5 word misuse memes to watch for

  1. As such
  2. Within instead of in
  3. Fulsome
  4. Predominately instead of predominantly
  5. Reactionary instead of reactive
  6. About the Author

You’re editing a wide variety of content from different clients—web pages, reports, speeches—and one of the writers misuses a word or phrase. You fix it and move on. Then you see the same mistake by another writer, from a different organization, in a different document. You start keeping track, and you see the word misuse over and over again. What is going on?

What you have here is a language meme. Geneticist Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, noting that sometimes cultural items, such as fashion or songs, spread like wildfire through a culture. Today we call it “going viral.” This happens with word usage as well. People who do a lot of reading and writing, especially in their job, tend to emulate the writing of their colleagues and superiors. A new usage can move quickly from one writer to another.

But that’s a problem if the usage is wrong. Editors need to launch an all-out frontal assault to get such a viral misuse stopped. I should acknowledge, though, that sometimes the meaning of a word or term changes. Earlier in my career, I tried to argue with a writer who was using “timely” to mean “prompt” or “on time,” which was incorrect at the time but is now considered acceptable. The meaning of “timely” changed.

So I want to tell you about misuse memes that I’m seeing these days, with the proviso that these misuses may become a new use. If you’re a writer, try to avoid these misuses; if you’re an editor, please fix them.

As such

Let’s talk about how to use “as such” properly. To quote the Collins Cobuild English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, “You use such to refer back to the thing or person like the one that you have just mentioned.” 

The dictionary’s example of “as such” is, “There should be a law ensuring products tested on animals have to be labelled as such [products tested on animals].”

Here’s an example I use: “She is an epidemiologist. As such [an epidemiologist], she understands how diseases spread.”

“As such” should be used to avoid repeating something such as a person’s role. 

But this is how I am seeing it used: “Existing Product Listing Agreements are not reflected in the table and, as such, the table may not represent the actual costs to public drug plans.” What the writer means is not “as such” but “as a result.” I’m regularly changing misuses of “as such” to “as a result” or “consequently.”

We should all ensure that word misuse is recognized as such and corrected.

Within instead of in

“Within” means something is inside, surrounded by, something else—“we loved the old cottage and the faded furniture within it.” You can also say that someone “operated within the rules.” Or that you were “within 10 metres of David Bowie.” Or that you plan to have your kitchen renovated “within five months.”

But “within” should not be used as a fancy way of saying “in.” I have no idea how this got started, but I’m seeing it everywhere. Why? What’s wrong with “in”? 

Here’s an example: “The Chair fills a gap within existing expertise at the institution or in Canada.” The term everyone knows is “fills a gap in.” Writing “within” when “in” does just fine comes across as pretentious.

This is how I decide: If I can substitute “in” for “within” and it is still clear or even clearer, it should be “in.”


“Fulsome” means expressions of praise, apology or gratitude that are exaggerated and sound insincere. It is used almost exclusively in the phrase “fulsome praise.” For example, “She laid on fulsome praise with a trowel.”

But this is how it is currently showing up:

“The diversity of representation and rich experience of Expert Panel members brought broad perspectives and fulsome dialogue to the process of developing indicators for measuring adaptation and climate resilience in Canada.”

These writers are using “fulsome” to mean “full” or “comprehensive.” But that’s not what it means. 

This is one of those new uses that may signal a change in the meaning of the word. For the time being, though, I’m fighting the good fight—“fulsome” means only one thing and should not be used in any other sense.

Predominately instead of predominantly

As a verb, to “predominate” is to be the majority: “In this neighbourhood, well-paid professionals predominate.” As an adjective, the “predominant” thing is uppermost, most important or conspicuous: “The predominant issue during the pandemic is health care.” As an adverb, “predominantly” means most important or noticeable: “Elementary school teachers are still predominantly women.”

But I’m seeing writers use “predominately”—a word that doesn’t exist—to mean “predominantly.” I think this is just an error—the original writer who made this error was searching for the adverb, but grabbed the verb and added an -ly. It became a meme and is now everywhere.

