EVENT REPORT – Travel-Related Events and Updating the Japan Style Sheet

May 16, 2018 (Wednesday), Book House Cafe, Jinbocho, Tokyo

Ten people gathered for a SWET Talk Shop to discuss two topics: (1) the idea of setting up special-interest group (SIG) in SWET for travel writers and (2), the proposed plan for SWET to publish a new edition of the Japan Style Sheet.

Rob Goss introduced his ideas for a SWET SIG focusing on the craft and business of travel writing (a wide umbrella that also covers culture, food, and other topics typically found in travel-focused publications), hoping to establish better ties among SWET members interested in travel writing and bring in others who might want to connect in similar fashion. He envisions a group or network mainly made up of people based in Japan but writing for publications around the world. While travel-related translation would not be a main concern of the group, those involved in translation would be welcome to join to learn about travel writing as it is done in English.

Goss presented a list of some proposed topics to take up at meetings of the group. For example:

•   Writing effective pitches and approaching potential clients

•   Good ways to market oneself (pros, cons, and best approaches to personal blogs, online portfolios, social media, association memberships, etc.)

•   Market trends. What kind of publications cover travel, and how broad is the umbrella? What are they after? How to deliver what they want, or convince them to try something they may not have considered?

•   Dealing with tourism agencies: getting on press trips, digging up local tourism contacts, asking for assistance while avoiding being unduly influenced, etc.

•   Language usage and the pitfalls (and uses) of travel writing clichés.

•   Guiding overseas media toward sounder coverage of Japan that goes beyond stereotypes and common misconceptions.

•   How much is our writing worth? What are our rights? From experience, Rob says he knows that some Japan-based English-language publications don’t understand such things as basic copyright ownership; writers, therefore, should.

We discussed the various benefits of such a group, agreeing that it would be likely to enliven SWET activities and interaction in general while working to the advantage of the SIG members. Since there have been calls to schedule events on weekends, we discussed the logistics and arrived at a loose consensus that Friday evenings in a central Tokyo location may be the most appealing. Non-members will be welcome but perhaps be asked to pay a little more to help cover the costs of room rent. (SWET underwrites the cost of room fees if the event benefits SWET as a whole.) If you have any suggestions for the proposed group, please feel free to email Rob at robgoss[at]tokyofreelance.com.

As the talk progressed, the question arose whether a separate group is needed or just regular planning of events on such topics as listed above using the SWET community and website as a hub. To approach the answer, Rob promised to start planning the first event soon, for a date perhaps as early as July. Keep your eye on the SWET website and Bulletins for notices.

Lynne Riggs then introduced the project to revise the text of SWET’s Japan Style Sheet, second edition, 1998 (see JSS page on the website for the table of contents). The JSS passes down the accumulated and enduring wisdom of veteran editors working with Japan-related material since the 1980s and before. It is intended as a supplement to such major style guides as the Chicago Manual of Style. The entire text is now being subjected to scrutiny and revision. The current project is to corral all the necessary changes, edit and proofread them, and ready the copy for the designer to revise the files of the second edition, which SWET received gratis from Stone Bridge Press when it placed the book out of print in 2017.

The 1998 edition was published in the United States, and its preface states that it is “mainly aimed at the needs of editors and writers without specialized knowledge of Japan or of the Japanese language” (p. 9). For the third edition, to be published in Tokyo, we have in mind many people who do have specialized knowledge of Japan and of the Japanese language and benefit from having an authoritative guide that displays the rules, both to remind themselves and to convince clients of their usefulness. One of the matters that requires further discussion is how the JSS might need to be changed to expand its user base in this way and better serve the diverse people who are dealing with J-to-E editorial issues, particularly here in Japan itself.

Other proposed changes include adding some clarifications about capitalization (especially the use of “full caps,” which has become especially troublesome in recent years), include recommendation of the Library of Congress guide to romanization (as noted in a 2016 article on the SWET website), present some cautions regarding uses of quotation marks in translated text, provide suggestions about how to handling headings and titles, and incorporate the two main topics of the JSS update published in the SWET Newsletter and available on the SWET website, namely handling of kanji in English text, and how to input macrons and other diacritical marks (see the link for advice on inputting).

One of the JSS topics is “Place Names,” and especially for travel writers, the issues are of keen interest. With the Olympics coming up and tourism booming, various style sheets are popping up, not least of which is the Wikipedia style sheet for Japan-related articles. Another style sheet put out by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is available here. There are some capitalization and other issues in the 90-page Tokyo guide, and slavish adherence to it is probably not advisable, but considerable care has gone into its preparation and it has useful basic information and terms that may be of reference.

The participants at the May 16th meeting seemed overall supportive of keeping the JSS appendices as they are. Although most of the charts and other resources there are admittedly available online, the appendices contain the most frequently used tools of the general editor or translator for converting nengo dates, for getting your large figures translated properly, for quick conversion of Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa and Heisei dates, and for the dates of the major periods of Japanese history.

The bulk of the JSS text can remain more or less as it is, although the editorial team will update examples wherever possible to assure that it is fresh for the fourth decade of SWET’s history to begin in 2020.

Currently the editorial team is planning to collate all desired changes by mid-June and move into galley proofreading during the summer. Discussion of a searchable, digital edition to be made available online is going on among the members of the SWET Steering Committee in tandem with recent updating of the SWET website. The goal is to have the new print edition published by the end of 2018. If you are interested and willing to help with revision, editing, and proofreading of the third edition, please contact us at SWET.

(Lynne E. Riggs, May 26, 2018)