Q&A with freelance editor Heather E. Saunders

heathersaundersHeather E. Saunders is a freelance proofreader and STM editor who lives in Massachusetts. She edits material about mental health, aeronautics and cancer research, among other topics. In this interview, conducted by email, Saunders discusses her work, her new role at ACES and her viewpoints on the Oxford comma and the singular they.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?

A. As you might expect, a “typical” day is never guaranteed in the life of a freelancer. I have developed a general structure for my days and my weeks, but there must be an inherent flexibility to my schedule.

The morning is devoted to emails and house chores, and early afternoon is set aside for deep focus work. After a quick lunch and an extended puppy playtime, the rest of the afternoon is spent on lighter project work. I end the day with marketing, networking and follow-up emails.

I schedule new projects and check in on project updates early in the week and send invoices on Friday. I’ve developed a rhythm that ensures I have time for billed work, marketing for new work and professional development, even though those times might fluctuate a bit day to day.

Q. You were a journalism major as an undergraduate. How did you go from news to other types of editing?

A. During my studies, I fell in love with the copy desk. I started in journalism with a desire to write, but I found myself much more at home editing copy. Once I knew I preferred editing to writing, it was a just a matter of deciding what I wanted to edit.

Working in journalism actually helped me hone in on my passions; I learned very quickly which fields interested me, and I decided to pursue those right out of the gate. I’ve always been drawn to the sciences, and I studied astronomy and psychology as well as journalism. One of my first clients was an aeronautics journal, and from there I expanded to other areas.

Q. You were recently elected to the executive committee of ACES, the Society for Editing. What inspired you to run, and what do you hope to achieve as a board member?

A. I’ve loved being a part of ACES since I joined to attend my first conference in Las Vegas. I ran for the board so I could contribute to this organization that does so much for our field. I was the Boston chapter coordinator for the Editorial Freelancers Association for three years, so I felt prepared to offer my time and skills.

As a board member, I hope to help develop more training opportunities for intermediate and advanced editors as well as more opportunities to connect with colleagues, be that at local meetings, through mentoring, or at other events. There are many new things happening at ACES that I am excited about.

Q. What advice do you have to people interested in careers in editing similar to yours?

A. There is certainly no one path to a career, and I found mine through study; I studied editing and linguistics as well as news and current research in fields that interest me. And I continue this study regularly. Together, this learning keeps me current on the fields I work in as well as keeps my editing skills sharp, which continually creates new opportunities.

Q. Lastly, what’s your view on the two topics that editors get asked about a lot: the Oxford comma and the singular they?

A. I enjoy the Oxford comma in my reading, but rarely use it in my personal writing (a holdover from my early days in journalism), so I live in both worlds.

I like seeing it on the printed page, but generally only put it there if style dictates or if I’m writing for a broad audience. If Oxford comma usage was banned or made mandatory tomorrow, I wouldn’t lose sleep either way.

As for singular they, I encourage its use and am pleased to see style guides finally adopting it.

Check out Heather E. Saunders’ website and follow her on Twitter.

Advertisements

Remembering Bill Walsh

billwalsh

Bill Walsh (right) at the spelling bee at the ACES conference in Las Vegas in 2014. (Photo by Mark Allen)

Bill Walsh, the noted Washington Post copy editor and author of several books, died earlier this month of cancer at age 55. It’s a heartbreaking loss for his friends and family, and for the craft of editing.

I had the good fortune to meet Bill via ACES, the Society for Editing. We had shared interests in journalism, tennis and ’80s bands such as Aztec Camera. It was always a pleasure to spend time with him and to attend his wise and witty presentations at ACES conferences.

When thinking of Bill, I recall one ACES conference in particular. It was in New Orleans in 2012.

I was chatting with a journalism student at the post-conference reception at a bar in the French Quarter. Bill was nearby. The student mentioned how she had attended Bill’s session at the conference and how she’d like to meet him.

But she was nervous. Would Bill Walsh, one of the stars of the conference, be willing to talk with a college student attending an ACES conference for the first time? I assured her that yes, he would be happy to, and I introduced them. Bill greeted the student as he would a close friend or trusted colleague. I stepped away to give them time to talk one on one.

That moment was a prime example of the open and inviting atmosphere of ACES conferences. It doesn’t matter whether you are a novice or a doyen. We are all editors who can learn from each other.

Now, ACES has established a scholarship in Bill’s name. It is intended for a student interested in a career in editing news. Bill’s wife, Jacqueline Dupree, is generously matching initial donations to the scholarship fund.

I hope that you will consider donating as I have. It’s a significant way to keep the memory of Bill Walsh alive for many years to come.

The latest from ACES

aces-holdway

ACES member Neil Holdway contemplates the organization’s new logo on his hoodie.

The 2017 ACES conference is over. I was fortunate to attend this annual gathering of editors, held this year in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of nearly 1,900 members of ACES, 591 were there for three days of training, fun and fellowship.

Here are the headlines:

  • The American Copy Editors Society is now ACES, The Society for Editing. The organization has a new logo, and a redesigned website will come soon.
  • ACES is establishing a scholarship in memory of Bill Walsh, the noted Washington Post copy editor and book author who died this month. You can contribute here.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook is opening the door to the singular they in the upcoming edition. It (they?) will still recommend avoiding using it when possible.
  • In the headline contest, The Daily Tar Heel won first place in the Student Publications category for the sixth consecutive year. Congratulations!

