Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

The Bond Between Writers & Editors 

Let me say, first and foremost, I feel more comfortable saying I’m an editor. Perhaps because I feel judged (even by myself) when I say I’m a writer. It’s an “artsy-fartsy” career– no one makes money writing, right?

 In my heart, I’m a writer; in my head, I’m an editor.

As editor and contributor to Modern Agriculture Magazine, I was asked to speak before the Professional Writers Association of Canada (Fraser Valley chapter) about the relationship between editor and writer. I tried to provide perspective from both sides of the desk, even though they are two very different jobs.

Since 2010, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor, and social media manager. I came across an ad for a proofreader for Modern Agriculture Magazine in 2014 and, despite my complete lack of experience in farming or  growing anything other than mould, I applied and got the gig.

Getting a Magazine to Print

I love the grass roots way in which Modern Agriculture Magazine began. In 2013 a small group of students in the agriculture department at the University of the Fraser Valley shared the same view about agriculture publications as one of their teachers: not enough hyper-local interest stories or communication about all the exciting new tech and innovation in the ag sector that they were learning about in class. It was suggested  they start their own publication, and so they surged ahead with that raw courage of youth.

Over the past few years, it has been submissions from writers and suggestions and feedback from readers that has directed the layout and content of Modern Ag Mag. The magazine was created with the farming community in mind, but we now want producers, retailers, distributors and consumers to feel they are gaining valuable, relevant information about food and the ag industry.

The magazine produces four issues a year focusing on local farming stories as well as global innovations in agriculture. Though submissions come in from around the world, the publishers have always preferred to use the talents of local writers with expertise in agriculture and horticulture.

My role with the magazine slowly morphed and grew, and now I might perform the roles of structural editor, line editor, managing editor, writer and proofreader. Traditional publishing houses or larger magazines have distinct titles with specific tasks attached to those titles. Smaller publications have less positions but the same tasks, so the lines between tasks are necessarily blurred.

Titles like Managing Editor, Feature Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Substantive Editor, Publisher, Manager, Director, and departments within the publication: Publishing, Design, Acquisitions, Sales, and Editorial can be an overwhelming hierarchy, but with our little magazine we have a small staff and eventually writers and advertisers get to know our whole team.

If a writer submits work to a larger magazine publisher, they might be working with several editors at different stages and might never work with the proofreaders—the last people to see the work before going to print.

It’s truly a team effort to get an issue of Modern Agriculture published. We are each other’s sounding board, support system, and will step into each role as required without stepping on toes—and that in itself is the key to a successful issue. Respect and politeness go a long way when you’re working with a small team and tight deadlines.

Gurtaj Sandhu was one of the original publishers of the magazine, so he has had input in all departments, but now can focus his energy on advertising as Sales Manager. He also coordinates meetings and our attendance at industry events as the publisher’s representative.

Amanda Thind is our Manager or Managing Editor and she oversees each issue and is the go between for writers, me (the Editor), and our Creative Director. She handles the accounts payable/receivable, the publication schedule, the final proof and the quality of the print. She also is in communication with most of our regular contributors and in touch with all levels of the ag community and resources for stories.

Our Creative Director, Karin Nelson, worked with the original publishing team on the design of the magazine and often shares her opinion on the content and direction we are going. Her artistic, creative mind allows for a different perspective and she contributes to the tone of the magazine.

The Role of an Editor

For me, the self-judgement that goes on sometimes when I write is non-existent when I have on my editor’s hat. As writers, we all know we can be our own worse critics. I think that’s why I have a delicate touch when it comes to editing the work of others, because I truly understand how personal it can feel when your creation comes under scrutiny.

Editors are analytical rather than artistic. As the editor and proofreader for the magazine, I am able to be critical without being cruel, and encouraging without being emotional.

As an editor,  I have to be efficient and focus on correct copy. I need a certain confidence, stubbornness and a critical eye. Sometimes a writer and I will enthusiastically disagree with a change to the work—but that’s rare. We are all working together with one goal which is to produce a quality magazine and educate and inform readers.

