Thursday, May 28, 2009
We were commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage last year to do a national study on book distribution. The study report, “Book Distribution in Canada’s English-Language Market,” has just been published and is available online in PDF and HTML editions.
Distribution is a part of the book business that is not easily visible to many of those involved in the book trade and certainly not to the average book reader in Canada. However, effective management of the supply chain—the process of getting books to where they need to be, when they need to be there, and as efficiently as possible—is a critical function in publishing. It is a process that increasingly touches virtually all other aspects of the Canadian book trade from editorial acquisitions to marketing to consumer behavior.
A special thanks to the many publishers, distributors, booksellers, and industry groups who contributed their time, expertise, and data to the study. And congratulations to our colleague Marcel Oullette whose complementary study on Canada’s French-language market was also published today.
Posted by Craig Riggs on 05/28 at 11:21 AM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Craig sent me a gem of a post by Lynda Partner on the OneDegree website: Cut the Blah Blah Blah—When Less is the New More. The post advocates stripping writing until only the most necessary, powerful words remain, allowing meaning and core messages to shine through to readers. Here’s an excerpt:
In 1868, writer Mark Twain said
“Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.”
In an age where attention spans are shrinking, and 140 character sound bites are all you are allowed on marketing vehicles like Twitter, it is once again time for writing less to become a valued marketing skill.
I couldn’t agree more. In The Power of Slow and Spare, I wrote:
When you’re excited about something your business is doing—a new initiative or product, for example—it’s tempting to want to include in your press release every one of the 34 reasons it’s so great. And explain each reason in depth. And quote all the people who were involved in the idea. And give background. And context. And related information.
But guess what?
Most people will abandon your press release unless you relinquish your dream of including everything you’d ideally like to say. Our society is time-starved as well as compelled to cram as many sources of information in as possible—we are news grazers, not gourmands.
What I love about Partner’s post is that she includes ten tips to apply to the way you describe your own business that will help you distill your message to its absolute core. Here’s Tip #7:
Count how many times you used your product or company name or the word “we.” If it’s more than once in every 500 words, ask yourself if you are writing about you or for your reader. For every statement you write, answer the question “what does this mean for my reader?”
I’m going to sit with those ten tips tomorrow and chew them over. I want to see where the exercise gets me. If nothing else it will be exercise, and exercise is the only way to become a better writer.
Posted by Kiley Turner on 05/27 at 08:41 PM
Monday, May 25, 2009
Today’s Weekly Geek addresses a mistake in usage I see all the time: the erroneous use of comprise. It’s such a tough one that Frances Peck often advises her clients to simply forget comprise entirely as a word ... to just abandon it. That’s one option, and a good one since comprise can be a fussy word that often sounds too formal or even pretentious. If you do want to use comprise, check out this excerpt from a section of a client style guide I did a couple of years ago:
Use comprise, composed of, or consists of as per the examples below. As Fowler’s notes, “The special function of comprise is to introduce a list of the parts making up the whole that is its subject; that is, it means to consist of or to be composed of. All the parts compose the whole; the whole comprises all of the parts.” Therefore:
- The book comprises eight chapters.
- Milk, honey, and nutmeg compose the sauce.
- The sauce comprises milk, honey, and nutmeg.
- The committee was composed of nine representatives.
- The lesson consists of four sections.
Another trick I just thought of is to think of comprise along the same lines as contain. It’s not perfect, but it might end any confusion between comprise and compose.
Next week: the en dash.
Posted by Kiley Turner on 05/25 at 12:29 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad.
John Benbow in Manuscript and Proof
Everyone hates hyphens. They don’t make any sense—it seems there are a million exceptions to their rules. Yet an ill-placed hyphen or lack of hyphen when there should be one can make a sentence stick out like a sore thumb and the writer look amateur. This post is devoted to an area of hyphenation that drives people especially batty: the treatment of compound terms like “middle class” or “much despised.”
There are two main points to remember when dealing with this sort of thing:
- Never hyphenate an adverb ending in -ly (e.g., you would never write “the unjustly-accused innocent”). There is no happy union between -ly and a hyphen.
- Everything depends on where compound terms occur in a sentence—that is, their position. If you’ve got two words modifying a noun and they occur before that noun, smack that hyphen right on in there. So: “the upper-class neighbourhood,” “the open-ended arrangement.” If they occur after the noun, pump the brakes—take your finger away from the keyboard and stifle your sense of injustice at the weirdness of the rule. So: “the neighborhood was upper class,” and “the arrangement is open ended.”
Just remembering these two points can help you immensely when it comes to hyphenation.
As for words that don’t serve to modify a noun, like “email,” “toothache,” or “healthcare,” the best idea is to consult a recent edition of a good dictionary. Whether to hyphenate these, close them up, or leave them open changes over time and over dictionaries, so the only way to proceed is to check the word and then remain consistent throughout your document.
Posted by Kiley Turner on 05/13 at 01:14 PM