Quill and Quire

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Editing Canadian English (2nd Edition)

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It’s a family legend that my husband married me because I could spell and I knew how to punctuate. With the advent of computer spellchecks, he’s joked occasionally that my usefulness is somewhat diminished these days. Now, after having read the second edition of Editing Canadian English, I’m beginning to wonder if I should hide the book from him in order to ensure my continued utility. It is a truly excellent guide to punctuation, capitalization, using French in an English context, documentation, and many other sticky points. It deserves a place near the computer of everyone in Canada who writes or edits.
Among the particularly strong features is the chapter “Avoiding Bias.” It contains an intelligent discussion of why it is important to be sensitive to race and gender issues, as well as well-considered ways to avoid stigmatizing, stereotyping, and offending.
Also useful are easy-to-use tables – gleaned from five standard dictionaries – listing accepted spellings for words like “honour.” And explanations of how to use the apostrophe to denote plurals, possessives, or contractions. There’s also one piece of essential general advice: Know the alternatives and then be consistent once you decide which you are going to use.
The book was prepared for the Editors’ Association of Canada by a committee including many of the same people involved in the first edition, which was published in 1987. It reads much better than the usual committee effort, however. The prose is often simple to the point of elegance, and the sober, authoritative tone is consistent throughout. These are professional editors, after all: they know their stuff.