But with any disagreement, if the piece is needed and there’s a deadline looming, it’s time to get real. For me, it’s a balance between considering the feelings of others, the reasons the article has to be altered, and will the end result justify the battle over word choice or a punctuation mark. The relationship I’m building with a writer is more important than what I view as a “perfect article”. The writer’s name is on the work, after all.

Disagreeing with an Editor

If you really believe your work has suffered due to a change, bring the issue up with the editor. The best way to approach your editor is to say, “I’d really like to understand the reason behind the change in case it’s something that comes up in the future.” If the editor can make a case for the edits, then you have learned something. If not, then the editor might decide the change wasn’t really necessary. Now, you’re working as a team, and future issues, hopefully, will be easier to address.

That being said, writers (myself included) have to remember that editors are not there to be mean or unreasonable. They are doing an important job and might even be able to offer an unbiased view of your work that will make you a better writer, or at the very least be more open to criticism.

It might be that you realize you hate this person and just cannot work with them anymore. This is also helpful. If an editor isn’t supportive, open to suggestions, willing to listen and respectful of the work, time to move on.

Get Paid for Writing

If you submit work to a publication on spec, hoping to be hired for future work, I suggest you send your rate with the submission with the understanding that you will be paid. It is your job as a writer to make this clear, because if a magazine can get your work for free, they will! It’s not illegal, as far as I know, not to pay a writer who sends in unsolicited work.

State that you have submitted the work for consideration and ask who you send your invoice to should your work be chosen. Contracts are not used with our magazine, and there hasn’t been a problem so far, but if you’re new to a publication I suggest you at least ask about contracts or have one ready to send if you feel you need that assurance.

Editors should be open to receiving queries from writers. IF they’re not, then that’s just surprising . . . and odd, because after all, the content supply needs to keep flowing.

I always welcome questions, story suggestions and submissions. We might not always use them, or even get back to you. This is just because of the volume we sometimes get or our busy schedules. It’s not a rebuff, and please don’t take it personally. I would invite you to send another email or message me, or even phone me. Then I can apologize profusely for my scatter brain and it might result in me asking you to write an article cos I feel so guilty.

Can Writers Submit to More Than One Publication?

Writers own their work and they have copyright and it’s their intellectual property, but editors have control over how the work is presented in its final form. Though you own the work, it is – of course – best practice to have your work paid for and printed in one published medium at a time. Many editors don’t accept previously published work – unique and fresh is preferred, and magazines don’t want to get embroiled in conflicts over articles.

We will accept older work if it is still relevant and can be altered enough not to be recognized by readers. Sometimes magazines will ask a writer to sign a contract, promising not to publish their work in any other medium for a year or so after printing. This means NOT in print, online, in an anthology, or on your website. This is just good practice. You want to build a reputation as a writer, and loyalty to each publication is paramount.

How to Build on Your Writer-Editor Relationship

It’s important to have an original voice, a perspective when you write, and though it’s good to be able to write on any subject, it helps to focus on what interests you as a writer and become the expert in that field. You become the go-to person for that subject when an editor is looking for a writer for a topic.

We DO appreciate when writers share their articles or snippets of the article leading back to our website on their social media channels and help spread the word about our free subscription – the more subscribers, the more ads we can attract, and the more writers we can hire.

We include bylines with our articles, a contributors page with short bios about the writers and links to websites so we can help promote you as a writer. Just don’t start charging us more when you become famous!

Of course, the most important way to build trust with an editor, is:

  • Send them a bottle of wine — just kidding, really it’s…
  • Meet deadlines no matter what!

Deadlines are terrifying to editors and managing editors. The expected article doesn’t arrive . . . and the magazine layout is affected as the editor, managing editor, publisher, and designer scramble to choose a suitable article in the files, or have to contact another writer to whip something together just in case, or the editor now has to drop everything to write something to fit. Pages might need rearranging, new images sourced, the contents page and contributor pages and cover are affected — and the last weeks or days before files go to print are stressful enough without that added burden.

What Happens After Submitting an Article?

