What We Learned at ACES 2018

By Jill Walters – LetterTerrier.com

Picture of the Giant Pencil at the "Cloud Gate" sculpture (aka The Bean).

Giant Pencil at the “Cloud Gate” sculpture (aka The Bean).

Approximately a dozen Editors Guild members convened in Chicago with more than 700 other editors during the ACES 2018 conference April 26–28. ACES: The Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society), a national organization for professional editors, hosts its annual three-day conference in a different U.S. city each spring.

The ACES conference is often the venue where the major style guides and dictionaries announce upcoming changes in spelling, style, and usage. It is especially well known as the conference where each year the Associated Press announces updates to its Stylebook in a room full of gasping and cheering editors. (The 2016 lowercasing of the word “internet” brought a mix of applause and disgusted harrumphs, while this year’s comparatively tame removal of the hyphen in “3D” didn’t cause nearly as many emotional reactions.)

Perhaps the largest “gasp” moment this year came when Merriam-Webster’s Peter Sokolowski showed a slide of words that have updated primary spellings—including the now-closed noun, “copyeditor.”

Other sessions at this year’s conference covered a wide variety of topics ranging from macros in Microsoft Word to working with made-up fantasy languages. Several sessions focused on the use of conscious language and avoiding unintentional bias when editing, as well as promoting inclusive practices such as plain language and using alternate text with images.

Representing the Guild in Chicago

Seventeen editors from the Pacific Northwest, ranging from Portland to Seattle to Pullman, met on the final day of the conference for a special PNW lunch hosted by the Guild. Several lunch attendees who are not Guild members were surprised to learn that there is such a strong community of editorial professionals in the PNW.

Guild Member Janice Lee giving her presentation on copyediting comic books at ACES 2018.

Guild member Janice Lee gave a presentation on copyediting comic books on Friday, April 27.

Guild member Janice Lee, a freelance editor from Seattle, presented a session at the conference about editing traditional comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She highlighted ways to think differently about the comic editing process, and the need to allow more flexibility with standard grammar and style “rules” when working with comics.

Giant Pencil, the Guild’s oversized pencil mascot that wears glasses, enjoyed unexpected popularity on social media during the conference. You can see photos of Giant Pencil meeting editors from across the world on the Guild’s Twitter feed.

What is one interesting thing you learned at the ACES Conference?

We asked a few of the Guild members in attendance to share one thing they learned at ACES 2018 that would be of interest to other editors who did not attend. Here are their answers:

Most of the Guild members in attendance. L-R: Pm Weizenbaum, Laura Whittemore, Lea Galanter, Erin Cusick, Julie Klein, Joanie Eppinga, Katie Van Heest, Jill Walters, Giant Pencil.

Most of the Guild members in attendance. L-R: Pm Weizenbaum, Laura Whittemore, Lea Galanter, Erin Cusick, Julie Klein, Joanie Eppinga, Katie Van Heest, Jill Walters, Giant Pencil.

“In defiance of its own style guide, the Los Angeles Times repeatedly used pejorative language during World War II. Not long before, in 1938, the newspaper had admonished its writers and editors to ‘exercise care in all racial references.’ At ACES 2018, Henry Fuhrmann shared photos of headlines that used one anti-Japanese slur in particular. It’s sobering how quickly the paper set aside its own socially conscious standards and lent legitimacy to prejudice.

This example was historically specific, but a certain amount of exigency and pressure seems built into the job of the editor. Whether in wartime or merely under deadline, it will always be worthwhile to take care with language.”

Katie Van Heest, Tweed Editing
Self-employed academic editor
Portland, OR

Giant Pencil enjoying some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza

Giant Pencil enjoying some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

“Save Time and Your Sanity: Increase Your Efficiency with Microsoft Word (Rhonda Bracey): Setting up the Quick Access Toolbar and Ribbon settings; using Autocorrect to create phrases.

Deep Grammar (Lisa McLendon): Fused participles (it’s a thing!), nominative absolutes (they’re OK), distributive plurals (correct verb conjugation), and quantifiers (verb agreement).”

Lea Galanter
Freelance editor
Kirkland, WA

“Don’t be afraid to skip some sessions. Yes, I know that going to conferences is expensive and you want to get as much as possible out of them, but what you do apart from the sessions can be just as valuable. I spent an entertaining and informative half hour catching up with the folks at the Chicago Manual of Style table instead of going to one session. During another skipped session, I was on my way up to my hotel room to take a break when I sat down in a chair near the elevator bank to respond to an email. A book editor from Vermont sat down in the chair next to me, and we ended up chatting for 45 minutes, exchanging all kinds of useful information. I also skipped the official networking lunch to take a river cruise with two other Editors Guild members. It would have been a shame to stay inside every day on such a beautiful week in Chicago, and there were plenty of other opportunities for networking.”

Elizabeth Johnson
Freelance book editor
Seattle, WA

“According to presenter James Harbeck, the l in ‘could’ was added to make the word look more like ‘should’ and ‘would.’”

Erin Cusick
Freelance editor
Olympia, WA

Giant Pencil near one of the lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Giant Pencil near one of the lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Learning More

Editing conferences and workshops are two of the best ways to keep your skills sharp and learn about new trends and practices while also connecting with colleagues. Attending conferences in person has obvious benefits but is not always a reasonable choice when finances, schedules, or family commitments interfere. Some organizations make handouts and notes available to those who could not attend in person. (Select ACES 2018 handouts from some of the sessions mentioned above are available to view online. Handouts from all of the Editors Guild’s 2017 Red Pencil conference sessions are accessible to Guild members signed in to their accounts.) Most larger editing conferences also set up a unique conference hashtag on Twitter where attendees and nonattendees can catch highlights (search for  #EdsGuild2017, #ACES2018, #NotAtACES, and #Editors18 for recent examples).

What might you learn at an editing conference? Here are a few regional and national conferences to consider (including—ahem—our very own Red Pencil 2019!):

Sixteen of the 17 Pacific Northwest editors who met for a Guild-hosted lunch on Saturday, April 28. We had attendees from the Portland and Seattle metro areas, Olympia, and Pullman.

Sixteen of the 17 Pacific Northwest editors who met for a Guild-hosted lunch on Saturday, April 28. We had attendees from the Portland and Seattle metro areas, Olympia, and Pullman.

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