Unconference session for senior editors (EAC conference 2013)

A group of experienced editors gathered for an open discussion at the EAC conference. Especially helpful was that Moira White, Director of Professional Standards on EAC’s National Executive Council (NEC) was there, not only contributing ideas of her own but also promising to take some of our thoughts back to the NEC.

Professional development, technology, and software

How do senior editors find professional development opportunities? What are experienced editors looking for in professional development?

Gisela Temmel mentioned that simply being able to meet other editors and  discuss common problems is enormously helpful. One editor said that keeping up with new software was her biggest challenge, especially as a freelancer. Moira White and Anne Brennan both mentioned the EAC listserv as a great place to keep on top of new developments in software and technology. White told us that some organizations, particularly ones with stringent security checks, are only now just upgrading to Word 2007 (!). By keeping up to date on new releases of common software and playing around with them, editors can set themselves up as consultants to teach users at these organizations about new features.

One editor lamented how unintuitive the proofing tools were on PDFs. I mentioned that InCopy may be an option for some projects; the program allows text changes to a document designed in InDesign without changing its layout. Further, there’s a third-party plug-in that allows designers to accept or reject proofreaders’ changes marked up using Adobe Acrobat’s reviewing tools. (Thanks to Grace Yaginuma for the initial tip about that plug-in.)

One participant made some offhand comment about how complaining to Adobe about its proofing tools would be useless, and I responded by telling the group about the efforts of the American Society for Indexing‘s Digital Trends Task Force (DTTF), which created a working group as part of the International Digital Publishing Forum, the consortium that defined the new EPUB 3 standard. Because the DTTF made itself known to the technology community on an international stage, that small group of indexers was able to voice its  concerns directly to a group of Adobe engineers, and now Adobe InDesign accommodates linked indexes. I remarked that editors should strive to do more of this kind of advocacy. White commented that isolating specific features we as an editing community would like to see in particular programs and presenting those findings to the people who might be able to do something about it sounded like perfect projects for task forces to undertake. According to White, the NEC has found that creating task forces and assigning people specific tasks has led to increased efficacy in EAC volunteer efforts.

On that note, one of the members raised the possibility of resource task force dedicated to looking at the possibility of creating a third edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.


How do experienced editors approach mentoring junior editors? Some members of the group have had bad experiences with mentoring, saying that some people “can suck you dry.” These editors have lost motivation to mentor because of how much time and effort mentoring has taken, “and then those editors go and set themselves up as your competition!”

Mentoring is often done on a volunteer basis, but is there a possibility of charging junior editors for your time and billing your time as consulting? An alternative to that model suggested by some editors in the group was to apply for  small business grants that exist to support interns.

David Holt, editor at OptiMYz Magazine, said that the time he spends coaching interns on copy editing when they start definitely pays off later on. Janice Dyer said that she’s had success mentoring but that it’s very important to set clear boundaries when agreeing to mentoring someone. Most of the people she has mentored haven’t been looking for editing advice; rather they’ve looked for tips about ways to find work, ways to improve their resumes, and so on.

I mentioned that once you’ve mentored someone once, those that follow will often come with the same questions. Keep an archive of the information you give out so that you can reuse and repurpose it. Moira White concurred, telling us that she takes this approach with clients as well: she’s developed a standard fact sheet outlining to clients the different levels of editing and giving guidelines about how long the work will take.


The discussion was lively, and it was still going on when we had to clear out of the room to make way for the next session. Many of our topics aren’t necessarily unique to senior editors, but I enjoyed hearing the perspective of those in the room.

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