When we receive an article, we expect it to be as close to perfect as possible. We want it to be one hundred percent original, have been thoroughly researched, fact-checked and contain accurate quotes. If you don’t already record your interviews, I would suggest you start. Digital recorders are inexpensive and you can store digital files of interviews if sources or quotes need to be checked. Biggest tip – extra batteries! Those suckers burn through batteries.

If material is referenced, we would appreciate tables, graphs and charts to back it up and use with permission. Images are so important, and if a writer can ask the person they are interviewing for photos to include in the article – that is stellar! It means we don’t have to try and find images to represent the article, or bother interviewees ourselves, but have access to approved images from the source.

Basically, any sources or information you have to help support what you’ve written should be submitted along with the article. Editors try to fact check, but we don’t have access to your recordings or online research you did, so make sure everything is accurate and if you think it would be helpful, include links to websites or publications used as references.

After an article reaches me and it’s ready for insertion into the magazine, I proofread it. I generally won’t get back to the writer once I have the article . . . I will only make small edits for spelling, verb tense, or grammar etc. if necessary, on which the writer need not be consulted.

If the writer requests that I send edited copy to them, I will . . . but not for debate. If there are significant changes required, I would let the writer know and send a revised copy for their approval. Reasons for big changes usually have to do with space, but there have been times when a lot of structural editing was required, and I want to share that with the writer so they have the changes for future reference. They may want to submit a tweaked version to another publication down the road, and any corrections I make might help them with that submission.

It may just have been that we made a list of points into bullets for easier reading, or shortened sentences or added subheadings to break up a longer piece. Sometimes headings are added or changed to create a hook. I tend to be a sucker for alliteration or a pun – cheesy but fun!

Timeline of a magazine from planning to print

We gather the team together up to a year prior to plan a few issues ahead, consider each season, make educated guesses as to what will be in vogue, review past issues and what topics need to be revisited, sketch out a rough list of articles and potential writers. We plan the cover—to suit the season, but also leave room for developing stories or advertisers that want to pay for a cover.

The printing house needs at least five weeks heads up that we are sending print files, and they need to receive print files about roughly 2-3 weeks before expected print date.

We asked writers to submit articles for the January issue by mid November at the latest. That gave us a month to coordinate articles, edit, do layout, source images and finalize cover and proofread a few times before print files went to the printer. So we started handing out article assignments in September for the January issue.

We like to try and give our writers a month or two to conduct research and interviews, and write the articles. We like a bit of a cushion because we are all part-time freelancers and we need to work the magazine schedule in with our other jobs and responsibilities. Every issue can be a little different, but those deadlines, once set, have to be kept – the health and sanity of our Creative Director hangs upon it.

Queries, Questions & Quick Tips

It really is best for freelancers to research reputable publications, or submit to ones recommended by a fellow writer, and if you’re hired for a series of articles, make sure you’re paid immediately for the first before submitting any more—or get signatures on a contract.

You can request a style guide or submission guidelines from a publication, and these can often be found on the publication’s website. This can be a good way to make that first introduction as a writer. And if you are a regular contributor, following a style guide saves some time for the editor.

Though, I find it’s just easier for me to make any necessary style changes to freelance work as I go, as some writers are submitting work to several places, and it isn’t feasible to try and match different style requirements as each magazine will follow their own.

How do Writers & Editors Connect?

Places I’ve connected with potential contributors:

  • Writing and editing association meetings or events
  • The Pacific Ag Show or Horticulture Shows
  • Industry events and media gatherings – news releases
  • The BC Tech Summit
  • SRCTec open houses
  • I receive queries through my editor@modernag email, my business website, LinkedIn, or other social channels

We’ve also found writers on:

  •  UPwork Freelancer, or PWAC or similar freelance sites
  • Online: If you have a strong online presence with sample works on your website and links to articles online, you’re much more likely to be contacted for your services.
  • 100 Best Websites for Writers 2017 (from The Write Life)

If you are looking to write for a particular magazine, I suggest stalking them. Research their style, the subjects they cover, attend events they might attend, share what they publish, be visible and ready to introduce yourself and talk about what you’ve written (and where you are published).

Don’t be shy—I always hold back as a writer. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t take that first step—advice I still struggle with.

