Sharing a Full House at ACES 2014

What a great few days at the 2014 convention of the American Copy Editors Society!

I was lucky enough to present a session, “Learning to Speak Scholar,” where I got a chance to share some of the things I’ve learned while working with academic writers in the past 20 years. Even better, I got to learn from a number of experienced academic editors in that audience who were happy to share their own knowledge and experiences.

For me, that is what the ACES annual convention is all about: experienced editors who want to share. Share tips. Share experiences. Share knowledge. Share frustrations. Share irritations. Share fascinations about language and words and publications and processes.

Changing with the Times

ACES started out as a national organization for newspaper copy editors. But as newspapers began jettisoning copy editors in recent years, the organization opened up its membership to editors of all stripes. Over the past three days, I met freelance editors, editors who work in corporations, editors who work in universities, editors who work in government agencies, editors who work in marketing agencies, editors who work for nonprofits.

When ACES began, copy editors often worked from a corner of the newsroom that could feel a bit isolating. Today, editors often work in even deeper isolation—in their home offices or as the only editor in an organization with scores of engineers-as-authors or salesmen-as-authors or marketing specialists who can design an effective ad campaign but can’t remember the difference between your and you’re.

A Chance to Be Together

So, give a few hundred editors a chance to sit in the same room with like-minded colleagues, and they will happily walk right past giant screens airing the opening rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for a chance to quiz a panel of lexicographers about the intricacies of dictionary production. Slot machines and glittering lights of a Las Vegas casino can’t hold a candle to the chance to sit in a room full of people who not only know what a serial comma is but know how to use it—or not use it.

At the Friday night banquet, keynote speaker Craig Silverman told us we were “abnormal humans” because of our unique ability to read in ways that most people simply can’t do. Instead of being insulted, we all smiled and nodded. How wonderful to be reminded that there are people out there who believe what we do is valuable.

A Few of My Favorite Things

My favorite part of any ACES conference is the chance to share in a relaxed and collegial atmosphere and to meet people I may know only from their Twitter handles or editing list comments.

My favorite parts of the 2014 three-day conference:

  • Road-tripping across the desert with fellow freelance editors Marla Markman and Peggy Bennett
  • Getting the chance to add steering a wheelchair through a crowded and noisy hotel to my set of life skills (thanks, Marla, for giving me that opportunity—although you didn’t have to break your ankle just for me!)
  • Meeting and then having lunch with Mignon Fogarty (aka The Grammar Girl)
  • Sitting next to Katharine O’Moore-Klopf as she was awarded the Robinson Prize for substantial contributions to the craft of copy editing
  • Learning more about the difference between British and American English
  • Hearing a panel of experienced freelance editors discuss rates and schedules and the difficulties of finding good clients
  • Seeing how Marla refused to let a broken ankle and a wheelchair keep her from leading her session on project managers
  • Meeting a soon-to-be college graduate who had braved a completely solo trip for a chance to learn about the craft of editing
  • Successfully navigating the intricacies of a PowerPoint presentation for the first time
  • Witnessing how mad March Madness really is in Vegas
  • Watching thousands of people streaming by on the Strip while Marla, Peggy, and I enjoyed a great-people-watching perch on a pleasant outdoor patio—at midnight
  • Recognizing that the nice man who held the elevator door for Marla and me was one of the Jackson 5—just as the elevator doors closed to carry us away from him.

Can’t wait for next year!

March 23, 2014

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Tammy Ditmore edited my book, The Quest for Distinction: Pepperdine University in the 20th Century. It was a huge assignment, requiring skills that set her apart from most professional editors. She re… Read more
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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful wrap-up, Tammy!

    • Thanks, Marla. Sharing the weekend with you and Peggy definitely made it better!