October 2015

Welcome Mid-October!

With cooler air and frost-bitten nights, I’m happy that fall is upon us, as I prepare this issue of “Communications Digest.”

Readers were kind enough to tell me that the first photo of last month’s issue did not appear as it should have. I’ve been investigating the issue with iContact and seeking external image editing, especially for Gmail readers (and improved internal testing, prior to publication).

I this month’s layout is less than perfect, please bear with us (and feel free to let me know). Changes are afoot with iContact and despite the blips, I value your readership highly.

In last month’s issue,  I visited Steve Benna on keeping healthy boundaries, when others seem to “walk all over” you. And I shared some of Shana Lebowitz’s tips on how to “become a morning person.” One reader wrote in to say the tips would help to deal with compulsory mornings (e.g. early flights for work) but “not genuinely make a morning person” if you aren’t one! I have to agree.

This month, I’m meditating on the amazing support I receive (and give) from my writers’ group;  provide three highlights of September’s “Word on the Street” festival in Saskatoon; and supply some notes on the irritating “creep” of capital letters that follow colons . . . .!

Enjoy this issue and the beauty of our autumn. Perhaps you too have heard predictions of a mild winter?

While we wait and hope for that, I’m happy to share copy that will make your business soar!



Principal, Elizabeth Shih Communications



Can a Good Writers’ or Artists’ Group Enhance your Life as a Creative?

Freelancing for most of us is a solo profession. And its solitary nature means that even a highly introverted freelancer needs support. The best support is usually that offered by peers in the same or similar fields and who are willing to listen to you. They also need to be willing to share their experiences.

This fall is the one year anniversary of my “Freelancers’ Round Table Group.”  Two colleagues of mine and I started this group (whose name is a tongue-in-cheek reclamation of the legendary “knights of the round table.”) The roundtable around which we first met also implies equality and sharing that differ from the hierarchical structures of other meeting spaces.

The group consists currently of five women readers and writers. We may encourage new members—male or female—so long as they are serious about what they read and write. Our meetings are fact-filled and interesting and confidential in nature. With their permission, I’ll introduce our members (alphabetically by first names):

Ashleigh is a freelance journalist and content writer, who is building an ambitious web design firm with her partner.

Julie is a freelance writer with her own PR company, who is extensively and positively connected in the community.

Katherine is a professional editor who is involved in both local and national editing circles.


Leanne is a lecturer in communications and literature at a local college. She edits part-time, on the side.

We are all avid readers, not only of writing manuals or business best-sellers, but also of fiction, where most of us began our reading and writing lives.

During the late summer of 2014, Ashleigh, Julie and I met at an IABC networking event and floated the idea of developing such a group—to discuss issues like the which books to read, how to compose good contracts, setting fees, which clients are good,  banking, technology, being paid by international clients and so forth.

We also refer overflow work to each other, which is a highly valuable service for both writers involved. We have built the required trust based on sharing observations and insights of our writers’ lives.

As the writer Connie Jeske Crane (from “The Freelancer by Contently”) wrote recently, we are a “committed core.”

Not everyone makes every meeting, but it’s rare for anyone to miss more than one in a row. We all feel each other’s absences and our own, when they do occur. We skipped one summer meeting, to allow for holidays, and can defer a meeting for a week or two, if we are all under pressure with work.

Although we haven’t collectively yet created a project, that may be an option for the future (e.g. group-writing an article in an area of mutual interest).

So long as we continue to find freelancing valuable, I believe we’ll exist. The format may change and experiences definitely will. But the group is a pleasure and source of strength that I’m happy to convene.

Almost all freelance creatives work alone. The loneliness can sometimes be palpable.  Friendship and camaraderie from writers’ groups can assisting you in rising above that solitude.

Do you regularly participate in a professional group (other than a committee at work), in your career? 

How does it help you to achieve your goals?

Please send your comments to the “contact” page of my website (www.elizabethshih.com). I’d be delighted to hear from you.


