How do you spell mnemonic?

My dad was an English prof. He was a pacifist and a feminist. When it came to the grammar wars, an avowed descriptivist.

Back in the ’80s, he was already OK with the singular they. Though he did prefer to pluralize the whole expression whenever you could.

I don’t think he attended a New Year’s party in his life, but he always made an effort to show up for the Chinese New Year celebration his ESL students hosted. The language belongs to all of its users, he’d say. Everyone has a stake; the rules aren’t handed down from on high.

But he did have his things. I guess we all do.

If you handed him the dice, there better be two. When I showed him my grade 3 homework, it somehow became a lesson on copula verbs. And he never tired of intoning: “From here to there – take. From there to here – bring.” Or is it the other way round?

That’s not a memorable formula. There are two esses in dessert because you want to have seconds – that, I can remember. The principal is my “pal” – I suppose.

I have to look up stationary every time, though, because I can never remember if it’s an a like in paper or an e like in letter. Comprised you can pretty much assume is wrong. I sing the alphabet where it gets muddled in the middle. And for some reason, I can still belt out the double letters in Mississippi.

That’s about all my mnemonics. If you have any more, bring them on over. Or take them away!

Origin Story

[How I became an editor]

I’d chased a classical music dream for too long, tried to do good work in community-living support, and put in some years as a stay-at-home dad. It was time to head to work again, but none of those fields beckoned me back.

I sat on the front stoop watching my girls run around the co-op, and flipped open a copy of Editing Canadian English, which I’d grabbed on a whim from the bookshelves that lined my parents’ living room. From page 1 of the spelling charts, I was hooked. Colour vs. color was no surprise, but what layers of intricacy hid beneath! It was like prying up a rock at the beach, and a thousand shiny creatures come prancing out.

Someone pointed me to an EAC proofreading workshop. When the instructor, Rica Night, pulled out galleys and blues, a world fell into place that I knew would be my home.

(Originally written for BoldFace:
The official blog of EAC’s Toronto branch, April 2014)