So, just for the record, it’s “predominantly.” 

Reactionary instead of reactive

When I talked to a client about this one recently, she told me she was seeing it fairly often. But there’s no wiggle room on this one—it’s dead wrong.

The word “reactionary” means a “person or group [who] tries to prevent changes in the political or social system of their country.” It is used most often in discussing the Russian Revolution, in which those who opposed the Revolution were called “reactionaries.”

Here’s an instance from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The tsar’s reactionary policies, including the occasional dissolution of the Duma, or Russian parliament, the chief fruit of the 1905 revolution, had spread dissatisfaction even to moderate elements of the nobility.”

But here’s how I saw it used recently: “There are significant challenges with meaningful public engagement in the adaptation process. For example, engagement opportunities may be reactionary and conducted only after a planning process has been initiated and/or after major decisions have already been made.”

The word that the writer wanted was “reactive,” the opposite of “pro-active.” Nothing to do with the Russian Revolution, you will note.

So, “reactive.” Unless you mean trying to reverse social and political change.

We’d love to hear other language memes that you’ve found while editing or writing, so let us know in the comments! Were they correct but a little odd, or misuse memes as outlined above? Do you see any patterns, such as the writers’ ages, target demographic, or industry?

About the Author

Carolyn Brown is a Certified Professional Editor and Editor in the Life Sciences. She has edited a wide variety of material for 40 years, specializing in scientific and medical publications for the past 30 years. She is the author of the chapter on citation in Editing Canadian English 2nd edition and a perennial seminar leader.

September Social at Editors Ottawa-Gatineau

We’re beyond excited to announce that we will be having an in-person social this year to welcome back members and ring in the autumn season.

There will be food and a cash bar, great conversation, and door prizes!

Date: Saturday, September 24, 2022

Time: 1pm to 4pm EDT

Location: The Bridge Public House (1 Donald Street)

We will be gathering on the rooftop patio on the second floor.

There is free on-site parking. Nearest bus transit options are 12141519.


  • Free for Editors Ottawa-Gatineau members
  • $20 per non-member

Accessibility: There is a ramp at the side of the building and a full flight of stairs with handrails to the rooftop patio. The location does not include elevator access.

We hope to see you on September 24! Please email publicrelationsog@editors.ca to RSVP.

Seminar: Stylistic Editing with Carolyn Brown – September 21 and September 22

This seminar is offered through Zoom over two days (Wednesday and Thursday) between 9am and 12pm EST.

Are you thinking about writing Editors Canada’s Stylistic Editing exam this November? Do you want to improve your editorial judgment with guidance from an experienced editor? Check out this timely virtual seminar offering from Carolyn Brown: Stylistic Editing, taking place on September 21 and 22.

This online seminar will involve lively discussions, tales from the trenches, and hands-on exercises. The content is based on the Editors Canada standards for stylistic editing, but this seminar will also look at how stylistic editing is done in a variety of publishing settings.

Whether you edit novels, reports, websites or magazines, stylistic editing is a key skill. It is the domain of those editors who want to communicate: to get the message from the author to the reader accurately, honestly, and even elegantly. It also relies on developing that rare commodity, editorial judgment.

Expectations for stylistic editing vary widely. How can editors adapt to the needs of their employers and clients? We’ll go over the context for stylistic editing, judgment in approaching editing decisions, the toolkit for stylistic editing and communicating with authors.

What we’ll cover

The context for stylistic editing:

  • Who are the readers, and how does that determine the approach to stylistic editing?
  • What is the medium, and how does that affect the approach?
  • What is the purpose, and how does stylistic editing help communicate that purpose?