So, I wish you all good luck with your writing, and I want to invite your questions below or you can email me.

Does Your Business Have a PULSE?

When visitors land on your website or Facebook page, would they get the sense that there is a living, breathing person running things? Is your website bland or lacking in personality? Would your potential customers connect with your blog and social media content?

Breathe LIFE back into your online presence…Perform CPR (Content  Powered Rejuvenation) and bring your social media back from the dead.

Welcoming Websites

Think about your website as your store or home . . .  you want people to feel welcome and spend time there . . .You want them to leave comments, ask questions, go on a bit of a journey, visit other areas of your store.

Take a critical look at your website and the content. IS it relevant? Does it provide solutions and answer questions your potential clients might have? If you don’t ADORE your own site and enjoy scrolling through it and rereading posts . . . then no one else will either!

Sociable Media

Do your posts reflect who you are, what your values are, and what you do? Is the content entertaining? You need to draw people in, attract followers and make people feel welcome and let them know you are there to solve problems for them and share your insights.

HOW do you do this? Yep, it’s a skill, but you can learn! I’m all about teaching and empowering others to do their own social media, but I do manage platforms and ghost write blogs for businesses if time is an issue.

FACT: Over 75% of people on the internet are using social media, and many turn to their favourite platforms to investigate a business. If they check out your website, is it doing a good job representing you and your products and services?

AND most importantly: Does your web presence answer the following questions RIGHT AWAY?

  • Are you OPEN? . . . Surprising how many businesses do NOT post their hours or have recent info to show they are active and still in business.
  • WHERE are you?…Are you brick and mortar, or online only?
  • WHY should I TRUST you? Are you coming off as amateur, or professional. BE the expert.
  • WHO are you? And WHO is talking about you?
  • WHAT services do you offer, and WHICH problems can you solve for me?

If you have any questions, post below or message me on FB.

Interested in a FREE 30 minute consultation? CONTACT ME.

The Reclusive Solopreneur

Don’t treat yourself like a BOSS…treat yourself like a valued EMPLOYEE.

Let’s face it…most work-from-home solopreneurs slog away at a ridiculous pace, working god awful hours and forgetting to eat.

You are the Employee of the Month!

If you treat yourself like a star team member, you will not ignore your basic rights to breaks, a hot lunch once in a while and conversations with other human beings. You also need to schedule time to learn new things and grow your network, and focus on your business marketing.

PLUS you need to get out once in a while, otherwise your social skills will wither away and you will convince yourself that wearing the same pajamas and not showering for four days qualifies you as a “green” business.

Launching a Business

After completing my education in editing, and trying to start my own business, I found it very hard to get up the courage to seek out others with similar goals and interests. It took quite a while to gather a group of supportive associates to share the work with and celebrate the successes.

Meet new mentors!

I had to force myself to get out of the yoga pants and actually attend groups and meetings with other business owners and find events that were of benefit to me and my business. It takes time…no doubt about it. But you have to do it! There is no growth where there is no effort — I heard that somewhere, and it’s true.

Collaborating with Peers

Alphabetizing  business cards you received last year does NOT count as networking.

Just to see if you’re paying attention!

For home-based business owners, it can be difficult to actually leave the house. I get it! But it ALWAYS pays off. It is important to hunt down business meetup groups and like-minded individuals who can inspire you and lead to possible business collaborations.

Find classes and lectures about the things you are weak on: social media, marketing, blogging, public speaking, bookkeeping and organizing.

There is something for everyone out there.

Breaks and Lunches

Staring at the wall, contemplating what to make for dinner does NOT constitute a break; chowing down on the candy you hid from your kids is NOT a healthy lunch.

It’s important to remember to feed yourself healthy foods throughout the day. I’m sure you’re like me: when I am focused on work and in the zone, I tend to forget to eat and then snack on the quickest food I can find (which is usually cheese strings and chips).

Set a timer or alarm if necessary. Treat yourself to a trip to a deli or bakery once in a while. Take a break and grab a coffee with a friend or business associate. You would do this if you worked in an office, so you need to take the time for a time-out.


smartphone-1445489_960_720Search Facebook and LinkedIn to find pages, groups and events with a similar business focus and introduce yourself and your company.

