Category Archives: Uncategorized

And now for something completely different

Today, one of my photos of Spiral Island in Isla Mujeres, Mexico appeared in a feature on Popular Mechanics.com.

The World’s Strangest Man-Made Islands

I’m not exactly a professional photographer, but I enjoy travel photography, especially to complement my travel writing. You can find an article I wrote about Spiral Island here.

I do have a few stock photography images available through ThinkStock.com. You can find them here.

Editing for understandability

I recently went into a Ricky’s restaurant for breakfast. This was the menu description for their Double Egger plate:

Two eggs with shredded hash browns and toast or pancakes

I ordered the Double Egger with pancakes. When it arrived at my table, the plate had just eggs and pancakes, so I asked about my hash browns. The waitress explained to me that if one ordered pancakes, one did not get hash browns.

Do you see the problem? This is not what the menu says. The way the menu description is phrased, the only option is between toast and pancakes. The hash browns are not linguistically tied to the toast in any way.

Later, I checked the online Ricky’s menu to see if the description was any better there. It reads:

2 eggs, with shredded hash browns and toast OR 3 of our famous buttermilk pancakes

So, it seems this pancakes/hashbrowns issue must have come up before, and the comma and that big, capitalized OR are their attempts to make the description more clear. But it’s still not right. That comma after eggs is there to try to indicate that the eggs are the only constant, and that the hashbrowns and toast are a unit. But (a) that comma is wrong, and (b) it still doesn’t quite make the message clear. And putting OR in all caps still doesn’t tie the hash browns and toast together (though this description would probably make me ask to confirm). It would be such a simple fix. All they need to say is:

Two eggs with either toast and hashbrowns or pancakes.

Either! That’s what the word is for — to indicate a choice between two things!

The moral of the story is that what you show to your customers (or potential customers) is only worth printing if it’s easy to understand. I would have been perfectly happy to order toast and hashbrowns, if I’d know it was that or pancakes. Instead, Ricky’s got a cranky customer. A good editor can save you from this kind of mistake — which could turn out to be a lifesaver, especially if the part that’s unclear is worth a lot more than hash browns!

P.S. In the end, after explaining to the manager why the menu was wrong, I got my hash browns. 😉

Raising money for women’s cancers

When I’m not obsessing about grammar and punctuation, I’m passionate about raising money to fight breast cancer. The statistics on this disease are staggering — 1 in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime. When I look around at my mother, my sisters, my friends, I can only think one thing. We have to do something about it.

I’ve been raising money for breast cancer for five years, and I’ve raised over $7,500 (not counting the money raised so far this year). This year I’m walking in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers to fight not only breast cancer, but gynecologic cancers as well.

Please join me in my fight. Click on the box below to donate to my fundraising efforts. Thanks so much.


The point is not that I was reading an article about Britney Spears

It’s not my fault. Someone I follow on twitter posted a link to the new, non-airbrushed photos of Britney Spears on the website of UK tabloid the Daily Mail. I had to look.

And while the photos/airbrushing –  and what they reveal about an industry that makes all teenage girls even more full of self-loathing than they would be otherwise – are tough to look at, what’s worse is the writing in the piece.

Exhibit A: The opening sentence

Celebrities and the industry around them is often accused of producing images that affect young people’s body image.

ACK! Celebrities and the industry around them are. ARE! And unless all young people share one body image, images should be plural. Yikes!

Exhibit B: The second sentence (You see where I’m going with this?)

Which is why it’s so refreshing to see one of the world’s most famous pop stars allowing all of their imperfections to be highlighted.

I will forgive the fact that the sentence starts with “which.” This is casual writing, being about celebrities and all, so it’s okay to be a bit chatty. But “their”? We already know the article is about Britney, so the lame excuse of needing a gender-neutral pronoun can’t even be used. Try “her” instead.

Anyway, I can take no more. But the photos are interesting, and if you’re at all intrigued, you can have a peek here.

One comma can really change things

I received an e-mail today with this subject line:

Europe Sale – Up To 25% Off Christina

What this subject line is trying to tell me is that I can get 25% off fares to Europe. But that would look like this:

Europe Sale – Up To 25% Off, Christina

Without the comma, this subject line offers “25% off Christina”… and I don’t recall giving Flight Centre permission to put me on sale.

Great correction from the New York Times

Focusing too closely on getting the big facts right can sometimes derail you — it’s the little details that tend to get writers in trouble. Check out this great correction from the New York Times:

An earlier version of this post misquoted Mr. Remnick on his comparison between the book and a New Yorker article he had previously written. He said the book would not be a “pumped up” version of the article; he did not say that it would not be a “pimped out” version of the article.

