Tom Fairley Award

A spotlight
© Alexandr Pintyuk,

It is often said that editing is an invisible art. But that doesn’t mean great editors should hide in the shadows.

So many editors deserve our recognition—editors who dedicate countless hours to refining written communication so the meaning is clear and effective. These are editors who work on all types of projects, from website content, advertisements and reports to magazines, books and software documentation. When it comes to editing, the variety of material is limitless.

Shining a spotlight on editing excellence

The Tom Fairley Award is presented annually to an exceptional editor who played an important role in the success of a project completed in English or French.

The $2,000 cash award will be presented to the winner at Editors Canada’s national conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 22, 2024. We’re pleased to announce that in recognition of their outstanding editorial performance, the finalists will also receive cash awards of $500 each. These cash awards are made possible by Editors Canada and its generous donors.

Award guidelines

Who is eligible for nomination?

The award is for an editor’s outstanding contribution to a work published in Canada in English or French during the 2023 calendar year. Nominations are open to all editors—both freelance and in-house. Members and non-members of Editors Canada may be nominated.

When are the deadlines?

The nominations period for the 2024 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence is now closed.

Editors Canada will begin accepting nominations for the 2025 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in fall 2024.

Who can nominate?

Anyone involved in the work can nominate, such as the publisher, editor, author or designer. Self-nominations are encouraged.

Which types of editorial projects can be submitted?

The Tom Fairley Award is not a career achievement award—it is for a single project that required the editor to use a broad range of editorial skills. Any type of written project, including an author’s self-published work, is eligible: for example, a book, magazine or journal, government or corporate report, software documentation or web material.

For magazines, journals and reports, a single project could be a series of articles, a special edition or a report that garnered a lot of public and media attention. For web material, a single project could be a major overhaul of a website.

Note: Nominees are limited to one submission per year.

What to include in your submission

Please note that all submissions must be electronic (submitted by email, Dropbox, etc.). Nominations consist of two parts: 1) a nomination form and 2) supporting documents.

Part 1: Nomination form

The nominations period for the 2024 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence is now closed.

Part 2: Supporting documents

If you submitted your nomination form for the 2024 Tom Fairley Award by the deadline (February 9, 2024), please prepare a package of electronic material (Word files, PDFs, screen shots, etc.) supporting the nomination.* Supporting documents must be submitted by February 23, 2024.

Select only those documents that exemplify each stage of editing and that best illustrate the editor’s contribution. This material may accompany the nomination form or be sent separately, but it must be received at the Editors Canada office by the deadline for supporting documents.

*Please be sure you have written permission from the author or publisher (and, where appropriate, the translator or copy editor) to share these materials with the award judges.

  • nominee’s CV
  • a brief biography of the nominee (100 words)
  • the first edited version of the text using Track Changes (and any later versions that included a substantial number of edits, or a summary of the work done at each stage of subsequent passes)
  • if appropriate, a summary of the author’s responses to queries
  • a mention of the number of passes the file went through
  • the style sheet(s): attach both the original style sheet and any handover notes that were sent to the copy editor and the updated style sheet from the copy editor
  • the final pre-design file
  • the final published version of the text in electronic form, such as a PDF or URLs
  • a statement outlining the tasks performed and any special challenges (up to 1,000 words)
  • 2 letters of support from people closely involved in the project (such as the author or publisher): these should focus on the changes made in the work and the nominee’s contributions to those changes, rather than emphasizing the nominee’s other attributes (such as a long career or community work)
  • the administration fee of $100
Who are the judges?

The award coordinator chooses three judges based upon the types of entries received. Past judges have included previous Tom Fairley Award winners, publishers, senior in-house editors and senior freelance editors. Judges may or may not be Editors Canada members.

What are the judges looking for?

The judges are looking for evidence of a range of editorial skills being used in the project. A straight copy edit, for example, will not demonstrate a sufficient range of skills, so is not suitable for submission. General evaluation criteria, in no particular order, are as follows:

  • Documentary verification. Are the nominator’s claims substantiated by the publication and supporting documents?
  • Value. Did the editor improve the text? How? To what extent? Was the editor able to pinpoint both strengths and weaknesses?
  • Size of project. Was the project very large or done over a long period of time?
  • Complexity of project. Did the job require many skills? For example, were there secondary sources to consider (such as visuals, archival and research material, databases)? Were multiple deadlines or individuals involved?
  • Evolution of the project: How much (if at all) did the work evolve from the original text as the editor uncovered problems or issues to be resolved?
  • Accuracy of work. Did the editor catch serious weaknesses and avoid missing or even creating such problems?
  • Special problems solved. Were there any special problems with the project? Did the editor help to overcome them?
  • Communication skills. Is there evidence of unusual editorial patience, tact, firmness, persistence or level-headedness in a crisis?
  • Ingenuity of work. Did the task elicit a unique or creative response from the editor that went beyond the call of duty?
  • Respect. Did the editor demonstrate respect for others throughout the process?

Note: Not every project will fulfill all of these criteria but every project will be judged fully on its individual merits.

For more information, contact

Past winners

2023: Fazeela Jiwa

Frequently Asked White Questions. Fernwood Publishing, 2022.

2022: Michael Leyne

Where the Power Is: Indigenous Perspectives on Northwest Coast Art. Figure 1 Publishing, 2021.

2021: Shirarose Wilensky

Butter Honey Pig Bread. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020.

2020: Amanda Lewis

Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality. Page Two, 2019.

2019: Jennifer Croll

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography. Greystone Books, 2018.

2018: Gilles Vilasco

Le repos Saint-François d’Assise : 100 ans d’accompagnement, l’assurance d’une pérennité. Cimetière Le repos Saint‐François d’Assise, 2017.

