Going on and on about style
One beautiful thing about the Salish Sea is that it borders two countries and the people who cruise it don’t much care which side of the border you call home. We have more similarities than differences.
But one slight difference is words, how we use and spell them. It affects us a bit at Salish Sea Pilot.
My background is in writing and editing for newspapers, and part of the job is ensuring your words match the “style” of your newspaper. Style is mostly about spelling and which words to use when, and newspapers can be extremely hoiti toiti about it.
At papers in Canada and Australia, it was fairly simple. You learned the local style, which typically followed the styles of the Canadian Press (CP) or Australian Associated Press wire services. You wrote and edited in that style. Stories arrived to the newsroom in your paper’s style, or near enough for it to be tweaked into conformity.
It was a completely different story on the foreign desk of a newspaper I worked for in Bangkok. We subscribed to many wires, including Associated Press, New York Times, Agence France-Presse, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Reuters, Bloomberg News, United Press International… I’ve probably left out one or two. They all had their own “style” and had to be beaten into conformity.
Which brings us to our Salish Sea Pilot guides. Our users over the years have been roughly equal on both sides of the border. We figured, to be fair and all, that we would write with the spelling and measurement system of the country the destination being discussed was in.
For example, when writing about Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, we use US spellings as well as fathoms for depth. For Bedwell Harbour in the Gulf Islands we use Canadian spelling and metric measurements.
An exception is boat and dock lengths, which with few exceptions continue to be measured in feet on both sides of the border.
And I don’t know how many times we’ve been told that we mistakenly spelled Harbour Marina, on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, the Canadian way. No, it really is spelled “h-a-r-b-o-u-r”.
The blog is somewhat stickier. Some articles apply to both sides of the border, especially the environmental stories we are planning. Lynne just rolls her eyes when I broach matters of style. So I can see she will have to be diligently edited, or “anally edited” if you conform to her stylebook.
If my thesaurus was smart enough, I would just replace all words that are spelled differently with words that are not. Even the fattest thesaurus cannot help with metric measurements.
So we will muddle along, both manoeuvring and maneuvering through dialectal quagmires, though sometimes it will appear that we are totally devoid of style.