think, not in the way that many Christian churches would lead you to believe. In fact, there’s nothing to believe here at all. Rather, there’s something for you to experience, and my hunch is that you already know that.

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Filed under authenticity, books, life and literature

For Men Only: Online Dating? Hire an Editor

Freelancers are always looking for new markets to conquer, and today I discovered a new one: online dating profiles.

If you’re familiar with online dating, then you’ve come to expect a little embellishment here and a little downplaying there. That drool-worthy photo of Mr. Right? You know it was probably taken 5 years and 20 pounds ago in spectacular lighting. You’ve stretched the truth yourself, and you’re not going to knock someone else for playing to their strengths.

But there’s one thing women can’t forgive in an online dating profile: poor spelling. That’s right, guys: Forget about your visible nose hair (actually, please don’t) and the weak chin you inherited from your mother’s side of the family. If you “love chidren and puppys, to” or “beleive in remembering important dates like anniverseries,” you may be missing out on connecting with that special someone.

But what’s good for the goose isn’t so good for the gander: According to the article in the above link, men don’t discriminate against women for the same offence. Women can forget the spell-checker altogether, and men don’t mind. No real surprise there, hence the time and money spent instead on hair, makeup, wardrobe, and glam shots.

Sigh. Showing you know “i before e except after c” would be a whole lot quicker, easier, and cheaper, eh, ladies?

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Filed under branding, content creation, editing and writing, freelancing, spelling, writing