What happened to the 2017 Tom Fairley Award?

In 2018, we shifted the year of the award to reflect when it is presented (as opposed to the year the work was published). Aside from the year indicator, nothing really changed. In 2017, we presented the 2016 Tom Fairley Award for a project published in 2016. The 2018 Tom Fairley Award was presented to an editor for a work published in 2017.

2016: Dania Sheldon

Charles Gretton: Clock and Watchmaking Through the Golden Age. Three O’Clock Publishing, 2016.

2015: Lesley Peterson

The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior: A History of Canadian Internment Camp R. University of Alberta Press, 2015.

2014: Grace Yaginuma

A Discerning Eye: The Walter C. Koerner Collection of European Ceramics. Figure 1 Publishing, 2014.

2013: Peter Midgley

The Last Temptation of Bond. The University of Alberta Press, 2013.

2012: Sandy Newton

Here’s the Catch: The Fish We Harvest from the Northwest Atlantic. Boulder Publications, 2012.

2011: Iva Cheung

Cow: a Bovine Biography. Greystone Books, 2011.

2010: Lucy Kenward

Vij’s at Home: Relax Honey. Douglas & McIntyre, 2010.

2009: Mary Lou Roy

People of the Lakes: Stories of Our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders/Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in. University of Alberta Press, 2009.

2008: Melva McLean

TRIUMF Five-Year Plan 2010-2015: Building a Vision for the Future. TRIUMF, 2008.

2007: Saeko Usukawa

Abstract Painting in Canada. Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 2007.

2006: Audrey McClellan

Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast. New Star Books, 2006.

2005: Frank Condron

How to Go Further: A Guide to Simple Organic Living with Woody Harrelson and Friends. Warwick Publishing Group, 2005.

2004: Valerie Wyatt

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth. Kids Can Press, 2004.

2003: Ian Coutts

D-Day: The Greatest Invasion—A People’s History. Raincoast/Madison Press, 2003.

2002: Susan Goldberg and David Peebles

Misinformed Consent: Thirteen Women Share Their Stories about Unnecessary Hysterectomy. Stoddart, 2002.

McGraw-Hill Ryerson Mathematics of Data Management. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2002.

2001: Camilla Blakeley

Couture and Commerce, The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s. UBC Press, 2001.

2000: Barbara Pulling

The Bear’s Embrace, A True Story of Surviving a Grizzly Bear Attack. Greystone Books, 2001.

1999: Elizabeth McLean

Finding the Right Treatment: Modern and Alternative Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting the Best of Both Worlds. Hartley & Marks, 1999.

1998: Jim Lyons and Georgina Montgomery

Electronic Commerce and Canada’s Tax Administration: A Report to the Minister of National Revenue. Ottawa, 1998.

Raffi. The Life of a Children’s Troubador: An Autobiography. Vancouver: Homeland Press, 1999.

1997: John Eerkes-Medrano

Adventuring around Vancouver Island: Beachcombing to Bungy Jumping. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 1997.

1996: Rosemary Shipton

Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Romance of Canada. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1996.

1995: Sharon Stewart

Technology, Policy and Practice in Africa. Ottawa: IDRC, 1995.

1994: Ruth Pincoe

New Piano Series Student Guides: A Guide to the Study of the Examination Repertoire of The Royal Conservatory of Music. 8 volumes. Oakville: Frederick Harris Music, 1994.

1993: Jane McNulty

Career Connections. 6 volumes. Toronto: Trifolium Books, 1993.

1992: Lenore d’Anjou

Small Business Management. 3d ed. Toronto: Dryden Canada, 1992.

1991: Rick Archbold

Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition. Research associate Harvey Cashore. Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1991.

1990: Kathryn Dean

Towards a Just Society: The Trudeau Years. Toronto: Viking Penguin Books Canada, 1990.

1989: Robert Fulford

Scorpions for Sale: A Fictional Biography. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1989.

1988: Nancy Flight

Genethics: The Ethics of Engineering Life. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1988.

1987: Sarah Swartz

Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1987.

1986: Heather Ebbs

Of Struggle and Flight: The History of Latvian Aviation. Ottawa: Canada’s Wings, 1986.

1985: Norman Dahl

Presentation Pieces and Trophies from the Henry Birks Collection of Canadian Silver. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1985.

1984: John Eerkes-Medrano

A Vast and Magnificent Land: An Illustrated History of Northern Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Northern Affairs, Lakehead University, Laurentian University, 1984.

1983: Barbara Czarnecki

Both Sides of the Street: One Man’s Life in Business and the Arts in Canada. Toronto: Macmillan, 1983.

Who was Tom Fairley?

Tom Fairley was a member of FEAC from its founding in 1979. Members active at the time fondly remember the tall, distinguished man who brought a voice of reason and experience to the meetings.

Tom’s editing career stretched from the 1930s to the 1980s. He held positions at Canadian Press, the CBC, Macmillan of Canada, General Publishing and Copp Clark.

Tom had a keen interest in the North, which was reflected in his two books on the subject and his many newspaper and magazine articles on the Arctic.

Simply to list the positions Tom held, or to mention one or two of his achievements, does not do him justice. He is remembered more for the exceptional quality of his work, for his generous nature, and for the help and advice he gave novice editors.

Tom died in March 1982 at the age of 63. This award for editorial excellence is our tribute to an outstanding editor and person.

Support the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence

Help to support Editors Canada awards! We invite you to contribute to these awards that honour the outstanding editors and students in our midst.

We also welcome donations by cheque. Please make your donation payable to “Editors’ Association of Canada” with “Tom Fairley Award” written on the memo line.

Send your donation to

Editors Canada
2967 Dundas Street West, #1449
Toronto, Ontario M6P 1Z2

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