Word Nerd’s Corner: on Capitalization after Colons . . . .

Accuse me of delving into the arcane here, but errors in punctuation have begun to creep more frequently in recent years . . . . I find them infiltrating everywhere: in the local newspapers, magazines and especially in online copy (blogs, very sloppy social media postings, etc.).  I call the whole problem, “punctuation “creep!”

So I plunged back into The Bible of most professional writers, The Chicago Manual of Style (TCMS).

And its authors say this: “A colon introduces an element or a series of elements illustrating or amplifying what has preceded the colon . . . .”

(E.g.: “George was faced with a difficult choice: Should he tell what he read in the letter and spoil the surprise? Or should he remain silent and risk that Natalie would leave town, before the time of the party?”)

In the example just given, “should” and “or”  are capitalized, because the colon introduces two sentences.

Logically, this makes sense, as the capitalization clarifies the beginning point of each of the two sentences that follow it.

In fact, the first word after a colon will be capitalized (i) if it is a proper name; (ii) when it introduces two or more sentences (as above); (iii) or when it introduces a speech in dialogue, or an extract.

Again, these specifications make it easier to understand the relationship between these sentences.  Readability in English been the goal of these rules,  even though so many writers fail to provide it.

Most of us have no trouble with capitalizing a proper name after a colon. But before you dismiss this discussion, consider that rule (iii) may require some examples to clarify. A speech in dialogue will look like Shakespeare or any another play, as in the example from TCMS:

“ (Michael): The incident has already been reported.

(Timothy): Then, sir, all is lost!”

And an “extract” would function like this: “McLeod ends her Regency story by quoting Sir Reginald:And that the men have women like you to sustain them.’ ”

These rules are a lot simpler to use than they sound.  So it’s not a hassle to remember and abide by them. No reason to give in to punctuation creep!!

Do you find errors in punctuation disrupt your reading? You may need a good copy editor–perhaps me or someone in my freelance group?!

Do you have a particular punctuation or grammatical bugbear? Please send it to me via my “contact” page at www.elizabethshih.com  I’d be delighted to broaden this conversation.


Revisiting ‘Word on the Street’ 2015 (WOTS) in Saskatoon . . . .

Sunday September 20th was a splendid, late summer day to spend in Saskatoon’s Civic Square. Hundreds of book-lovers of every  age and kind gathered in six tents to celebrate, as  Canadian writers both local and far flung read from their written words. Here are some highlights . . . .

(I)   Margaret Trudeau (ex-wife of the late former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau) promoted her latest book, The Time of Your Life: Choosing a Vibrant, Joyful Future (2015).

Instead of reading from the volume, she spoke more broadly about the different phases of her life, including her life-long challenges with Bipolar Disorder.

Raised in a culture-loving Vancouver home, Trudeau found adjusting to living in the “bubble” of Ottawa, as the Prime Minister’s wife, to be unbearable, particularly after the birth of her second child, which triggered post-partum depression for her.

She recalls from these years that she was committed by family and police to hospitals, often evading them through exorbitant shopping sprees and jet-setting around the world, without notice or reason. Her family was overwhelmed and terrified.

In a time when our community wants to appreciate and better understand mental illness, Trudeau has stepped up to the plate.

She testified that psychological illnesses are not some kind of moral shortcoming, but result from biochemical imbalances in the brain: “If you don’t get the neural pathway of depression treated, you’ll end up with hypomania” (from a flooding of dopamine in the brain).

In alternation with the mania comes depression, where a  person is left “with a flat mood,” lacking feeling, which now is often treated with serotonin.

In her highly personal narrative, she referred to the end of two marriages; the premature and accidental death of her son, Michel; the death of  her late ex-husband, Pierre Trudeau, and her own menopause as factors that contributed to a middle age breakdown.

Yet, with a new generation of medicines to treat her, psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, she testifies that she was ultimately able to return to a happy and productive life.

