This cartoon was inspired by a Twitter conversation with Jonathon Owen. Propose your own hair-splitting usage distinctions using this blank and post them to social media! For example, here’s one of Jonathon’s. Continue reading “Conspiracy”
WordRake invited me to contribute four articles about plain language and health literacy to their Guest Author Series, and the final article was posted today. Here are links to all four posts in case you’re interested:
- Part 1: Power Dynamics and Plain Language in Healthcare
- Part 2: Co-Creating Plain Language Health Information
- Part 3: Gained in Translation: Making Health Information Plain Across Languages
- Part 4: Plain Language Health Communication and the Myth of Universal Design
I want to thank WordRake for the opportunity! In addition to their editing software, WordRake offers a wealth of resources about writing in plain language from experts with a variety of professional backgrounds.
I’ve been firmly planted on the editorial side of publishing since my early days as a volunteer writer and proofreader at my student newspaper in undergrad, but my first paid gig in publishing was in production and design: after I moved cities for my MSc, I got a job laying out the student newspaper once a week at my new school.
I absolutely loved it. Continue reading “Bye, design”
This month’s cartoon is a bit of an experiment. I got an iPad to replace my decrepit laptop and am trying an all-digital workflow for the first time. I’m, uh, not thrilled with these results, but I didn’t have the time to redo it. I’ll keep trying until I figure out something that will work. I haven’t imported my custom fonts to the device yet, so this cartoon is a throwback to the days when I hand-lettered all the dialogue. (Maybe that’s why the whole thing looks amateurish—well, especially amateurish—to me. I hope you’ll forgive me!)
Anyway, what inspired this cartoon were conversations I saw among editors on social media, where a few of us wondered: As we face an existential threat and a massive shift in how we live and function, does it really matter if a compound is open, hyphenated, or closed?
Nitpicking about commas and applying house style seem like such trivial undertakings in the grand scheme of things, especially when compared with what essential service workers do. It’s easy to feel useless and even expendable, particularly when some clients are cancelling projects because of the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic.
But what these recent weeks have highlighted for me is that clear and accurate communication is more important than ever. We have the skills to help public health officials, health researchers, and policy makers get critical information to people who need it and, importantly, to strike the right tone.
This crisis is an excellent reminder that editing is about improving communication, not mindlessly applying rules. We have an opportunity to reassess how we approach a text and separate the edits that help the message reach its audience more effectively from those that do nothing other than uphold arcane notions of language, feed our ego, or waste our time.
Poor communication excludes, and when we all have to solve a problem together, we can’t afford to exclude anyone.
Thank you for coming back month after month! I’m grateful I still have a way to connect with colleagues even though I’ll miss seeing you at the Editors Canada conference this year. I wish you all good health.
This month’s cartoon is dedicated to Erika Thorkelson.
Play along! What other fields would the Plain-o-matic wipe out? Here’s a blank where you can fill out:
- the career,
- the name of the convention,
- the convention speaker’s words, and
- the slide content.
(Someone make one for plain language editors, please!)
Tweet me your creations, and I’ll retweet them.
What happened to October’s cartoon? My computer was out of commission for six weeks, and when I finally got it back in the middle of October I was too busy to put a cartoon together. Without my digital tools, I tried more traditional media by participating in Inktober. You can watch me struggle with drawing anything more complex than a rudimentary stick figure on this Twitter thread.