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


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