The First Meeting of the Calgary Twig

The Calgary Twig hosted its first social event on June 18 at the Raw Bar, Hotel Arts, and we’re so pleased that nearly two dozen Calgary-area editors were able to join us (and sorry that a few others had to send their regrets). It was wonderful to get to know so many others who share our interest in the profession, both those who are just starting out on their career paths and those who’ve been working as wordsmiths for decades.

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We’ll be getting together for less formal social gatherings on a regular basis, so please be sure we have your email address if you want to be informed; just send a message to calgary.twig@editors.ca and we’ll add your address to our Gmail group. We’ll also be able to keep you updated on our professional development plans, including a workshop in the Fall as well as study groups for anyone interested in writing the EAC certification exams in November.

If you’re already a member of EAC, please let the association know that you’d like your membership switched to the Calgary twig. And if you have ideas for blog posts, we’d love to hear from you: we want this to be a space for all of us.

Editors line up as Carol Fisher Saller, author of The Subversive Copy Editor, signs their books at the Global Editing Conference in Toronto on June 13, 2015.

Hundreds of editors share in wisdom of the sages at Toronto conference

TORONTO — There is a rumour that editors are quiet, introverted, and solitary. If those editors exist, they’re in short supply around here.

About 450 editors from 12 countries arrived at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend to attend the three-day Global Editing Conference. The editors — unfailingly friendly, refreshingly articulate, and diverse in their expertise — are here to soak up the wisdom and experience of their profession’s leading voices. The topics range from networking more effectively, to navigating shifting editorial needs, to embracing good business practices, to managing local volunteer groups.

Here’s a small, unscientific sample of nuggets I gathered while attending some of the presentations and panel discussions on Friday and Saturday:

  • What bugs copy editors: Carol Fisher Saller, editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A, delivered the inspiring opening keynote on Saturday morning. Speaking for many in the room, she described three sources of stress for copy editors: 1. Quest for a simple answer to any style or grammar question; 2. Insistence that rules must never be broken, and 3. Disruptive effects of technology on their work. Carol talked about the chaotic, evolving nature of our language. “The evolution of the English language is the ultimate in crowdsourcing,” she said. She argued for a thoughtful, reader-centred approach — understanding rules and the reasons behind them, so when you break a rule, you’re on solid ground. “Following any style guide entails applying exceptions to the guide,” she said. She encouraged editors to keep their education credentials current and use social media tools to follow topical issues within their specialty.
  • Tip: Sign up for free Q&A Alerts, a monthly email from the Chicago Manual of Style about what matters to readers and editors.
  • Create a sense of community on Facebook:  A common thread in sessions I attended is the importance of staying connected to other editors online using social media. Four members of a panel on social media all gave the thumbs-up to Facebook as the one channel they couldn’t do without, for promotion, referrals, and maintaining professional relationships with clients or other editors.
  • Tip: Almost 20 per cent of the planet’s population uses Facebook every month.
  • Plug into your community: At a panel discussion on editing and operating a small business from remote locations, another theme emerged: Rely on both social media and the physical community to stay plugged in. “If isolation is the problem, community, both real-world and online, is the solution,” said Brendan O’Brien, a freelance editor who lives and works in rural Ireland. Fellow panelist Amy Schneider, from Wautoma, Wisconsin, says a trip to the computer store and back takes a two-hour bite out of her workday. “Back up, back up, back up,” she cautioned. “If my computer went bye-bye, it would be like a death in the family.”
  • Tip: The Facebook Editors’ Association of Earth page (3,738 members and counting) is getting a lot of credit for fostering a sense of community among editors almost everywhere. Launched in February 2013, the page garnered 1,000 members in its first 71 minutes.
  • Don’t let words become weapons: In an eye-opening presentation, Sarah Grey, editor, coach, and founder of Grey Editing based in Philadelphia, explored how language about sensitive topics can inadvertently exclude and marginalize some readers. “This is not about politics, it’s not about correctness, it’s about the core values of our profession,” she said.  She encouraged editors to practise linguistic etiquette: “It’s our job to invite readers in and keep them in.”
  • Tip: Follow Conscious Style Guide, a resource on using inclusive language when talking about ability and disability, age, appearance, ethnicity and nationality, gender and sexuality, and health.
  • Hone your elevator speech: Figure out what you want people to know about your work, then practise delivering a friendly, natural, consistent mini-speech — on the spot. “The whole point of the elevator speech, especially for service professionals, is to start the conversation,” said Laura Poole, a freelance editor of scholarly nonfiction, and an editorial trainer and consultant from Durham, North Carolina. “Your business is only open when your mouth is open. Seriously!” Laura laughed.  “You have to talk about what you do. You would be amazed at where the work comes from.”
  • One last tip: Follow the conference on social media at #Editors15 or check out the Editors’ Association of Canada in the days ahead for more conference-related content.

David Hedley, Calgary twig

View of my WestJet flight from Calgary to Toronto.

En route to a Canadian convention of wordslingers

Here I sit, cruising above the clouds in Economy Class of a Boeing 737-800, somewhere above Manitoba. I’m heading to Editing Goes Global, a convention in Toronto hosted by the Editors’ Association of Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. I booked this trip months ago, but I’m only now starting to think about exactly how I’ll spend the next three days. What am I getting myself into?

Reading the conference brochure, I see that I don’t need to worry. Greg Ioannou, the conference chair, answers my question when he writes, “Many editors, when they first attend a conference like this or some other meeting of editors, have the same response: finally, they’ve found a group where they fit in. They’ve found their tribe (and then, in typical fashion, worried about whether that is an appropriate usage of that word).”

I won’t know a soul at the conference, which gets underway tomorrow, although there are a few names I’m sure I will recognize from the EAC’s popular Facebook page and listserv. No matter. The list of presenters is amazing — if you make your living using words. The opening speaker on Saturday is Carol Fisher Saller, editor of the Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A. The closing keynote speaker is Katherine Barber, former editor-in-chief of Canadian Oxford Dictionary. (Oh no! I left my copy of the dictionary at home. Are you supposed to take a dictionary to these things? Maybe they’ll check at the door.) The rest of the weekend is a candy store of speakers and sessions dealing with topics that define my work life, such as advocating for plain language, editing tools and trends, the writer-editor relationship, and managing expectations. There’s even a session on when to use bad language.

The EAC, or Editors Canada as it is rebranding itself, sets the standard for professional editing in Canada. The 1,500-member group encourages excellence through national awards, publications, certification programs, and local groups of volunteers such as the Calgary twig.

What appeals to me most about the contents of the conference is the emphasis on the human element in editing. It’s an amazing thing about our craft — no rule is without its exceptions, and no standard practice is set in stone in every social or corporate context. Editing can be as relational as it is about knowing the difference between a hyphen and an em dash. And our language is dynamic. As Brooke Smith, editor of the EAC’s national publication Active Voice, says in the most recent issue, “English is a living, breathing language, changing as the generations pass. As it should.”

I’ll try to blog about some of the highlights over the weekend. Let the learning begin.

— David Hedley, Calgary twig