Editors from across Canada (and around the world) gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a beautiful weekend last month for the 2019 Editors Canada conference. The gathering marked the 40th anniversary of the organization. Here are just a couple of the themes that stood out for me over the weekend.
Editing as a profession
The 40th anniversary of Editors Canada (formerly the Editors’ Association of Canada) created an opportunity to take stock of editing as a profession in Canada and around the world. While you’d be hard pressed to find a member of the organization who doesn’t think we’re a profession, there are many different opinions on the extent to which editorial work should be further professionalized.
In one session I attended, Iva Cheung and Jeanne McKane started a great conversation about how different professions regulate themselves and whether any of those examples could apply to the editorial world. Given how many different occupations include editorial work, how would a regulatory framework function? How would it protect clients from bad editing? And how could it potentially limit our ability to be an inclusive and diverse profession?
Diversity and inclusion in publishing
The conference took place on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw. Atlantic Canada is home to many marginalized communities, and is itself often marginalized within Canadian culture, including in the publishing industry. It was, therefore, wonderful to see many sessions on the experiences of Atlantic editors and authors, Black Nova Scotians, and the Indigenous peoples of the region.
A real highlight for me was a session on etuaptmumk, or two-eyed seeing, led by Mi’kmaw sensitivity reader Tiffany Morris. Morris uses the Mi’kmaw concept, which prioritizes the use of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous world views simultaneously, to inform her work as a sensitivity reader, identifying the ways in which a text can be viewed differently by people from different nations. As an Anglo-Canadian-American settler who regularly works on scholarship that includes Indigenous voices and stories, I found the idea invaluable—and a reminder of why we must support the careers of Indigenous editors.
The rise of plain language
Plain language has been everywhere in the editing world lately, and recent research shows that even experts and specialists prefer to read texts that prioritize readability and clear communication. Several sessions at the conference discussed removing jargon from texts for general audiences, clearly positioning the role of the editor as advocating for a wide readership.
The session I attended was so popular it was standing room only. An overview of plain language principles from Nicole Watkins Campbell, it focused on getting to know your reader—preferably going directly to them and asking what they need from the text.
What fascinates me about plain language is how it crosses into so many stages of the editorial process: from developmental editing that re-organizes information to copyediting that ensures simple sentence structure. Even the smallest changes in design and formatting can have a huge impact on the reader.
Editors helping scholars
Since I primarily work on academic texts, I made sure to attend a few scholarship-specific sessions. A particularly helpful session on citations by Leslie Saffrey provided an overview of the many citation styles used by different disciplines and presented a few workflows that could help streamline the important but often time-consuming work of editing citations. It always feels good to spend some time with people who have similarly strong opinions about certain style guides! The real take-away was clear communication with the author or publisher: citation styles vary so much, as do expectations for what editing them entails, that it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Another great session from Glenna Jenkins focused on the unique editorial needs of non-native English speakers writing scholarly papers. As journals increasingly only publish in English, important research is at risk of being rejected by these journals because language barriers make it hard to communicate their significance. An editor who specializes in this area must have more content expertise than usual, and must be attentive to the specific ways that non-native English speakers use the language. My sense is that the need for this kind of editing will only increase in the coming years.
For me, the conference was a rare opportunity to get to know my colleagues and learn from their experience—including an inspiring session on how to be bold in our careers from a copyeditor who just joined the Ideas on Fire team: Laura Poole! As editors, we often work alone, particularly those of us who freelance. I found it invaluable to spend some time with other editors at the Editors Canada conference and compare notes.