Judgment in approaching editing decisions:

  • Paragraph-level decisions (length, structure, logical flow, connection with other paragraphs)
  • Sentence-level decisions (length, sentence construction, logical flow, connectors, as well ascommon problems such as passive voice, noun strings, etc.)
  • Word-level decisions (word choice geared to readers, omission of unnecessary words)

The stylistic editing toolkit:

  • Subordination and coordination
  • Affirmative constructions
  • Judicious use of passive voice
  • Disentangling noun strings
  • Resolving ambiguity
  • Strengthening verbs and correcting nominalizations
  • Reorganizing paragraphs and sentences
  • Gentle rewriting
  • Working with visuals (illustrations, photos, tables, graphs)

Communicating with authors:

  • When and who to query
  • Using Comments to query
  • Whether and when to use Track Changes 
  • Amount and level of editing
  • When to honour the author’s voice

Join us for an enriching and informative day devoted to our craft with a skilled professional guiding us along the way!

About the Instructor

Carolyn Brown is a Certified Professional Editor and Editor in the Life Sciences. She has edited a wide variety of material for 35 years, specializing in scientific and medical publications for the past 25 years. She is the author of the chapter on citation in Editing Canadian English 2nd edition and a perennial seminar leader.

Seminar: Stylistic Editing with Carolyn Brown

Schedule: Wednesday September 21 and Thursday September 22

Time: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm EST

For any other information, please contact seminarsog@editors.ca, such as how to take advantage of student discounts on professional development seminars.

Looking for more professional development opportunities? See what other seminars are coming up and register today, before it’s too late! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses.

Registration Fees

Members: $225 + tax
Non-members: $350 + tax
Student members: $150 + tax

Not yet a member? Check out Editors Canada to see if membership is right for you.

Cancellation policy

If Editors Ottawa-Gatineau cancels a seminar, we will refund your paid registration fee in full.

If you wish to cancel your registration, the following terms apply: You must send an email to seminarsog@editors.ca to notify us that you are canceling your registration. If you cancel before registration closes (up to one week before the seminar) we will refund 50 percent of your paid registration fee. If you cancel after registration closes (within seven days of the seminar), no refund is possible.

Contact seminarsog@editors.ca for all seminar registration and cancellation enquiries.

Fall 2022 Speaker Nights

We’re pleased to announce our Speaker Nights for this upcoming fall! On the third Wednesday of every month, we host a free Speaker Night to hear from a wide variety of hosts and to discuss topics related to editing, publishing, and more.

Speaker Nights are currently conducted through Zoom and are free of charge. If you’re planning on joining us for Speaker Night, let us know by emailing publicrelationsog@editors.ca with your name and Editors Canada branch/twig. You will receive the Zoom link via email in advance of the event.

Time: 6:30pm to 8:00pm EST/EDT

September 21: Writing Plays with John Muggleton

What does it take to take a play from idea to the stage? How do you revise a script? Join us in September to hear all about writing for the theatre with playwright John Muggleton.

John has been an actor, director, producer and playwright for over 30 years. Past acting credits include David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (Best Production 2015 Capital Critics Awards), Speed-The-Plow (Outstanding Male Actor nomination Prix Rideau Awards, Best Actor nomination Capital Critics Circle Awards), and The Extremely Short New Play Festival 2017 to name a few. A member of ACTRA, The Canadian Actors Equity Association and the Playwrights Guild of Canada, John was a co-founder of the Ottawa Acting Company, and is the current manager of GNAG’s Act Ottawa and Artistic Director of Kanata Acting Studio. As a playwright, John’s first full length play, Burn, was nominated for Best New Play of 2017 by the Ottawa Capital Critics Circle and has since been produced in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.  In 2022 Burn played to sold out audiences and rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s biggest performing arts festival.

October 19: Dungeons and Documents: TTRPG with Verity Lane

Tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG) offer players the opportunity to create characters and directly participate in a story. Does the interactive nature of these games make editing them a challenge? Verity Lane of Hit Point Press joins us to discuss creating and editing TTRPG content. No dice or character sheets necessary to attend!

Hit Point Press is a Canadian team of ambitious creators who love to build for the games you love. They specialize in making gaming accessories for Tabletop Roleplaying Games, from tokens to reference cards to even campaign settings!

November 16: Editors Ottawa-Gatineau Holiday Party

Details to come! Stay tuned for updates on our branch’s Holiday Party 2022.