Check out these Ultimate Networking Apps 

Here are some links to help you GET OUT OF THE HOUSE:

And of course LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups are great ways to network online and connect with people in your area.  FB Live Video seminars contain valuable information and give you an opportunity to interact in real time (just follow your favourite peeps and be on alert for those streaming vids)…or contact me on FB or LinkedIn and we can count it as a business meeting!

SHARE your favourite groups, organizations or ways to connect!

Top Blogging Tips for Business

“If you have something to sell, you’d better have a story to tell.”

I have been so lucky . . . as I built my business I had a lot of support from family, friends and colleagues . . . most of them women like me who began a new entrepreneurial career after raising a family or working for someone else.

GET YOURSELF A MENTOR is my biggest tip, or commune with other “like” people and businesses to see what they are doing. Attending seminars and meetup groups are so helpful – and you can learn A TON about marketing.

The best tips come from these mentors who have already done it . . . and learned how to market their business from other successful entrepreneurs. One of the biggest marketing tools they use is A BLOG! (SCROLL DOWN FOR INTERVIEW!) Continue reading Top Blogging Tips for Business

Social Media Simplified

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’m sure most of you feel the same. The online world can be intrusive, fear-inducing, anger-fueling, annoying and often tricks us with lies and exaggerations of the truth. But let’s face it, social media is a necessary tool and can be our greatest ally when we need to reach more than one person at a time. And the channels of social media can also funnel informative, inspiring, engaging, entertaining and educating material our way and help us create connections we would never have been able to make in the “real” world.

I do prefer real, human conversations to cold, static texts; and I would rather have a face-to-face meeting than play email tag or struggle through uncomfortable Skype conversations; but in this busy, hyper-connected world, we need to keep up with the times or throw in the towel and live a hermit life in a mountain cave.

It helps me to relate the online social world to the real world so I have a better understanding of what should be shared through each platform. And it helps to envision the people using each platform as a different audience so I can tailor what I have to say. I spend a lot of time helping other business people succeed on social media, and make connections that count – and I have to continually remind myself of “What” goals we need to accomplish, “How” best to accomplish those goals and “Where” the best place to accomplish them is. It helps me to picture each social media site in the following ways:

Your Website is your storefront and you want people to enter, browse, and stay a while. You attract people there by keeping content fresh with updated blogs and relevant articles and by directing people to your website through social media platforms – where your potential clients and collaborators gather. Provide info that people want to know about – helpful tips and secrets, newsletters, and calendars of events through easily navigable pages and posts.

LinkedIn is an extension of your website – your online resume and brag sheet. It is the boardroom, where you gather with your contemporaries and peers to share ideas, problem solve, meet with potential clients and build on your professional development.

LinkedIn is a tool where you can:

  • Seek out people you would like to work for, work with and mentor.
  • Find your future work and team build by joining groups, commenting and sharing with other LinkedIn members.
  • Offer and request recommendations.
  • Endorse peoples’ skills and thank those who do the same for you.

Like a resume, you are continually adding to it as your business and client list grows. There is a steadiness and a consistency to LinkedIn – it’s a “Club” mentality there and if you are in the club you have longevity and staying power.

Use the first person when filling in your profile, and make sure to fill in as many sections as possible – you never know what might “link” you to someone else.

You should share your advice, tips, blog posts and the same from contemporaries you admire and wish to collaborate with through the post feature so that others can share your posts on LinkedIn and other social sites.

Facebook is the water cooler you all gather around on your break to talk about what you did last night, which video you found interesting and the joke you overheard at the grocery store. Your personal Profile is where you can get a bit more personal, but if you have a business Page, you should be careful not to be too political, religious or opinionated—unless you are a politician, religious leader or looked to for your opinion, of course! It’s where you share your snippets of info, advice and words of inspiration in short, clear blurbs so people can get back to work. This is the place where people get to know the “face” of the business. Be true to who you are and what your business stands for. Tell your story in different ways.

