Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable group writes SK Writers’ Guild articles, “Ask a Freelancer”

Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group

Pictured in this photo are the five most active members of Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group, a vibrant writers’ group which has met monthly since 2013. (We’re now celebrating our 11th year and meet monthly at Saskatoon’s HomeQuarter Coffeehouse & Bakery!)

 

Pictured (left-to-right) are members Ashlyn George, Ashleigh Mattern, Elizabeth Shih, Adele Paul and Julie Barnes. (Photo credit: Ashlyn George)

Our group shares business insights, writing tips, resources and much more, over a latte or cappuccino, every month. We’re a collegial and congenial group!  Since last fall (2023) and continuing until this summer (2024), we have applied our 50+ years of collective experience to  respond to “Ask a Freelancer,” a series in the quarterly magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) .

Last fall, we responded to the questions of “How do I find freelance writing clients?” and “How do I best pitch my stories?” Currently, we’re compiling our responses to address March’s topic: “What resources should freelance writers use?”

If you’re a new or aspiring freelancer in the business writing world, why not subscribe to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine, and read our contributions? Or you can drop me a line to join our next meeting!

Three “words of the year” for 2023

With a new year now just around the corner, this is the time in December when analyses and “round- ups” for the preceding 12 months fill our news feed.

And it’s no different in the worlds of language and writing, where reporters count the dominance of certain words in the public’s online dictionary searches. Three that I read about since December began are (i) the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary (often used by newcomer ESL students), (ii) the Oxford English Dictionary (OED to all English majors, past, present and future), and (iii) the Cambridge Dictionary.

Recently Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced that their “word of the year” is “authentic.” Most years this term has a “high-volume lookup.” But searches for “authentic” “substantially increased in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity and social media.” Company writers say that “authenticity” is a “desirable quality,” but also “hard to define and subject to debate,” so readers and writers regularly search for its formal definition.

Some inauthentic words or phrases used in workplace emails, as aired on Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC)’s “Make It” program, include these:

–“Not sure if you saw my last email”

–“Per our conversation”

–“I hope this message finds you well”

–A regular closing salutation, like “warmly,” “best,” or “sincerely.”

Merriam-Webster adds that “ ‘authenticity’ can be a double-edged sword. Trying too hard to be natural or relatable often seems fake.”

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In the offices of the Oxford English Dictionary we find an equally, if not more, “viral” word for 2023: “rizz,,” from usage examined of more than 22 billion English words.

“Rizz,” lexicographers say, is a short form of “charisma,” which refers to “someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm or attractiveness.” “Rizz” is frequently used to refer to “the ability to attract a romantic . . . partner,” and can be used as a verb (“to rizz up” someone means to “seduce” or, as the Brits say, to“chat them up”).

The word “rizz” arose from internet culture, such as YouTube and social media, and particularly caught on when British actor Tom Holland referred self-deprecatingly to having “no rizz whatsoever.” Lexicologists estimated a “15-fold increase” in searches over the past year and see no sign of abating.

Caspar Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, says that one reason “rizz” is moving into mainstream use is that “it’s just fun to say. . . . When it comes off your tongue, there’s a little bit of joy that comes with it.”

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The offices of the Cambridge Dictionary reported that “hallucinate” has been its word of 2023.

Tapping into large language models (LLMs) as tools to harness the power of AI, writers have found that LLMs can draft “plausible prose,” but it contains made-up facts, thereby “hallucinat[ing] in a confident and sometimes believable manner.”

AI can, therefore, hallucinate “false information.”

Cambridge lexicographers note that the verb “hallucinate” denotes “to seem to see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist, usually because of a health condition or because you have taken a drug.”

To add to that definition, they write: “When an artificial intelligence hallucinates (i.e. a computer system that has some of the qualities that the human brain has, such as the ability to produce language in a way that seems human), it produces false information” (my emphasis).

What worries readers and writers is not only that AI hallucinations sometimes appear foolish and lack sense. But the hallucinations can also appear “entirely plausible—even while being factually inaccurate or ultimately illogical.”

AI hallucinations have resulted in the citing of fictitious cases in court (in the US) and when Google was producing its promotional video for Bard, the AI tool erred about the “James Webb Space Telescope.”

