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The Absolutely Literate blog is for people interested in writing, editing, design, history and family history.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Truth and Accuracy

I received positive feedback on my Revising, revising, revising post and requests for detail. Rewriting is the key to polishing your work. You need to take a step away from your writing and become a reader of your own work; not an easy task.

The first type of revision I focus on when editing my own work or the work of others is "truth and accuracy".

This stage is more than just checking to see if quotations are correct but also whether quotations are given the correct context. Quotations without proper context can bias the reader by offering them a half truth. It is also an opportunity to check facts, dates, and people's names. It is so easy to transpose numbers or mispell a name.

I find it also a good time to check assumptions. We all enter into writing with our biases so we have to make sure that they have not had an impact on the final product. Did we only look for information to support our point of view?

Checking assumptions is important for both fiction and non-fiction writers. We make assumptins about base knowledge of the reader. I might know, after having been immersed in the research, that "Christmas cheer" in the 1920s meant visiting people and spreading joy and happiness but my readers might think of the more modern definition and assume that my characters are sharing alcoholic beverages. In non-fiction writing you can often clarify things in your footnotes but that can be annoying for the reader. The trick is finding the middle ground so that you are not insulting your more knowledgable readers but also not leaving readers new to the genre confused and frustrated. Candace Robb, one of my favourite fiction authors puts a glossary of terms at the beginning of her books. It is a nice non-intrusive way of providing additional information for readers.

What are your tips for revising for truth and accuracy?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Census Excitement

Published April 18, 2012 | "Census Excitement" | Maple Ridge Historical Society Family History News, April 2012

On April 2, 2012, NARA released the 1940 United States Federal Census to the public. Census images will be uploaded and made available on Ancestry.com, Archives.com, FindMyPast.com, and FamilySearch.org.

This census recorded an important moment in time as it includes people who survived the Depression and were hearing of the coming of another global war. Christian Salazar and Randy Hershaft assert in a March 18, 2012 AssociatedPress article that “researchers might be able to follow the movement of refugees from war-torn Europe in the latter half of the 1930s; sketch out in more detail where 100,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II were living before they were removed; and more fully trace the decades-long migration of blacks from the rural South to cities.”

The 1940 census included questions about internal migration by asking where people had been living on April 1, 1935. For people 14 years and older there were questions about employment status including wages. The census takers also asked if anyone had participated in the New Deal programs. These questions are keys to our understanding of how our ancestors managed during the Depression.
The reality of finding your ancestor in the 1940 census must be tempered by the massive amount of indexing work that is ahead.

You can, however, speed things up by joining the 1940 U.S. CensusCommunity Project 

Next on the horizon is the countdown for the 1921 Canadian census. The 1921 Census was taken on June 1st, which means that it will be in the custody of Library and Archives Canada on June 1, 2013. They intend to make it available to researchers online, in the same format as previous censuses, as soon as possible after that date.

The overall population of Canada in 1921 was 8,788,483 individuals. The 1921 census dropped the questions on "infirmities."

All this exciting census news makes me think again about the loss of information to future researchers with the scrapping of the long form census.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Help Support Culture

I was talking with a friend the other day about the collateral damage done by the current BCTF job action. This is not a comment on the job action itself; my goal is to create awareness of stories that do not seem to make the headlines. No field trips mean that the already underfunded cultural places and events like museums and theatres lose their revenue from school groups and school programs. For some smaller organizations this means layoffs. It could also mean that these programs will cease to exist.

However, you can make a difference. Go see a live show at your local theatre.

Go visit your local museum or art gallery. 

To my Maple Ridge followers, consider becoming a  member of the Maple Ridge Historical Society. Its only $20 a year for an individual membership and in addition to the benefits of the newsletters and guest speakers and other events, they will also add their voices to our effort to get a new museum for this community.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Perceived value of ebooks

CNET recently published an interesting article about the perceived value of ebooks "Why e-books cost so much". "Here's something that tends to get lost in the debate over e-book prices: Paper doesn't cost very much. There's a perception among consumers that an e-book should cost very little or next to nothing because there is no paper, printing, and shipping involved."

The article points out that print or ebook the same expenses exist: Author advances, design, marketing, publicity, office space, and staff. However, it does not get into much detail about author compensation, let alone editors, book designers, and the cost of marketing, etc.

As we move further into the digital world we need to ensure that an appropriate value is attached to products; just because it is electronic does not make it in expensive to produce.

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