While not all Saskatchewanians recall Margaret Trudeau’s years in political life with admiration, her genuineness in sharing  her life-long challenge with mental health was warmly appreciated by festival listeners and book buyers.

(II)   Chef Michael Smith, although born and trained in the US, is now Canadian and both a celebrated chef and family man, living in P.E.I.  To promote his latest book: Make Ahead Meals (2015), he spoke of the need to eat well with our nuclear families on a daily basis, as an essential part of our daily lives.

As the host of several high profile Food Network TV shows, he has nonetheless become an advocate for simple, sustainable meals and flavours.

Smith delved into controversies like GMO engineered food, arguing that it’s pervasive in all of our lives and may be a  helpful and realistic way to feed nine billion people across the globe.

Advocating that we all cope with stressful lives by eating as much with our families as possible, and eating as much quality protein as possible, he promoted SK-produced lentils and cited food writer Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”

(III)    As a writer and Indigenous Relations’ administrator (U of Winnipeg) and as a First Nations journalist and advocate, Wab Kinew was recently named by Postmedia News as one of “Nine Aboriginal movers and shakers you should know.”

At WOTS, he read from his memoir of his father, The Reason You Walk (2015), in which he chronicles his father’s mistreatment as a child in the residential schools system, his father’s ambivalence about being Catholic when born to a First Nation; widespread racism in rural Ontario in the 40’s and beyond;  and his estrangement from his children that resulted from his absenteeism and alcoholism.

Kinew lovingly read of the months he spent reconciling with his father, after the older man was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The family ultimately travelled to the Vatican, where Kinew’s father adopted Pope Benedict as his kin, “bridging the distance briefly” over the painful legacy of his treatment in the Catholic residential school.

Kinew speaks of strengthening his own aboriginal spirituality through reconciling with his father.

Kinew closed by speaking of the “goal of reconciliation” (of all kinds) as moving from “hurt” to “forgiveness”; and from “doing wrong” to “forgiving yourself.”

Margaret Trudeau, Michael Smith and Wab Kinew were only three (and vastly different) speakers who shared their written words at this year’s WOTS.

Such an eclectic blend of writers and personalities–it was a privilege to hear them.

Once again, local organizers of the festival made magic on the beautiful last Sunday of Saskatoon’s summer.

Did you attend Saskatoon’s WOTS this year, or one based near where you live? Please share with me your impressions on  the “contact” page of  my website: www.elizabethshih.com I’d be delighted to continue this conversation.


Shop News . . .

Since last issue, I’ve delved into editing curriculum for the CEO of Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (and a valued mentor)–Monica Kreuger. Special thanks to Monica for enlisting my services.

In just a few more sleeps,  “Getting to Great” 2020 Health Vision Conference in Saskatoon will occur (October 19-20, Western Development Museum).  After writing and publishing promotional articles for it, I’m looking forward to meeting delegates and hearing speakers! If you’re interested in the marketing of healthcare in Saskatchewan, you shouldn’t miss this two-day conference! Email me for details, if you need to!

I have progressed with  my e-book project on the lives of local creatives who endure (or overcome) various forms of adversity. Special thanks this month go to award-winning community leader and developer, Tracey Mitchell, who gave a fascinating interview!

And thanks to local artist and designer Kat Bens, who will perform the layout and design for the volume.

The Raj Manek Business Mentorship Program has started up for another great year, with a brilliant talk on Google updates and email list building from Mouneeb Shahid of 2 Web Design.

And after enjoying a wonderful summer,  I am happy to delve into your fall and winter marketing projects. Please contact me with your ideas!


About Us . . .

Since 2011, Elizabeth Shih Communications has provided B2B marketing and communications services on the Prairies and across Canada.

Do you need help writing your “marcom” materials? Please contact me through my website, via the CASL-compliant email form, on the right-hand side of each page (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I have received your permission, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters, blog postings, promotional emails, press releases, case studies and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (www.elizabethshih.com).