books Pop Culture

How BuzzFeed copy editor made me excited about writing

I have been reading the book A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in our Buzzfeed Age by Buzzfeed’s Copy Editor, Emmy Favilla. While it took me a while to read it (an understatement, to tell you the truth), I loved it. It made me even more excited about getting into the field of professional writing.

The book went through some history of the English language and what linguists had to say. Then it focused on how rapidly language is changing, especially in the age of the internet and social media (I thought about writing ‘Internet’, just then. That was one of the debates Favilla wrote about in the book. I’ll stick with ‘i’, I think).

Basically, there are a few rules, only preferences. Sure it has to make sense and no writer should be making typos right, left or centre if they’re serious and not a maniac (myself included). Consistency is key.

Of course, there are social norms one should consider, like inclusive language. I think Favilla went into overkill with this. Here’s the thing: I believe that if someone requests to be preferred to by a specific pronoun, including “they” or “ze”, by all means refer to the person by that pronoun. I don’t think you necessarily have to ‘eliminate’ gender altogether. If you really don’t know, then, if you can ask. In  a rare case, use gender neutral, but I don’t think you need to go overboard with it.

Another pet peeve I discovered I have while reading the book is drawn out sentences. I  realised this at the start. Hey, that’s fine for Favilla, I’m not knocking that. I just prefer shorter sentences‚ÄĒ less than twenty – five words preferably. Definitely no more than thirty.

That aside, it was exciting to read about the evolution of the English language. I loved reading about the emoticons, and how far back they went, (right back to the 1980’s, apparently). Also, there’s debate about whether one of Abraham Lincoln’s written speeches included typos or a deliberate emoticon. In regard to emojis, I nominate the Ancient Egyptians as being the first to use them. ūüėõ

Screenshot: Things have gone full circle over the past 4,000 years.


While language, particularly grammar has become a lot more relaxed over the years, Favila emphasised the need for the need for inclusive language and the importance in using appropriate terms for one’ gender or racial identity (particularly indigenous groups around the world). I’ll put my two cents in when it comes to gender: I believe you should refer to someone by the pronouns that a person prefers (including ‘they’ and ‘ze’/ ‘zir’).  Should it be something that a writer or anyone else needs to tie themselves in knots over with everyone they meet? No. I fear that we are making things too complicated. Be courteous. If you are asked to refer to someone using certain pronouns, use them. If not, my guess is what you see is what you get.

Another thing I found fascinating was the differences in British/ Australian and American English. Of course, there’s colour/ color, favour/ favor and Imperial vs Metric measurements (miles vs kilometres, etc). However, I didn’t know that the US has slightly different use of swear words and their offense levels than the UK and Australia. Who knew? (P.S. I’m not giving any examples here. Google them for yourself if you want to know).

A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age was a great read and offered great insights in the English language. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in language or it’s evolution.

Have you read A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age? What did you think? Leave your thoughts below.



Conversion therapy still happens in Australia

Buzzfeed exposed¬†ex gay or “conversion therapy”¬†still being practised in Australia. This is despite the practice being condemned by all the major health bodies around the world, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

Fortunately, some States, including Victoria have started to clamp down on the unscientific practice. Health services will have a complaints commission. They will have greater powers to investigate any suspect health professionals. Anyone will be able to lodge a complaint, not just a client.

However, the article exposes an underground where the practice takes place and is fairly widespread, especially in evangelical Pentecostal circles. Buzzfeed Oz Politics posted a video on their Facebook page where an Australian Christian Lobby member refused to condemn ex – gay therapy during a debate concerning the “Marriage Amendment (Same – sex Marriage) Bill.

I actually find this infuriating. I’m furious that some Christians are so hell – bent (no pun intended), to hold on to their theology that they are willing to cause damage to someone’s life as ¬†a result. I’m more furious that a major political force, the Australian Christian Lobby, refuses to condemn the debunked and unethical practice, which is shown to cause unimaginable pain and suffering to many LGBTQ+ people and their friends and families around the world. Regardless of what you think about same – sex relationships,¬†no one has the right to destroy someone’s life.¬†Ever. I’m going to put it very bluntly and this may offend some people. Those who continually insist on conversion therapy have blood on their hands. The Human Rights Campaign in the U.S.¬†mentions the harmful effects of such “therapy”¬†including depression, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide.¬†Live Science has also highlighted how harmful the so – called “therapy” is.

I get that people want to hold on to their beliefs and some people have genuine beliefs about whether same – sex relationships are moral. Some still hold the view that it isn’t. What I can’t believe is that people¬†still¬†insist that LGBTQ people change their orientation or gender identity when¬†all evidence suggests that it doesn’t work.¬†I can’ t believe how the Australian Government can watch idly as this goes on.

The U.S. is slowly clamping down on the practice, with New Jersey being the first state to ban the “therapy” for minors. Could it ever be outlawed outright? Even survivors of “ex gay therapy”, such as Samuel Brinton admitted that legally, there is a limit¬†that should be done as to not clamp on people’s freedom of choice and beliefs if they are over eighteen. (Watch his speech at Google ¬†on YouTube. For some reason I can’t embed it here. Sorry about that).

I’ll add to that sentiment. Laws, regardless of how strict they are, can only do so much. It’s the culture in some organisations that needs to change. There needs to be a belief that LGBTQ+ have enough value to have a right to dignity and well – being. There needs to be a willingness for people to drop the stereotypes and caricatures that have given people licence to dehumanise and harm the LGBTQ+ community for so long. We need to change thinking on gender and sexuality. Organisations need to be willing to treat people in a way that protects their mental health and overall well – being, rather than use power to abuse people spiritually and psychologically.

Some people may have found this post hard to read.¬†It was hard for me to write. Frankly, I was initially reluctant to write it. But I felt like I can’t let this go on and not say something. Too many lives have already been damaged or destroyed by this. I can’t let another life be ruined without speaking up.