By Beth Chapple
This year I joined ACES: The Society for Editing just in time for their annual conference in Providence, RI, on March 27-30, 2019. I pictured the trip as a pilgrimage to the New England of my youth, complete with grime on the streets, weeds growing up through cracks in the sidewalk, a vague smell of fish . . . Nope, nuttin’ like that.
Instead, it was about putting faces to institutions, such as Peter Sokolowski to Merriam-Webster or Helen Eby to the new Spanish Editors Association. Experiencing the buzz around AP style, particularly this year’s “gasp moment”: cutting hyphens from common constructions like “third grade teacher.” (I am sure glad most of my own clients prefer Chicago style!) The event was also about finding one’s place in the world of editors and freelancing. I definitely had the feeling of being among my people! Both Boston and Providence have seen major renovation since I lived there. A bonus: delicious food.
For me the trip to Providence began at the train station, where my hostess for the week whisked me off to a lovely lunch of strawberry quinoa salad in her Eastside home. Next came the spelling bee. Some at the conference said they felt torn between that and the freelancer happy hour—but I just walked over to Trinity Brewhouse afterward with all my winnings in a new #WordsMatter tote bag. Fun to meet the ten other spellers and face not only the audience of word critics but also the judging panel, which consisted of lexicologist extraordinaire Kory Stamper (!), Peter Sokolowski, and AP Stylebook Lead Editor Paula Froke. Read more in my “Adult Spelling Bees” post.
It was a thrill to meet other seasoned editors and language lovers such as @The_GrammarGeek (Dave Nelsen) and @grammartable (Ellen Jovin). Surely you are wondering why I call them by their social media handles. Well, it turns out that Twitter is an integral part of an ACES conference. At the session by Ashley Bischoff called “Be the Helvetica of Ergonomics,” I was one of at least three audience members live-tweeting her helpful tips and gear suggestions. (See #BeHelvetica for those tips.) A session called Social Media 101 exhorted us to follow the rule of thirds: make one-third of your posts original to you, one-third curated posts from relevant others, and one-third just to engage your audience, such as polls and chats. That same session used Giant Pencil in an example! Every session got a hashtag, and it’s possible to catch up even now using those or at least the #NotAtACES hashtag. Something to consider for our own Red Pencil conference this fall.
The first session I attended was “Copy Editing in the Government during a Crisis,” where one editor from the CIA and one at the FBI gave me many reasons to be thankful that my work does not usually involve deadlines spelled out to the hour, unreasonable workloads, and stakeholders breathing down my neck. My favorite session was Mark Allen’s “Edit Sober” presentation, filled with tips I am still thinking about. “Copyediting and Corpus Linguistics” was the most challenging: sometime I have to try Jonathon Owen’s tips on using English-corpora.org or Google’s Ngrams to check word choice and most common spelling.
Thursday evening’s reception featured word games—brand-new Bananagrams and Scrabble sets—and a pencil linotype from local DWRI Letterpress, while Friday’s banquet featured speaker Rupal Patel of VocaliD sharing the magic of neural networks and creating voices for people who cannot speak.
Two Pacific Northwest editor types share their impressions
“It’s always fascinating to watch (and listen to) the reactions people have to AP Stylebook update announcements—then compare that to the subsequent reactions from those on social media who didn’t attend the session. It’s fun to be in a room full of people who care enough to gasp and applaud a % symbol or a dropped hyphen.”
Freelance Editor, Northwest Editors Guild Social Media Coordinator
“Make a point to introduce yourself and meet the people around you at an editing conference. There could be a sharp editor with similar interests sitting next to you, or maybe even a future friend who needs to borrow a writing implement waiting in line behind you. And don’t be afraid to draw up a quick hello to the famous attendees—almost all of them are humble, fellow word nerds. Heck, a bestselling author might even ask you how you got your lead so sharp!”
Northwest Editors Guild Mascot
I had a Greek lunch in a former jewelry store I used to walk past every day on my way to high school, and a trendy seafood dinner with two Providence friends. I ran into other conference goers while looking for the nook in the Providence Athenaeum library where one book I read as a teenager was John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government in a nineteenth-century edition.
Last words: “Let’s not wait another 37 years before you make a proper visit to Providence again.” —my friend Jeff.
For a more thorough conference report from a different perspective, see “ACES Conference 2019: Providence, Rhode Island,” CyberText Newsletter, April 1, 2019. I also recommend last year’s report on this website, “What We Learned at ACES 2018.”