Content notes and trigger warnings: A primer for editors

Yellow lightI recently copy-edited a book called Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain, published by our subsidiary, Thorntree Press. The book covers a wide range of topics relevant to bisexual people and allies in the UK and other English-speaking countries. I learned a lot from editing this book, as I always do, but one thing I had to deal with was entirely new to me: content notes.

Content notes and trigger warnings have been a hot topic of conversation recently, especially in the context of whether university instructors should provide trigger warnings about potentially distressing topics in their syllabuses. There’s been quite an intense debate about this, with articles linking trigger warnings to the coddling of millennials and the dangers of helicopter parenting and the downfall of intellectual freedom.

On the other side of the debate, people argue that content notes and trigger warnings are a compassionate way to be inclusive and make sure we don’t inadvertently trigger a trauma survivor’s pain.

What are content notes and trigger warnings?

Content notes and trigger

Editing academia: Working with students

320300354_a8e1ce5eef_zI loved academic writing when I was a student, and now I get really excited when I get to work with students as an editor. In the past few months, Talk Science has done formatting, copy-editing and writing coaching for graduate students in sociology, political science and education.

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) has guidelines for working on theses and dissertations that clearly outline everything you should consider. We follow these strictly at Talk Science, and I’ve gone through and picked out a few points to expand on with my own experiences.

The ethical issues Student work brings with it a unique set of issues, particularly from an ethical standpoint. Students are being evaluated on their work, and their writing is meant to reflect their own ability. This is where the ethical fuzziness comes in: How much support can we give before we’re distorting the work away from being an accurate representation of the student’s skills? Where’s the line between helping and doing? One way we figure this out is by identifying which skills the

Working with translations: Version control

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) recently published Trade and Green Economy: A handbook, the third edition of a handbook that examines the relationship between trade and the environment. The third edition focuses specifically on the green economy, which UNEP defines as an economy “that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”

Pages from 20141007 Trade GE Handbook FRENCH - INSIDE Talk Science did the copy-editing, proofreading and design of the English version of this handbook, as well as the design of the French and Spanish versions. We didn’t do the translation, copy-editing or proofreading of the non-English versions, but since we did design for all three, we handled a good chunk of the project management as the manuscript passed through us on the way to the designer.

With this project, we were managing parallel versions of the document, but it wasn’t quite a straightforward parallel: two of the documents were translated from the third, which meant that they were dependent on that third document. Any changes made to

Advocacy, please

I think plain language is awesome. I’m glad the movement is gaining momentum and that there are enthusiastic advocates out there trying to make plain language the default. And I’m excited to be learning more about how to improve my own plain language skills.

6322974995_6550fcb416_zBut I’m not so excited about the current of language shaming that undercuts plain language advocacy.

I’ve seen language shaming at conferences, in classrooms and online. It comes from the use of error correction as a teaching tool, which is a common way to learn skills like editing and plain language. Workshops and social media accounts feature pictures of incoherent signs, poorly written instructions and rambling emails. We dissect those mistakes, and we discuss them, and we learn from them. And often we laugh at those mistakes, and we deride the people who made them.

There is usually anger behind advocacy, and it’s no different with the plain language movement. People are angry that they can’t understand vital documents. They’re angry that people lose out on insurance or healthcare because they misunderstood a form. They’re

English, science, and the editor as advocate

At a recent meeting of the BC branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada, a panel discussed the role of editors in ensuring accessibility to information. One of the final questions asked was, “Are editors advocates?” I think that yes, we absolutely are. But here’s another question: What are we advocates for? There are some general things we advocate for, clear communication being one, but I think that each of us has something specific that is important to us and that we should cultivate in our roles as editors.Does Science Need a Global Language? Book cover. (C) Chicago University Press 2013.

Issues of linguicism and the spread of English are close to my heart, and now that I work in science communications I’m even more aware of these issues in the context of international science scholarship. So, I was very curious and excited to pick up Scott L. Montogomery’s 2013 book, Does Science Need a Global Language? English and the future of research.

Montgomery argues that a scientific lingua franca is a good thing, and that English has