You can read the article the correction refers to here.

Writing, Editing, Unearthing Opportunity: A Conversation with Christina Newberry

by Reija J Roberts

“When you’re self-employed, you are always selling yourself. You should be able to say what you do in fifteen seconds.” Preparing her “elevator pitch” is only one key to success for freelance writer and editor Christina Newberry. Her website, which boasts glowing testimonials and tangible work samples, ranks high in a Google search for “Vancouver writer and editor.” She has written articles about “how to improve the search engine ranking of your website,” which probably has something to do with her own top ranking. You can also find Newberry on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. “The internet is my life,” she confesses. “The job that I do now didn’t exist ten years ago.”

Newberry didn’t always want to be a writer. When she first applied to the University of Victoria, she thought that she wanted to major in economics. What she ended up with, was a degree in English. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to be a teacher.” After graduation, she worked in a book store for a year. She says of the store, “I loved it, but I knew I wasn’t going to make any money doing that.” However, it was there that her interest in professional writing was sparked. She began creating promotional material for the store. She even designed a website for it. This experience prompted her to apply for the one-year journalism program at Langara College. Although she soon learned that she “had no interest whatsoever in being a journalist,” she acquired vital skills and abilities through the program.

When she left Langara, Newberry ambitiously applied for the Senior Writer position with a company that sold nutritional supplements. She lacked experience, but the hiring team liked her. A “junior writer and proofreader” position was created for her, and it wasn’t long before she made the climb to senior writer. By the time she left the company, she was the corporate editor.

Newberry next found herself working for the Internet Marketing Center as a writer. Newberry stayed put for five years and eventually became the managing editor, managing a staff of eleven and producing courses about online marketing. From there she found employment with CGA-Canada, as its editorial supervisor. This was to be her final desk job. When her work with CGA was through, she left the office for the comfort of her home. “It had always been my goal to go freelance,” Newberry explains. “For one thing, I am not at all a morning person.” For another, she had realized that the big money was in management. Being a manager, she had found, was no longer something she enjoyed. And since she couldn’t conceive of descending her ladder to a writer’s position, she swapped her manager’s cap for pajamas. Her desk is now in her bedroom, and her laptop enables her to work from her balcony or couch. But Christina Newberry is no loafer.

Newberry’s website describes her work as “writing, editing and communication strategy.” Her track record includes travel writing, ghost-writing, eBooks, profiles, press releases, and project coordination and consultation. She works with individual clients, as well as corporate and small businesses. And her work isn’t limited to her geography. “I do some writing for a website based out of Hong Kong, and some editing work for a company in India.” Newberry appreciates the variety of her work. “I really like what I do,” she reveals with a laugh, when asked how she stays motivated. This is particularly true when it comes to projects that require editing, a skill she didn’t even really consider until her studies at Langara. “I know what I want to do and I like making the changes.”

Newberry is particularly invested in her eBooks. So far, she has published two — The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home and How to Write an Obituary: A Step-by-Step Guide. She attributes the success of these books to a formula: “Find a niche market, figure out what information they need, and give it to them in whatever format makes sense.” She says that Adult Children Living At Home took about six months to complete. “I went back and lived with my parents after I finished university for about eight months,” Newberry reveals, when asked how she conceived the idea. Turns out, there was a desire for information on that subject. From there, she researched, wrote, revised, and published the book, with virtually zero publishing costs. “My goal is really to push the eBooks,” she says of her plans for the future, adding that she is now working on a third book. Once the books are up and running, they leave time and resources for other more worldly pursuits. “Ideally, I would like to be gone one month out of every three.” Travelling while working is high on her list of priorities, a fully attainable goal given her trusty laptop.

“Be really good at what you do, know what your specialty is, and develop a style and a voice that works for you.” That is Newberry’s advice to aspiring freelance writers and editors. She is also quick to add, “Keep an open mind and always look for the next opportunity.” Making contacts, she says, is absolutely critical to her success. “You never know where your next contract is coming from,” she explains. “So you have to constantly be working your contacts, and looking for new opportunities.” This effort may sound daunting to some, but Christina Newberry is obviously not someone who shrinks from a challenge.

———–

Reija J Roberts is a student in the Print Futures Program at Douglas College.

How to win a mini-press kit

As a proud sponsor of the Small Business BC Entrepreneur Showcase, I’m happy to announce that just by attending the event you could win a mini-press kit, including a business profile and one press release, plus a one hour consultation with me. Loads of other great prizes are up for grabs, and it’s sure to be an excellent networking opportunity. With George Moen, President of Blenz, set to speak, it’s an event not to miss!

http://smallbusinessbc.ca/showcase.php