Living Rhetorically in the Real World A blog about freelancing, writing, editing, business & social media.


How changing your books changes your way of thinking

Posted by Sagan

Until recently, the books lined up neatly on my massive standup working desk - just behind and to the side of my laptop, and just below eye level (for me) - were all related to nutrition. They included textbooks that I had purchased when I was getting my diploma in holistic nutrition, raw food books, and books on canning and preserving. Handy to have close at hand when you're a health writer!

About a week before I became a full-time freelancer, I removed all of those books and placed them with the others in our little library made up of four bookcases. And I brought a whole new set of books over to fill the gap.

editing books

A selection of the books right beside my computer.

These books are all on writing, editing, rhetoric, linguistics, advertising, critical thinking, and grammar. And, of course, the Canadian Oxford English Dictionary, as well as a pocket French dictionary to remind me to practice French at least every other day.

It is fascinating what a "trick" having these books always in my sight line can play on the mind. Now that my work is all writing and editing (for all kinds of different topics - not just nutrition and health!), having some wonderful books within easy reach is inspiring and motivating. If I need to look something up in relation to my work, it takes me 30 seconds to find the right book, which is very helpful when you're in the zone. And they give me new and creative ideas in my work. Even when I'm taking a break, having these books right there means that writing and editing are often (if not always) in the back of my mind. It's a great way to keep my mind on communications and always ready to do some work!

What books do you have close at hand (and why)? Do you find that having certain types of books nearby changes the way you think or what you think about? Share in the comments section below!


The Practical Guide: Toward vs. Towards

Posted by Sagan

We all have those words that we use regularly but don't really know how they're supposed to be used. One of my sets of "problem words" is very ordinary: the toward/towards conundrum.

I never know when to use toward and when to use towards. Normally I just use whatever "sounds right" in the sentence. But when an editor recently corrected me on my use of the word (I had written towards; she replaced it with toward), I figured I should do a little research and solve my problem once and for all.

I looked in one of my bibles (is it okay to have several "bibles"? Is that blasphemy?) for the answer, The Canadian Press Stylebook: A guide for writers and editors, 15th edition. Sure enough, there was the -ward/-wards issue on page 433. Here's what the CP Stylebook says:

Americans prefer the -ward form: toward, backward, afterward; Britons prefer -wards: towards, backwards, afterwards; Canadians use both forms.

Hm. So why did my editor change my use of towards to toward? I decided I should look in another bible of mine, my beloved Canadian Oxford Dictionary. It makes a note under the word toward on page 1,646:

As forms of the preposition, toward and towards are equally common in Canada; the fact that this dictionary lists toward first should not discourage the use of towards.

So none of this really answers my question. Does my editor simply prefer toward over towards, or was there a different reasoning behind her change? Am I lacking some really basic editorial knowledge on this topic? If anyone has some insights, I would love to hear them.

In the meantime, I think I'll make a point of using toward when I write for that particular editor... and I'll use either toward or towards in other writing, depending on which "feels right" ;)