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Everybody in the house make some noise

The two Bobs from the movie "Office Space," saying "What would you say you do here?"

For the stereotypically introverted editor, marketing and promotion can feel unnatural and effortful. This discomfort has obvious consequences for a freelancer who’s always on the lookout for the next contract, but it can also hurt in-house editors: when editorial departments aren’t vocal about their function within the larger organization, their work may be ignored or undervalued.

In a Twitter discussion about how freelancers should ask for credit lines to show their worth and advance the profession, @Mededitor wrote:


How do you raise the profile of your editorial or production department within your own organization? Depending on its size, you can try some or all of these strategies:

  1. Offer training

Giving training sessions—on writing skills, say, or editorial workflow—kills two birds with one stone: it shows you know what you’re talking about and may help the people you have to edit avoid practices that can slow you down, like adding inappropriate formatting to a document.

If you’re proactive about offering this training, you’ll be less likely to come off exasperated or self-serving. Make it clear that the sessions are meant to improve workflow and make the editorial process better for everyone.

If your organization is large enough, you might be able to offer training sessions regularly—say, once a season, or whatever works best with your production schedules—for new hires. Open these up to any staff member who’d like a refresher.

  1. Host regular informal meetings to talk shop

When I worked in house, I organized monthly brown-bag lunches for members of the editorial and production departments but invited anyone else in the company who was interested in joining us. We’d have a topic for each lunch but an otherwise loose agenda. We talked about style issues, new editing-related books, word-processing tricks, something we’d learned at a professional development event, particularly challenging editorial or production problems, and other publishing matters.

These lunches were great for team building—not to mention terrific opportunities to audit and edit house style—and although they were primarily for editorial and production professionals, people from other departments could sit in, see that we were serious about our work, and better understand what we did. (It helped that we had a common lunch area.)

  1. Pursue professional development, and ask your employer to pay for it

Going to professional development events shows that (a) you’re a professional and (b) you’re dedicated to getting better at what you do. If your organization doesn’t already have a fund for professional development, ask about getting one started. People tend to value what they pay for, and that goes for employers, too.

  1. Report back about what you learned

Show your bosses that their investment was worth it, and stretch their dollars by sharing your new knowledge with your colleagues.

  1. Nominate team members for awards

There are awards for writing, editing, and design—both generally and in specific disciplines. Look around to see what’s out there in your field. If members of your team produce excellent work, nominate them for these awards. Show them and your bosses that their work is valued by the industry at large.

  1. Celebrate accomplishments

Awards, happy authors or clients, completed projects—even (or especially?) good editorial catches—are all worth celebrating. Consider hosting an annual open house (with food and drink, naturally) so that people from other departments can see how you work and what you’ve accomplished over the past year. A bonus is that, in planning for this event, you’ll begin to be more aware of the many ways you add value, and actively tracking these can boost team morale.

One client uses their open house to showcase the progress of particularly important projects from start to finish, including all of the stumbling blocks and dead ends. Laying bare the process can reveal just how much creativity and effort go into our work.

Finally, credit lines are just as important for in-house editors as they are for freelancers to build their portfolios. If you can, name all of the people who contributed to the project in the project itself.

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What have you done that’s worked to raise awareness of your role to the higher-ups at your organization? Let me know in the comments.

Collapsing the dimensions of communication space

In June, I was lucky enough to attend Information+, a phenomenal data visualization and information design conference at Emily Carr University. One of the keynote speakers was Colin Ware, renowned for his pioneering work on visual thinking and cognitive processing. At the end of Ware’s talk, Yanni Loukissas, assistant professor of digital media at Georgia Tech, asked him: “Don’t we have an ethical obligation to consider people who have colourblindness or stereoblindness in our visualizations?”

Ware responded, “As a designer, I always want to use of all of design space,” suggesting that limiting the palette only to the colours that people with colourblindness can discern, for example, would be too restrictive.

I’ll come back to Ware’s comment in a bit, but first I want to focus on the concept of design space, which refers to the universe of choices—media, typeface, type size, colour, and so on—available to the designer. The metaphor doesn’t tend to be used outside of design, which is a pity, because it’s handy. I’ve found it useful to think of design space as a subset of communication space, which itself is a subset of creation space. Continue reading “Collapsing the dimensions of communication space”

Meteoric rise, meteoritic fall

I usually stick to writing about editing and publishing here and comment about language usage elsewhere, but I’ve recently noticed a lot of people pondering the seemingly contradictory phrase “meteoric rise”:

So rarely do I get the chance to combine my language pedantry with my knowledge-of-astronomy-from-my-physics-days pedantry that I had to jump on this opportunity to assail you with a double dose of tedious über-pedantry. Ready? Here we go! Continue reading “Meteoric rise, meteoritic fall”

Dialogue on editing Indigenous writing (Editors Canada 2016)

Jordan Abel, Nisga’a poet, editor, and PhD candidate, and Ann-Marie Metten, managing editor at Talonbooks, had a conversation about telling Indigenous stories and about establishing good working relationships between non-Indigenous editors and Indigenous authors.

They began the session, as the conference itself did, with an acknowledgement that we were meeting on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people, but they also wondered whether such an acknowledgement was truly helpful. At some events it’s the only time Aboriginal people are mentioned. Abel said that the practice is a courtesy but can be a problem if it’s done out of routine. The acknowledgement is fine as long as it’s not the only action you take to include Indigenous people. Continue reading “Dialogue on editing Indigenous writing (Editors Canada 2016)”

Graphic novels and comics: creation, editing, and promotion (Editors Canada 2016)

Once relegated to nerdy subculturedom, comics have finally come to be accepted as a legitimate literary and art form, said Jeff Burgess, who coordinates continuing studies visual arts at Langara College. Tintin expert Benoît Peeters’s appointment as Comics Professor at Lancaster University shows a growing academic commitment to studying comic book art, and the vibrant comics landscape has birthed such collaborations as Angel Catbird, co-created by Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas.

At the Editors Canada conference, Burgess moderated a panel featuring Jeff Ellis, Jonathon Dalton, and Robin Thompson, all artists in the genre and instructors in Langara’s Graphic Novels and Comix certificate program. Continue reading “Graphic novels and comics: creation, editing, and promotion (Editors Canada 2016)”