Working for an Author Services Company

At the February Ottawa-Gatineau Speaker Night, Wayne Jones talked about the publishing industry and how it has evolved over the years due to technology. He talked about traditional publishing and self-publishing, noting the editor’s role in each. In traditional publishing, editors work with the publisher. In the self-publishing world, editors work with the writer.

Wayne then spoke of a third option for freelance editors: the many publishing businesses out there who offer full-service support to self-publishing authors. These businesses will, for a fee, guide the author through everything a manuscript needs in order to become a book, from manuscript evaluation to cover design and printing – or any subset. 

I’m on contract with one of those third-option companies. Freelancing for them has been positive, and I’d like to tell you about it. 

Doing the Work

The pros of working for an author services company: 

  • I address all my comments to the author, but I don’t correspond with the author directly. That task is done by the project manager. This saves me a lot of time in emails and phone calls. 
  • Freelance jobs appear on the company’s job board, and I take one if I want one. As soon as I click “accept,” it’s mine. I don’t have to bid for a job like I did when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make Upwork work for me. 
  • I get lots of coaching and support. The communications platform the company uses is full of questions, answers, and advice. Editors are always encouraged to contact their project manager directly if they run into problems. 
  • Payment is sure and on time. Payment is per word; I know exactly what I’m being paid, and I’m always paid exactly that (plus HST).

There’s one con to working for this author services company, and you’ve probably already guessed what it is: low pay. It’s my only complaint. With this company, I make about a third of what I charge my own clients. 

But I’m a contractor and I do have options. I’ve learned that manuscripts over a certain size are too demoralizing to work on for the amount of time they take me compared to what I eventually get paid. So I take the smaller jobs and genuinely enjoy them. Presumably some of this company’s freelance contractors are just quicker or more satisfied with the return than I am. They can go ahead and take all the big jobs. 

Also, I only take jobs when I don’t have more pressing and better-paid work, which is how I ended up with the company in the first place. I was having a couple of slow freelance months, and this company’s job offer appeared on one of the many email job board notifications I’m signed up for. So I applied and was soon busy working on my first manuscript.

The interesting development that ensued was that I started doing substantive editing. I have gained confidence with this skill by working with this company. Up until then, I had been most comfortable with copy editing. But the company manager who took care of setting me up as a contractor said I had done well on the substantive portion of their test and encouraged me to take a substantive project off the board (it pays better, too). She reviewed my first project and gave me some advice. 

Working for this company helps me keep up my editing chops, which I really only just acquired in the last few years and could probably quickly lose if I wasn’t careful. 

Supporting the Stories

In his talk, Wayne Jones expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the rise of self-publishing and the fact that more people are now getting their stories out. I think that enthusiasm is well placed. I’ve gained a respect for the interesting stories individuals have to share and am aware of the importance of giving people any sort of encouragement to start sharing them. In Two Trees Make a Forest, author Jessica J. Lee talks about the autobiographical stories her grandfather tried to write during his decline into Alzheimer’s. Jessica and her mother found the stories after her grandmother died. Up until then, Jessica had concluded about her grandfather: “…his memories wasted.” The stories were incomplete and sometimes convoluted, but there was enough there to give Jessica a picture of her grandfather’s life. 

So anything that encourages people to write their stories, I’m all for. The author services companies themselves are enthusiastic about their role; it’s one of the first things I noticed about them when I started checking them out. Public-facing enthusiasm could be put down as just good marketing, but I’ve seen the same enthusiasm internally through the coaching I received on how to encourage the authors and also by the praise expressed by some of my fellow editors on the company’s communications platform. There, they talk about the books they edited; many of them love the books so much, they buy them. 

It happens to me, too. My husband was so intrigued by the first manuscript I edited (a memoir written by an inmate) that he bought the book as soon as it was available. And if I ever find myself in the right part of Canada, I might just track down the little church whose bicentennial history I edited and get myself a copy.

If all the author services companies are as enthusiastic as the one I work for, I think Wayne Jones has reason to be so optimistic. I’m glad to be involved in this kind of work. 