The only way your posts have life after 15 minutes is to get people interacting on the posts. Ask for feedback or create posts that people will react to and want to share; and once someone Likes, Shares or Comments, the post is shown on more people’s timelines—and the more people who respond, the more people on their friend list will see it, and the Reach of the post grows exponentially. Careful content creation and regular topics like “Tuesday Tip” or “Throwback Thursday” works because people like to know what to expect of your Page and the quality and quantity of the info. If it changes suddenly or contains content that is overly “Sales-y”, people will UN-Like the page. Create Events and Tabs to link to newsletters, sales and coupons. Make your Facebook page somewhere people would want to spend their valuable time visiting.

Google + is a combo between LinkedIn and Facebook. Not as popular yet in some circles, but businesses are getting the hang of it and Google likes it when you are active there so it is important to have a presence on Google+. Posts should be a combo of Facebook and LinkedIn posts. Your space here is a representation of who you are and what your business is all about. Lots of sharing and “+”-ing or “Hi-fiving” going on here. Like Twitter you can put people into groups and follow them to see their posts in your feed. Great place to find advocates for your business.

Twitter contains your random thoughts, nuggets of wisdom and short info blasts. It’s as if your head were made of glass and the whole world has a front row seat to your shenanigans. It’s what is happening right now and the shelf life is mere minutes as the next thought whisks into view. If you have a lot going on, Twitter is the place for people to keep up with you.

Tweets do not live long as they disappear down the page on everyone’s feed as new tweets populate the space. Twitter is a crowded and noisy market and you have to repeat yourself often and be present to be heard and catch the important Tweets that whizz through the space. You need to shout over the other people BUT your info must be relevant and engaging and not just noise or you will be UNFOLLOWED and silenced. This is a good place to organize the businesses and people you follow into groups so you can target specific messages.

By creating my own imaginary world in the social spectrum I have been able to make some sense of it all and be clearer about the type of content I share on each platform. We all do what works best for us.

Experiment with each platform – you might be surprised. I had one client who was strictly on Facebook, and I kept hinting that Twitter might be better for her type of business, but she was wary of it and stayed away. Then one day she emailed me and told me she had given it a try and LOVED IT! She found it more convenient to tweet out what she was doing in between client sessions and send out relevant info as it popped into her head. Sitting down and writing blog posts and creating Facebook content intimidated and overwhelmed her, but she found Twitter was fun! And if something is FUN, it WORKS! So, my biggest recommendation for social media is HAVE FUN!

What is YOUR favourite social media platform, and WHY?

My TOP 8 Writing Tips for Newbies

Here’s a quick Top 8 list of things to help you write anything!

  1. Don’t have any distractions (tv, kids etc.) This means turn off your email, close all windows (on your computer, dummy, not the ones in your house, although that might be a good idea too.) It does, after all, get noisy out there sometimes. Come to think of it, that effin bird out there is making an awful racket, and WHAT’S WITH THE LAWNMOWER — it’s October, for crying out loud! Perhaps I will just close my window…

…sorry about that, had to go out and ask my neighbour if he could mow his lawn a little later and we got to talking about composting. Now, back to the list. Hey, what’s that buzzing sound? Oh, it’s my cell phone — I have it on vibrate so as not to get distracted.

2. Have your phone on vibrate…damn! You know, maybe I should answer it…just this once. After all, it must be important or they wouldn’t keep trying to call me back. Or perhaps they think I am a bit slow and it takes me a while to figure out my effin phone is trying to get my attention…oh, screw it, I’d better answer, it’s going off again…

…Well, that was an interesting call about why I need to switch my service provider. I told her when they can figure out how to filter spam phone calls — especially when I am writing a blog post or when I am in desperate need for the bathroom, then they got me for life! When I was in the afore-mentioned bathroom, I noticed my toenails were getting a little long so I got out the trimmers; and of course, then I noticed my legs hadn’t been shaved in a while.

