Archive for September 2012

Reading list

Industry checkup: Magazines Canada has released its new Consumer Magazine Factbook and Digital Magazine Factbook.

September 24th was National Punctuation Day. Learn more about your favourite punctuation marks (what do you mean, you don’t have one!?).

LinkedIn, the networking super-site for staffers and freelancers alike, has launched an “Endorsements” feature, which lets members endorse their contacts’ skills and expertise. It’s not yet available in Canada (so far, only people in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and India can use it), but it’s coming in the next few weeks. Let the mutual admiration begin!

Freelancers, is your tiny home office just not doing it for you? A co-working space might be the answer. Check out a few via Story Board.

The Language Portal of Canada is going mobile. The website turns three in October, and it’s celebrating with the launch of on the go!, the Canadian government’s first mobile linguistic application (free; available for iPhone and BlackBerry in English and French).

Back to school ― any time

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” ― Geoffrey Chaucer

In Toronto, we’re spoiled when it comes to continuing education in journalism, publishing, communications and creative writing. Several universities, colleges and professional associations offer courses ranging in length from a few hours to a few months, on everything from grammar basics to launching a magazine.

I’m a continuing ed junkie. In my 20s, I was always enrolled in courses related to writing, editing or public relations at Ryerson, George Brown or the University of Toronto. Some were more useful than others, but I always came away with new skills and a deeper appreciation of the subject.

Whether you’ve recently or not-so-recently finished your education, you might be wondering if taking more courses is worth the time, expense and effort. I think the key is doing your research—finding a learning opportunity that fits your personal goals and your schedule, whether it’s a one-day boot camp or 14-week copy editing course. Be realistic, pick something you’re really interested in, and think of it as an investment in yourself.

You don’t have to wait for a school semester to start. Boost your industry knowledge any time with online offerings from Poynter’s News University, Magazines Canada and MediaBistro. Or dive back into the world of academia—you needn’t limit your learning to topics directly related to your day job. One of the most exciting new players is Coursera, a “social entrepreneurship company” that has partnered with 33 universities, including Ivy League schools and a few Canadian institutions, to offer free online courses on everything from game theory to social network analysis. Other sources of free university-level lessons: YouTube EDU, iTunes U and institutional sites like Open Yale and edX (which includes MIT, Harvard and Berkeley).

Taking courses is as much about meeting people as it is about gaining knowledge. Your classmates and instructors become part of your extended network—and that’s especially helpful if you’re just starting out and don’t have many contacts. In the small world of magazines, you’re likely to run into people again, maybe years later. You might also end up teaching a course yourself—never say never.

Can you share any free online learning opportunities?

Reading list

Freelance writers and editors, September is a great time to refresh your business. Here’s a handy to-do list from WordCount’s Michelle Rafter.

Laura Spencer covers “10 Marks of a Self-Disciplined Freelancer” for Freelance Folder. This is sound advice for writers at all career stages. Don’t learn #8 the hard way (like I did).

Some editors are actually giddy when the Chicago Manual of Style website adds content to its Q&A section. Browse the archives and sign up for free Q&A Alerts.

The sleuths at have a methodical approach to factchecking new words—read their two-part explanation. Also check out the “What’s new” page of Oxford Dictionaries Online. Those of you who copy edit fashion mags may be gratified to hear that “bandage dress,” “boy shorts,” “shootie,” “hobo bag” and “jeggings” are recent additions. Beauty editors, don’t feel left out—“mani-pedi” also made the cut. (Sign up for the newsletter to catch all the lexicographic action.)

Word geeks will enjoy the musings of John E. McIntyre, self-described “modern prescriptivist” and a Baltimore Sun editor. In his blog, You Don’t Say, he picks apart obscure words and offers candid advice, such as last week’s reminder to writers: “Your copy editor is going to read your text more closely and carefully than anyone else. And ‘anyone else’ includes your editor, your subject, and your mother.”