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

 

 

 

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