3. Schedule a specific time each day to write. Even if it is late at night, or early in the morning before work, make a plan to write at a scheduled time and DO NOT do any other activities during this time.  I have this friend whose husband used to get up at 6 am to write before work. I wonder how he is doing on his book. You know, I really should check online to see if he is on Amazon yet. I bet his book would be really interesting after all that work he put in…

4. Do NOT get tempted to look anything up on the internet unless it directly relates to what you are writing about. I just spent over $50 and I do not remember exactly what I bought, but it definitely was not my friend’s husband’s book. He wasn’t on Amazon. I should shoot him an email to tell him I checked…Ah, no! Almost fell for that one! Just keep writing, just keep writing…

5. KEEP WRITING! It is best to keep a document on your desktop to add any ideas to throughout the day so you can expand upon them during your scheduled writing time. Just highlight or delete as you use the content. Ooh, just remembered I had a list somewhere about staying on topic and pruning your work for efficacy and clarity. Hmm, it’s here somewhere…

6. Stay organized. Just spent an hour browsing through files and getting lost in the mountain of images, photos and documents that do not seem to follow any sort of chronological order, or aren’t arranged in any way which could conceivably be called ‘organized’. Now I am very despondent. Perhaps a snack to make me feel better.

7. Okay, no snacking until you finish. You should set a goal (say 500 words or an hour of writing if it’s a blog — longer if you are working on a novel), and have a favourite snack or bevvy on hand for when you complete. Oh, just remembered, I ate the last of the Goldfish crackers with my red wine last night — a poor writer’s wine and cheese party. Anyway, I’ll just pop out and get some nibbles. You know, for when I get around to finishing this…

The Comma Queen Answers Your Punctuation Questions

I often get questions about punctuation usage from friends and clients. I enjoy explaining the rules and helping people understand why a semi-colon must be used in place of a comma, or why a hyphen is not appropriate between parts of a sentence, because it helps to reinforce the rules for me too.

The folks at the New Yorker recorded some very helpful videos on punctuation with great examples from copy editor, Mary Norris — or as you may refer to her, the Comma Queen.

Enjoy the videos and if you have any questions about punctuation, grammar, spelling or writing fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you!


Apostrophe Atrocities Appall Aware Authors!

If you’re sick and tired of blog posts about apostrophes, well too bad…here’s another one! Until we learn our lesson and stop making the same mistakes over and over again (we all make ’em), we’re doomed to endure constant lecturing. Even I make mistakes sometimes (I know…shocking!), so please tell me if you spot an error, ’cause — damn it, I have to learn!

don’t know about you, but I am constantly amazed at the amount of apostrophe errors out there. Why is it we, as an English-speaking and -writing culture, can’t get it right? I see mistakes painted on the sides of vehicles, plastered on signs, emblazoned on book covers and sprinkled through articles. Some examples:

images (3)

Do NOT get a tattoo here unless the owner’s name is Tattoo. Even then, bad idea!


This person sadly ignored the blatant signs that Tattoo, though a business owner, did not possess the necessary English skills to craft an eloquent indelible message. I say tattoo artists should stick to images.

Dont Look Back Bob Dylan

This may have been a design choice…I get it, but I don’t have to like it!

Ribs Ontario

Oooh, wait a minute…I think they’re telling us the Best Rib is actually in town. Well, I’d like to meat him (see what I did there?)

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This is completely understandable — the sign printer obviously ran out of apostrophes.

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Their price for perfection is having to fire the proofreader.

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At least they reword the invitation underneath as they know something is wrong in the first sentence but aren’t sure what it is, so they kindly clarify things for the reader. And what’s with the time? Another pet peeve — there should be a colon between 9 and 30 and a space before am!!!! I also hate overuse of exclamation marks…but sometimes…I tell ya!

So, I have some questions for you. Should we point out these egregious errors to the perpetrator? Or, is it not our place to be the punctuation police? And who is to blame: the business owner, the copy writer, the proofreader, the printer, the sign installer, the first person to see the printed copy? I imagine the text passes through multiple stages and past several people before being presented to the public. Just carelessness then, I suppose.