About the Author

Jean Rath is an Ottawa-based freelance copy editor who also works part time for the senate scoping debates and committee meetings. She has been a member of Editors Canada for ten years. She loves to spend her spare time reading, writing and going for walks or (seasonally) bike rides and canal skates. As part of her growing appreciation for the importance of telling stories, she is slowly working on writing her own stories, contenting herself with blogging for the moment at Living the Canada Life.

March Speaker Night: Editing Academic Research Grant Proposals with Letitia Henville

Written by Tom Vradenberg. Edited by Stephanie Mason.

Editing research grant proposals: it’s about as specific as it gets. Most editors, throughout their careers, specialize in subjects they gravitate to, with many pulled towards the more popular genres of scientific journals or poetry (amongst others). However, editing academic research grant proposals may be the niche of niches.

During our March Speaker Night, we were joined by Letitia Henville, of BC Branch, who primarily works with academics seeking research grants and secondarily works with artists seeking Canada Council grants. Among her many achievements, Letitia completed a PhD in English in 2015, a Claudette Upton Award in 2017, and a President’s Award for Volunteer Service. 

One of the first notes Letitia made was how, though one needs to learn about the most current events in specialized academic or artistic fields, it’s also essential to know about the vastly particular bureaucratic processes and how to help applicants through it. Further, the more specific the knowledge is, the farther it will go for the “stressed-out smartypants people” that need the help and, by proxy, make the work intellectually stimulating and rewarding. Letitia cited a recent project worth $27.8 million: “They’ll go to great lengths to make their proposal look shiny,” she said.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Letitia’s biggest piece of advice was to “get narrow, find your specialty subject.” She noted how, with progress, it’s common to work with the same academics repeatedly and get to know their field. However, it’s not just about learning their jargon; there needs to be a familiarity with the field to be able to identify any gaps in their grant applications. 

She then went on to detail the rules of the grant-application process, both the written and her own unwritten rules. They go as follows:

For the written rules: 

  1. Note when granting agencies publish their rules for applying. (For example, the three federal granting agencies publish a Guide on Financial Administration.)
  2. Read those rules carefully and read them for every new project, even if you think you’ve read them before. Granting organizations will change the rules and not flag the ones that are new or changed.
  3. Expect that clients won’t read them or keep updated. Reminding clients of the rules looks professional, but don’t charge for the time spent researching. 

The unwritten rules:

  1. Know that researchers should understand what their results will be before they propose the project. The work should not be too innovative, out there, or risky. 
  2. Try to anticipate who will be on the review panel before the client prepares their application. Each reviewer serves roughly three years on a committee, so it’s a fair bet most of the reviewers from the previous year will return. Google them, look up their research profile, and explain to the client how varied their research backgrounds are.
  3. Emphasize that even if the committee doesn’t completely match the research of the client, the multidisciplinary committee is worse as they are funded at lower rates. Instead, find the right singular disciplinary field. 

The last bits of information that Letitia offered were to do with the funding landscapes that she works with. There are different levels, and she noted that in Ontario, the Ontario Research Fund is not considered a major market considering editors most often get hired for lucrative, high-prestige projects, and this fund doesn’t have the money for them. 

She instead recommended the federal level grants where, essentially, all the funds are. The three agencies of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Social Sciences, and the Humanities Research Council all have multiple funding streams with lots happening in each one. She noted that even if there’s uncertainty about having the core scientific or technical knowledge, there are likely funding streams for projects in familiar fields. 

Letitia also noted some non-government funders both in Canada and out, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust in Europe, and the Max Bell Foundation in Canada. 

A highly educational and enjoyable night for all!

April Speaker Night: The Final Touch: Editing a Speech with Wendy Cherwinski

Speeches present editors with special challenges. After all, speeches are meant to be spoken and heard. And that makes them different from documents  written to be read silently on the page or screen. So, how can editors fine tune their skill set to add more value to the speechwriting process? Join us April 20 to find out from our guest Wendy Cherwinski, the spoken word strategist.  

Wendy will explain what editors can do to add polish and precision to speech drafts. In particular, she’ll cover how to write ‘out loud’, sharpen transitions, take the ‘numb’ out of numbers and heighten the impact of stories. As well, she’ll share the one thing every editor should do before passing a speech back to the speaker.

Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm EDT

Text that reads Boost your writing and presenting skills to new heights! A small rocket in flight appears at the end of the text.

If you’re planning on joining us for Speaker Night, let us know by emailing publicrelationsog@editors.ca with your name, your Editors Canada branch/twig, and the Speaker Night you intend to attend. You will receive the Zoom link via email in advance of the event.

Looking for more professional development opportunities? See what other seminars are coming up and register today, before it’s too late! Our online seminars are live events and will not be recorded as webinar courses.

February Speaker Night: Self-Publishing Night with Wayne Jones

On February 16, Wayne Jones joined us to discuss the processes involved in self-publishing. Along with going over the tasks involved in self-publishing, Wayne also discussed author services companies and their role in helping writers become self-published authors.

Wayne Jones goes over this topic in his podcast, Editing Writing, as episode 13: “self-publishing your book.” We encourage you to have a listen to learn more about self-publishing!

How to juggle non-editing roles as an editor

As a young editor in a small business, I take on a variety of tasks that certainly extend beyond editorial work. Designing, marketing, audio recording, editing an app… nothing is off-limits! At first, this was a challenge—and to be honest, there are still days where I wonder if I really know what I’m doing outside my field of expertise—but I’ve learned (more or less) how to juggle non-editing roles even as an editor.

Marketing and Social Media

For me, going from editing to creating was easy; I have always loved to write stories and poems, so adapting my skills to compose marketing materials was hardly a stretch. After all, the goal is pretty much the same: captivate the reader. It makes little difference whether that’s through a solid opening chapter, a clever slogan, or a hilarious tweet. Of course, there are some considerations in marketing that you don’t find in creative writing: word count limits; cost per click; buzzwords; discounts; engagement via replies, likes, follows… But being an editor generally means you know your way around words. With practice (and a heavy reliance on performance stats), you’ll likely find writing blurbs, ads, and social media posts to be right up your alley.

Design and Content Creation

The bigger challenge for me is learning design. There are college-level programs dedicated to this skill, but I have never attended so much as a single class (hence the difficulties). Before COVID-19 struck, I was beginning to use Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator to make posters and book layouts with the help of our ACTUAL QUALIFIED design guy. But then, pandemic! I work from home and have neither my guide nor those programs. Luckily, he found me a solution: Canva. This user-friendly design tool has templates, images, and features that allow almost anyone to create an aesthetically pleasing design, so long as they have a basic understanding of technology and colour. As a landscape painter and long-time greeting-card-sketcher, I have been able to fashion some pretty nice posters and social media posts. I’ll have to wait to get back to the office to keep learning the InDesign layouts, though.

Branching Out

My recommendation for an editor looking to expand their role is to use what you know. I draw a lot from my personal life, especially in the marketing area. A few examples:

  • Saw the movie Encanto on the weekend? Tweet about culture and diversity on the work Twitter.
  • Playing an app with in-game purchases of outfits for your avatar? Suggest that feature when your company is building a free reading app and wants to find a way to increase profits.
  • Celebrating Labour Day with a picnic? Snap a photo and post it on Instagram—yours and the work account. Followers love seeing more than just advertisements.
  • Local library having a writing contest? Host a similar contest at the publishing agency where you work. (Check out DC Canada’s One Story a Day Writing Contest for Canadian kids in grades 1 to 6. Submissions close March 31st at 12 p.m. EST!)

Again and again, I come across events, people, or ideas in my daily life that can be applied to the marketing field. It could be a meme, an ad, or a painting. It could be a quote or a you-might-like-this-Instagram-personality suggestion on my personal account. Regardless, we are exposed to marketing and design constantly, especially in the Internet age. And we are all consumers, so by adding your editing skills to your knowledge of what the public wants, you can take on more functions within your company.