“Hallucinations” therefore remind readers and writers, says Wedalyun Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary’s Publishing Manager, that we still need “to bring [our] critical thinking skills to the use of these tools. AIs are fantastic at churning through huge amounts of data to extract specific information and consolidate it. But the more original you ask them to be, the likelier they are to go astray.

At their best, LLMS can only be as reliable as their training data. Human expertise is arguably more important—and sought after—than ever, to create the authoritative and up-to-date information that LLMs can be trained on.” As rumours, propaganda or “fake news,” false information has been with us for years.

University of Cambridge’s AI ethicist, Dr. Henry Shevlin, writes that “as this decade progresses,  . . . our  psychological vocabulary will be further extended to encompass the strange abilities of the new intelligences we’re creating.”

It’s the AI (not the user) that is hallucinating, and we tend to anthropomorphize technology as having human attributes, including the lapse into hallucinations.

Engineers and scholars across the world are working to limit AI hallucinations by grounding, “ cross-checking the outputs of LLM with “reliable sources and web searchers. Visiting “Snopes.com” can be an eye-opener.

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Generations ago, theorist Fredric Jameson referred to “the prison-house of language,” whereby we are always already hindered in our efforts to achieve self-expression and meaning, by the limitations of language. AI intensifies Jameson’s argument!

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With another New Year just around the corner, these  are three, international degree influence “top words” for the preceding year. These three dictionaries weigh in on the influence of each term on our culture and community.

Which, if any, of these three words strikes you as paramount for 2023: “authentic,” “rizz” or “hallucination?” And why?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to discuss further with you!

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Postscript:

If lexicography appeals to you (and you haven’t yet found the following title), please read Pippa Williams’ moving novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words. Williams explores in Britain of the 1910s, the significance of under-represented words (often describing and used by women) in shaping the country’s culture. The book has been the feature of many book clubs, nation-wide. But if you’ve missed it, I highly recommend you borrow or buy a copy!

 

Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable start collaboration on articles for the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG)

 

Long-time Saskatoon-based writers and friends, Julie Barnes, Ashlyn George (not pictured), Ashleigh Mattern, Adele Paul and Elizabeth Shih have been meeting to discuss forthcoming articles for “Freelance” magazine, published by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

Topics will include how to secure clients,  how to pitch effectively, how to manage time,  what resources we tap into and more.

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit to Ashlyn George

“Women in the lead”: How women can effect change, navigating Saskatchewan’s political labyrinth

In the late afternoon, last Wednesday, October 4th, a group of about 60+ women (and, at last count, two men) gathered to combine both roundtable and a panel discussions on how change can come to Saskatchewan, through our political and cultural leaders.

Event co-sponsors, Business & Professional Women (BPW), equal voice, and the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce,  invited eight women trailblazers in our province to discuss their life and career experiences, leadership strategies and sources of inspiration with an audience of career professionals. The audience included lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators, doctors and other medical practitioners, to name a few. 

Invited speakers were Claire Card, Vicki Mowat, Tracy Muggli, Lenore Swystun, Tiffany Paulsen, Bev Dubois, Colleen Young and Pat Atkinson.

If much needed change is to come to political and other institutions in Saskatchewan, then we need to grow the number of women (comprising 50.3% of our population) who lead, strategize and support difference in our communities: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

 

Connecting with local entrepreneurs at 27th Annual Raj Manek Memorial Banquet (September 14, 2023)

It was wonderful connecting with fellow entrepreneurs at the 27th Annual Raj Manek Memorial Banquet (Saskatoon Prairieland Park). I appreciated speaking with friends and mentors, including Angela Jamieson, Karla Combres, Lauren Penner, Mario Dima, Kirk Backstrom, Bin Yang, and, of course,  Monica Kreuger!

Thank you to Kanchan Manek and the Manek family for their service to the entrepreneurs of our province!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boardwalk CEO, Sam Kolias on how to succeed in entrepreneurship

 

 

 

 

 

Discussing entrepreneurial strategy with Angela Jamieson and Karla Combres

 

 

 

 

 

Reconnecting with long-time friends and principals of Kinemek Design, Kirk Backstrom and Bing Yan