The only way we will learn as a society is to keep reminding people the correct way to punctuate, and point out the errors so they aren’t made again. Ask someone else to proofread, or at least double-check your work. Appalling apostrophe application should not be tolerated. So let’s go over the rules again…

Only use apostrophes for:

  1. Contractions. When squishing two words together, the apostrophe is like a bookmark for the missing letters. For example:  “I’d (I would) love to attend the party, but I don’t (do not) like boring conversation or frozen sausage rolls passed off as hors d’oevres.” ( I had to look up how to spell hors d’oevres — French: outside of the main course).
  2. Possessives. To show who or what owns something. For example: “My parents do not make a habit of throwing boring parties. Mother’s quiche is often spoken of the next day and her guests’ palates are discerning, I assure you. I insist you attend Thursday’s party.”
  3. Abbreviations. For example: “Well, excuse me! I would hate to upset you ’cause your parents are terrible hosts! They haven’t thrown a good party since the ’70s!” (note there is NO apostrophe required after ’70 as it is a plural word — 1970s, nineteen seventies).

* TIP: When typing an apostrophe, make sure it is the apostrophe– the curly quote mark or straight quote mark ( ’ or ‘ ), and try and pay attention to the way the apostrophe faces. It is NOT an opening quote, but an END quote  not ‘.

Apostrophe use

Now there are odd rules, and exceptions, and even preferential treatment for apostrophes. E.g. an apostrophe can help clarify things as in: Mind you P’s and Q’s — it just looks better with apostrophes, though they are not needed.

It is interesting to note that the creator of Mother’s Day wanted the apostrophe inserted before the ‘r’ although there are three usage camps (Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Mothers Day). So, my final piece of advice is to look it up if in doubt, or ask a superlative editor like me…or is it myself?

Leave your comments or questions below, and PLEASE point out any errors, because we all need reminding sometimes!

Creating Names for Your Characters…or Your ALTER EGO!

WOW — now, THIS is a tool I can use!

Random name generator. It will help you create names for medieval characters, or even boat names or place names! Have fun, and thanks, NAME GENERATOR!

I seem to always come up with names ending in “Y”. Even my kids’ names are Amy and Henry…my latest characters in my stories: Abby, Libby, Freddie (I could definitely use some inspiration!)

What is your favourite technique for name creation?


Work-at-Home Business Owners Need to Get Out Once in a While!

As a work-at-home freelance writer and editor, I find I forget to treat myself as an employee. I ignore my basic rights to a break, a hot lunch and conversations with other human beings. I neglect to schedule time to learn new things and grow my network, and I ignore my own company’s marketing.

I used to find it very hard to get up the courage to seek out others with similar goals and interests. It took quite a while to gather a group of supportive associates who I can share the work with and celebrate the successes. I had to force myself to get out of the yoga pants and actually attend groups and meetings with other business owners and find events that were of benefit to me and my business. It takes time…no doubt about it. But you have to do it. There is no growth where there is no effort — I heard that somewhere, and it has become my mantra.

Collaborating with Peers

Reorganizing a pile of stuffed animals can NOT be classed a business meeting; and alphabetizing the business cards you received last year does NOT count as networking.

For home-based businesses, it can be difficult to actually leave the house. I get it! I have to actually make a huge effort — but it ALWAYS pays off. It is important to hunt down business meetup groups and like-minded individuals who can inspire you and lead to possible business collaborations. Find classes and lectures about the things you are weak on: social media, marketing, blogging, public speaking, bookkeeping and organizing.

There is something for everyone out there.

Breaks and Lunches

Staring at the wall, contemplating what to make for dinner does NOT constitute a break; chowing down on the candy you hid from your kids is NOT a healthy lunch. It is important to remember to feed yourself healthy foods throughout the day. I’m sure you’re like me: when there is no one peeking at what I am eating, I tend to forget to eat and then snack on the quickest food I can find (which is usually cheese strings and chips). Treat yourself to a trip to a deli or bakery once in a while. Take a break and grab a coffee with a friend or business associate. You would do this if you worked in an office, so you need to take that time for a time-out.

Search Facebook and LinkedIn to find groups with similar business interests and promote your company.

Try this cool new business networking app:

Here are some links to help you GET OUT OF THE HOUSE:

Share your favourite networking group and any advice you have for home-based businesses in the comments below…or contact me on FB or LinkedIn and we can count it as a business meeting!