Finding Balance

Finally, in terms of priorities, I try to work on a bit of everything each day. I usually start my morning by creating a quick social media design on Canva and posting it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Pinterest. Then I do some editing, write a blog post or newsletter, look over new submissions, and edit something else. Maybe I’ll work on a podcast episode or translate some books to French. Maybe I’ll spend an hour Googling childhood education centres and send them some emails about relevant products. This way, it’s easier to stay focused, especially when working from home for over two years—flipping back and forth between fields helps me hone my craft (writing, editing) while still engaging with the public (social media, emails) and learning something new every day (design, apps).

Many jobs within the publishing field require you to have a way with words and another skill—graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Strictly speaking, as an editor taking on non-editing tasks, you’re already halfway there.

About the Author

Kara Cybanski is a PhD student in Spanish at the University of Ottawa and an editor/social media manager at DC Canada Education Publishing. She intends to become a professor of World Literatures and Cultures specializing in women’s/LGBTQ+ literature in Spain. Kara loves cats, hamburgers, diverse stories, and learning new languages, and hopes to be a celebrated author and professor someday.

January Speaker Night: Educational Children’s Books with Kara Cybanski

Summary by Tom Vradenburg and Coryl Addy. Edited by Stephanie Mason

We editors like to think of ourselves as adaptable and curious about new subjects and other genres. However, our real professional lives often involve grinding through the same kinds of material day after day. 

Kara Cybanski gets to live our dream at DC Canada Education Publishing, a small firm based in — who knew — Ottawa.

On January 19, Kara joined us to discuss her many roles as an editor for children’s education. She discussed the multiple hats she wears and the facets of publishing she works on, including design, translation, content writing, and editing. As an editor for educational children’s books, she also ensures she has educational value in mind.

In any government department, specialized teams handle each of those roles. We’re told we should ‘collaborate’, but specialists are usually reluctant to step out of their lanes. 

DC Canada, like many small businesses, doesn’t do lanes. But it’s not a brand-new startup, either. Founded in 1999, its first title was an ESL book for Grades 1 to 12.

Kara highlighted the editorial process for DC Canada’s small team by noting that before reviewing submissions, searching for illustrators, and finally getting to designing and printing, the team ensures that their materials meet two criteria: 1) it’s a good book for children; and 2) it has educational value. Kara highlighted that a wide variety of materials can be considered “educational”, with recent release, Recess in the Dark, focusing on cultural education. 

Every new title goes through a similar submission process: three to five staff will read a manuscript and recommend accepting or rejecting it. As with all book publishers, marketability is a consideration, as well as whether it’s the right book for the company at the right time.

DC looks  for a balance of good storytelling and educational value, which may not always be apparent in the theme or subject of the book.

Recess in the Dark, for example, is about children going to school in the North; its title refers to winter school days of little or no sunlight. It does explain that dog teams are still used in the North because they’re more dependable than snowmobiles. But much of the text is poetry, and Recess in the Dark walks readers through the fundamentals of verse.

A notable asset of DC Canada is that it showcases educational materials in English, French and Chinese. The company began as a resource for teaching ESL learners and has since grown to include books, games, read-alongs, and a wide range of multimedia resources for children.

Kara also shared a few favourites she would recommend, including Our Farm in the City, which details the experimental farm in Ottawa to talk about science and nature, and One Story a Day, that illustrates a different topic for each day to stir a new conversation each day with your child (365 stories total!)

Kara’s  advice to children’s book authors was inspiring: “When you’re coming up with a concept for that children’s book, think about what’s unique about your book.” She went on further to say, “You have this responsibility to share important messages” about ideas like kindness, respect, immigration or historical events, for example. 

We ended our time with Kara by engaging in a short question and answer period, in which one of the interesting questions posed to her was, “Have you found guidelines or resources on ethics for children’s publishing?” They then noted that the issue they were pointing to is ‘massaging’ to ‘cover up the truth.’ Kara noted that it’s a fine line to tread, especially when introducing heavy topics, such as slavery, in an age-appropriate manner. She also noted that a story about a child with two mothers might not sell in countries that frown on homosexuality.

Overall, a wonderful and engaging night spent musing about the inner workings of an important piece of the publishing industry!