Writer, Editor, Educator

I have an MA in linguistics, an MA and PhD in drama, and more than 20 years of experience as a writer, editor, designer, educator, performer, and photographer.

Praise from colleagues and clients

I have been very lucky to work with James Harbeck, the amazing editor at Page Two publishers. James has been diligent, insightful, very supportive and hilariously funny. Humbitious is a much better book now because of him!
—Amer Kaissi, Humbitious: The Power of Low-Ego, High-Drive Leadership

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I want to extend a major thank you to James Harbeck, substantive editor extraordinaire, for mixing the perfect amount of support, praise, and suggestions to take my manuscript from “meh” to “hell yeah!” I owe you a night out at the theatre.
—Avery Swartz, See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing

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I would like to thank my editor at Goose Lane, James Harbeck, who is the kind of close reader authors hope all their readers are; it was a pleasure sparring and working with you.
—Nathan M. Greenfield, Anything but a Still Life: The Art and Lives of Molly Lamb and Bruno Bobak

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If you want to be confident that the work will get done on time and to the highest professional standard, hire James!

If you also want to be stunned and amazed by the brilliance and wit and humour and dazzling verbal virtuosity of the person you’re hiring, hire James!

I worked with this gifted designer/writer/editor for twelve years at the Literary Review of Canada and he always delivered with efficiency, style and pragmatism. Not to mention energy, dedication, talent and imagination.

Do yourself a favour: hire James!
—Bronwyn Drainie, Editor emerita, Literary Review of Canada

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James Harbeck is an outstanding writer and editor. I worked with James for 15 years at MediResource, where he ran the editorial department professionally and efficiently (and with a great sense of humour). He implemented several systems to ensure the highest efficiency and accuracy in our work. His writing and editing skills are top-notch and I could always rely on him for well-considered and practical answers to writing and editing questions. I would strongly recommend him as a freelance writer and editor.
—Patricia Rawn, PharmD

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I have known James Harbeck in a range of contexts. At the Literary Review of Canada, where I have served as publisher and editor, he worked as designer, proofreader, writer and photographer. On several personal projects I hired him for he served as editor and designer. In all of these jobs, James has shown exemplary dedication, flexibility, intelligence and creativity – traits he brings to every aspect of his life. I highly recommend him.
—Mark Lovewell, Professor Emeritus, Ryerson University

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Through his blog, his articles, his videos, his Twitter feed and his personal appearances, James Harbeck teaches his audience to be better communicators. He does this by giving them information and by giving them confidence to be themselves. He also teaches his fellow editors about the language we work with, making us better equipped to help others.

Throughout the editing community in North America, Harbeck has established himself as someone who needs no introduction. His contributions are as voluminous and varied as they are useful and enjoyable.
—Mark Allen, Executive board member, ACES: The Society for Editing

What I do

I edit:

  • consumer-oriented web articles on health, science, language, wine, food, theatre, and the arts, among other subjects
  • books on culture, history, philosophy, business, biography, theatre, and more for publishers such as Penguin Random House, NYU Press, SUNY Press, Goose Lane Editions, and Page Two Solutions, as well as for individuals
  • continuing education lessons for health care professionals
  • academic articles and theses
  • interviews and transcriptions
  • magazines, both individual articles and whole publications as editor-in-chief

I also Canadianize and Americanize articles: spelling, vocabulary, units of measurement, statistics, and cultural references.

I have been one of the test setters for Editors Canada’s certification exams and have also helped create the study guide for them. I have also been a judge for Editors Canada’s Tom Fairley Award for editorial excellence.

I am the 2018 recipient of Editors Canada’s Karen Virag Award.

Notable recent titles I have worked on include:

  • Anything but a Still Life: The Art and Lives of Molly Lamb and Bruno Bobak, by Nathan M. Greenfield, for Goose Lane
  • Ecology on the Ground and in the Clouds: Aimé Bonpland and Alexander von Humboldt, by Andrea Nye, for SUNY Press
  • Humbitious: The Power of Low-Ego, High-Drive Leadership, by Amer Kaissi, for Page Two
  • The Ice at the End of the World, by Jon Gertner, for Penguin Random House
  • See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing, by Avery Swartz, for Page Two
  • Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender, by stef m. shuster, for NYU Press

I write:

I design:

  • books – I have designed and typeset self-published books by several authors, including five of my own
  • educational resources – I have designed large information resource binders on conditions such as mucopolysaccharidosis, continuing education lessons for pharmacists in magazine form, and booklets on health care policy and national surveys
  • magazines – I designed the national magazine Literary Review of Canada for 18 years and I have designed the magazines and journals of several societies such as Abbeyfield Canada
  • ads – I have designed scores of ads for publication in magazines and newspapers

I present and teach:

