Meet the Instructor: Letitia Henville

Written by Carl Rosenberg; copy edited by Merel Elsinga

Photo of Letitia

On Sunday, June 13, 2021, at the Editors Canada conference, Letitia Henville will host a networking session on “Developing content marketing opportunities.”

Content marketing is a long-term marketing strategy that involves giving away your knowledge for free to potential clients, and thereby establishing their trust. This session will bring together editors with shared expertise to collaborate on content marketing opportunities. It will be grounded in the ethos that editors are not in competition with one another, and that raising the profile of the profession and of Editors Canada creates more business for all of us. Participants are invited to see their fellow editors as supportive colleagues and potential collaborators—not as competition. 

Letitia is a freelance academic editor at shortishard.ca and the advice columnist behind “Ask Dr. Editor,” published monthly at University Affairs. Letitia edits grant applications for artists and academics, and also edits journal articles, book chapters, monographs, and promotion and tenure dossiers, with a special emphasis on the health sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Carl Rosenberg, a volunteer with Editors BC, spoke to Letitia about her forthcoming session.   

Hello, Letitia! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us how you came to your career as an editor?

Hi Carl, thanks for inviting me! My interest in editing grew out of the close, detailed interrogation of language I enjoyed in my doctoral studies in late nineteenth-century poetry. After I finished my PhD, I met with fellow PhD-er Erin Parker, who gently suggested that possessing the ability to understand Gerard Manley Hopkins does not necessarily qualify a person to call themselves an editor. Following Erin’s guidance, I joined Editors BC, took a few courses, and then slowly built my business. I’m deeply appreciative of the supportive community I’ve found in the BC branch of Editors Canada and at the conferences I’ve attended these past few years.

Given that content marketing involves sharing knowledge with potential clients, how does one reach a balance regarding how much information to share? What kinds of information are involved?

I do two forms of content marketing: my column, “Ask Dr. Editor,” and webinars, which I do through large organizations like the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The amount of information that I share is thus governed by the form that it is taking: a 1000-word article needs to be much more focused than a 60-minute conversation. Your content marketing might take the form of a podcast interview or participation in a Twitter chat; the medium in which you communicate will shape the quantity of information that you share. Contrast an Instagram post by Juniper Editing on the one hand, and an article on business writing published in the Harvard Business Review on the other: you’ll need to shape the information you share to the needs of your clients and your chosen mode of publication.

Good content marketing is practical, timely, focused, and actionable. You’ll want to address the unique concerns of your clients—or even a specific subset of your clients. Help them to solve a problem, and you’re more likely to establish yourself as someone who they know, like, and trust.

The content marketing that I produce often (but not always!) falls into one of two categories:

  1. “How-to” advice, such as “How to write a statement of teaching philosophy that shines” or “How to read research grant proposals like an editor”
  2. Provocative, contrarian advice, such as “Jargon can make for good academic writing” or “Your reader is a little bit drunk”

Is it possible to give away too many of your secrets? I suppose so, but I’ve written over 30,000 words for University Affairs, and I still have more to say about academic writing. I think that, at some point, people start to realize that there’s a lot to this editing stuff, and they’d rather hand a manuscript over to me than take on the work themselves.

Regarding the ethos underlying this session, how can editors support each other and the field as a whole?

In the niche in which I work—academic writing—a lot of people who could be clients think that they can pay their untrained graduate students to edit their journal article, grant application, or manuscript. I don’t think this is the best approach, but I don’t possess the ability to change minds at scale. If a lot of academic editors do a lot of high-quality content marketing, we’ll collectively raise awareness of our profession and our expertise, which will expand the pool of clients available to work with.

Content marketing can also be a fair bit of work—but we don’t have to do it alone. By collaborating with others, one person can focus their energy on those parts of a larger project that leverage their individual strengths, while another person directs their efforts elsewhere. As a wise man once said, “cooperation makes it happen!

The session I’ll be leading on Sunday, June 13, will be a networking and collaboration session—not a lecture—so I’m hoping that folks will attend live rather than waiting for the recording. It’s hard to collaborate with a YouTube video.

On a more casual note, what are a few of your favourite books and publications—editing-related or otherwise?

My most-annotated editing books are Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and Joseph Williams’ Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Most recently, I enjoyed Amitava Kumar’s Every Day I Write the Book: Notes on Style.

I’m still waiting for a really great book on content marketing that targets freelancers and consultants; so far, the closest I’ve found is half of Robert Bly’s The Content Marketing Handbook and half of Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher’s How Clients Buy.

When I read fiction, I like crime novels by everyone from Nathan Ripley to Ian Rankin, and graphic novels like Sarah Leavitt’s Agnes, Murderess and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ Red: A Haida Manga (though I guess those are also crime novels of a sort!). Seeing that written down, it now seems like—if no one dies, I’m not entertained! I swear, I am a good person, despite this inclination toward the macabre.

Letitia, thank you very much for sharing your experience and expertise! We’re looking forward to your conference session


Carl Rosenberg edited Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine from 1998 to 2016. He has a diploma in Latin American Studies from Vancouver Community College and a bachelor of arts in Spanish Language and Literature from UBC.

Merel Elsinga is a plain language copy editor and proofreader based in Sidney, BC. She has a background in law and a post-professional lingering passion for sailing and cooking. Her mission is to help lawyers create plain language contracts. Look at EditorMerel for more details.

Image provided by Letitia Henville 

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