You can learn more about the conference via Twitter and on the ACES website. The 2018 conference will be in Chicago. I hope to see you there.

Let’s meet in St. Pete for #ACES2017

pool

The Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront will be the site for this year’s ACES conference. The theme is “spring training for editors.”

The national conference of the American Copy Editors Society will take place March 23-25 in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ll be there.

As always, the conference includes fantastic sessions that will appeal to editors across disciplines. We’ll learn who won the headline contest, enjoy a spelling bee and honor scholarship winners. It’s also likely that there will be Scrabble games in the hotel bar.

To get the early bird rate, you’ll need to register by Jan. 31. Registration ends March 9. If you cannot attend, you can follow the fun on Twitter with the hashtag #ACES2017.

Why I am renewing my ACES membership

aces

Editors gathered in Portland, Oregon, in March 2016 for the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society. The 2017 conference will be in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I just renewed my membership to the American Copy Editors Society. Here’s why:

  • ACES is growing. It has about 1,800 members, and the 2016 national conference drew a record number of attendees.
  • ACES is evolving. It includes editors of all kinds, not just those in news organizations. All are welcome.
  • ACES is increasing the value of scholarships for students interested in careers in editing.
  • ACES is expanding training through regional workshops, including one with a focus on digital skills.

If you’re an editor, I encourage you to become an ACES member. It’s a great community of people who love words and language. Join us!

ACES scholarships help students launch careers in editing

The American Copy Editors Society offers several scholarships to students interested in careers in editing.

The top award, the Aubespin scholarship, is worth $2,500. Four other scholarships are worth $1,500 each, an increase of $500 over previous years.

Marisa DiNovis won an ACES scholarship in 2015 while majoring in journalism and English literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. Here’s what DiNovis said about the scholarship and her education and the start of her career in book editing.

HOW THE SCHOLARSHIP HELPED

“As a copy editor at multiple student publications during my time at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was tremendously honored to be recognized by the American Copy Editors Society as a collegiate scholarship winner.

“I now edit books for children and teens at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Although I did not go on to work in traditional journalism, the skills that allowed me to earn an ACES scholarship are an integral part of my everyday work life.

“For example, representation of diverse experiences is an initiative at my publisher, as well as in the children’s publishing industry as a whole, to create more books in which children of any marginalized or underrepresented background can see themselves. But I often have to ask myself how I, as a Caucasian woman of middle-class upbringing, can authentically edit stories by authors and about children of backgrounds different from my own.”

HER APPROACH TO EDITING

“I look to the principles I was taught as a student and copy editor: I approach every story with an eye toward accuracy, truth and fairness.

“I trust my sources — the author I’m working with is usually writing from lived experience or has researched thoroughly. I always consider the breadth of human experiences and how that plays a role in the uniqueness of storytelling. And I do everything I can to enter the story objectively and with compassion and empathy.”

HOW TO APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP

ACES scholarships are open to juniors, seniors or graduate students who are interested in editing as part of their careers. You can see how to apply at the ACES site.

The deadline is Nov. 15. Winners will be honored at the ACES national conference in March 2017. Good luck to all applicants!

Q&A with Shana McNally, proofreader at Costco

Shana McNally is corporate proofreader at Costco Wholesale, a job she has held since 2008. Her duties include proofing marketing communications, packaging and the employee magazine. She also develops and maintains style guides. She previously worked at The Associated Press and at SportsZone, the precursor to ESPN.com. In this interview, conducted by email, McNally talks about her job at Costco and editing in the corporate world.

Q. Describe your job at Costco. What is your typical day like?

A. It’s hard to describe a typical day other than to say we always start with a morning production meeting. Most days, I see more than 15 proofs for marketing (coupon books, opening pieces, Costco Travel catalogs, etc.), a couple of packaging proofs and a few FOPs (items ready to go out the door that need one more look). I tend to do the faster stuff in the morning and save the bigger projects for the afternoon.

One of my favorite parts of this profession is that you can always learn more. If I have any free time, I try to spend it on education, whether it be taking quizzes or reading grammar books or copyediting books.

Q. What are some of the common glitches that come up in Costco copy?

A. The most common glitches that come up in copy are the day and date not matching, spelling errors, missing words, legal edits and repeated words.

Q. You are a member of the American Copy Editors Society and have attended its conferences the past several years. What do you like about ACES?

A. There’s so much to be gained from ACES. I love the fact that I always have someone to reach out to if I have a question.

I’ve also gained so many tips and tricks, as well as resources like books to read and quizzes to take. In addition, I’ve been able to participate in several job shadows with fellow ACES members.

Finally, when I attend conferences, I really appreciate the reassurance that the way I do things is just fine.

Q. What advice do you have for editors looking for work at a company like Costco?

A. My strongest advice for editors looking to work at a company like Costco is to check it out in advance, whether it’s with an informational interview, a job shadow or an internship. Coming from a newspaper background, I’d say that it’s very different, and it’s not for everyone. The variety is a huge advantage, but to many, working at a corporation is a disadvantage.