  • on editing, design, language, presentation, and performance for universities, colleges, conferences, corporations, and other interested groups. Topics I have covered include:
    • An appreciation of English: A language in motion
    • Desktop publishing workflow at warp speed
    • How to give presentations and speeches
    • Introduction to acting
    • A linguist’s guide to grammar
    • Our changing language: When does wrong become right?
    • Pronunciation tips on words from other languages
    • Test preparation: GRE, LSAT, GMAT, SAT
    • Things you should know about HTML
    • Translating medicalese into everyday English
    • What flavour of English do you want?
    • Why is English spelling so weird?
    • When an error isn’t
    • When to use bad English
    • World drama in its context

I perform:

  • on radio – I have played roles in radio dramas for the CBC and other broadcasters
  • on video – I do hosting and voice-overs for corporate videos, and I have a YouTube channel of my videos focused mainly on language
  • on stage – I have acted in numerous stage productions, and I sang with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for 15 years

I photograph:

I have photographed several events for the Literary Review of Canada and for the Spur Toronto festival; I have photographed projects such as Faces of  Scarborough, a Nuit Blanche project for Diaspora Dialogues; I have a large portfolio at Flickr.com/sesquiotic and have published a book, PAINT.

What I know


  • MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project; I am well acquainted with Word’s wild card searches and style sheets and with many of the more arcane functions in Excel)
  • Adobe InDesign (I am also proficient with QuarkXPress but rarely use it anymore)
  • Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Illustrator
  • HTML, hand-coding and using Dreamweaver, GoLive, and other similar programs
  • Déjà Vu translation memory software
  • Amadeus Pro and other sound-editing software
  • A variety of content management systems, including Drupal and Alfresco web-based systems and complex in-house Visual Basic–based systems
  • I work every day on both Windows and Macintosh environments
  • I enjoy learning new software and applications


  • English (authoritative)
  • French (moderately fluent—I have taken linguistics courses conducted and evaluated in French)
  • Italian, Spanish, German (workable)
  • Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Dutch, Afrikaans, Irish, Icelandic, Swedish (introductory)
  • Modest acquaintance with several others


Who I’ve worked with

As an independent editor, I have done book, magazine, and article editing at all levels, as well as book, magazine, brochure, website, and advertisement design for companies, organizations, and individuals. Clients have included:

  • Abbeyfield Canada
  • Agate Publishing
  • Editors Canada (the Editors’ Association of Canada)
  • Goose Lane Editions
  • The Literary Review of Canada
  • Mensa Canada
  • New York University Press
  • Page Two Solutions
  • Penguin Random House USA
  • SUNY Press

As Senior Medical Editor at MediResource Inc., I oversaw an editorial team and edited, formatted, and managed a database of more than 10,000 consumer-directed health and lifestyle articles, plus consumer-directed clinical articles on more than 4500 drug brands, 350 health conditions, 120 natural health products, and 60 tests and procedures, all in both English and French. I oversaw the conversion of our articles for American audiences. I also worked on numerous client sites and projects; edited and laid out more than 100 continuing medical education lessons for pharmacists and doctors; edited, designed, and wrote articles for more than 50 patient-directed newsletters and health handouts; edited, converted to xml, and managed the process for a database of 600 articles on lab tests; edited, laid out, and oversaw print production of more than 20 full-colour information resources ranging in size from 8 to 172 pages; wrote marketing and promotional copy as well as feature articles and scripts; recorded and edited voice-overs; and set and maintained company-wide processes and standards. I also edited and maintained, and occasionally wrote for, a website on wine, food, and travel. Clients I worked with at MediResource include:

  • Apotex
  • AstraZeneca
  • Biogen
  • BioMarin
  • Canada.com
  • Canoe.ca
  • CCCEP (the Canadian Council on Continuing Education in Pharmacy)
  • Costco
  • CPhA (the Canadian Pharmacists Association)
  • Duane Reade
  • Dynacare
  • Genzyme
  • Great-West Life
  • Johnson & Johnson/McNeil Consumer Healthcare
  • Katz Group Canada Ltd. (including Rexall and Pharmasave)
  • Loblaws
  • London Drugs
  • Manitoba Blue Cross
  • Manulife
  • Medavie Blue Cross
  • Merck Frosst Canada Ltd.
  • The MPS Society (mucopolysaccharidosis)
  • Mylan
  • The National PKU Alliance (phenylketonuria)
  • Novartis
  • Novo Nordisk
  • Novopharm
  • Pacific Blue Cross
  • Pfizer
  • Quantum Health
  • ratiopharm
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Shire
  • SIMD (the Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders)
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals
  • Tony Aspler
  • Walgreens

My writing has appeared on websites and in magazines, including:

  • BBC.com
  • BoingBoing
  • Huffington Post
  • NINK
  • Slate
  • TonyAspler.com
  • Urban Adventures
  • The Week

I have given presentations, classes, and webinars for organizations, including:

  • ACES: The Society for Editing
  • Copyediting.com
  • Emerson College
  • Editors Canada (the Editors’ Association of Canada)
  • Mensa Canada
  • Ryerson University
  • Sun Life
  • Tufts University

I have also done podcasts for TheWeek.com.

Who has interviewed me

My blogs, books, photos, and videos

If you’d like more details, here’s my résumé: harbeck_resume_20181231. You can also view my profile on LinkedIn.