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You never saw such a bunch

They’re flying in to Denver today. Maybe driving. Perhaps trudging. Tomorrow marks the opening of the twelfth national conference of the American Copy Editors Society, and there is nothing else like it anywhere.

See for yourself. The twelve national conferences to date have offered the most comprehensive training sessions for editors available in such a compressed span; look at the schedule of workshops. Look at the presenters who show their commitment to editing by offering workshops for no fee. And many of the editors attending show their commitment by attending at their own expense. Look, as the conference blog presents the daily events, at the students awarded scholarships to pursue careers in editing.

It is not only the workshops that offer learning — though while the workshops are in session, the hallways are empty, in contrast to the customs of other professional organizations — but also at table for lunch or at the bar in the evening, where the battle-scarred veterans share their stories and their lore.

This has been so since 1997, when Pam Robinson and Hank Glamann, the Founders, had the gumption to put together a long-talked-about professional organization for copy editors and the audacity to stage the first national conference that fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

There were 300 of us present at the creation, and — one of my oft-told stories starts here, so you can skip to the next paragraph — someone said that it was certainly the largest gathering of copy editors in all of human history. On returning to Baltimore, I repeated that proud boast to my wife, Kathleen, who muttered, “Except in Hell.”

ACES enabled us from the start to discover our kinship with colleagues at other publications, forming friendships that have endured over the years. We found that we confronted similar problems, that the differences among us were largely differences of degree, not kind. We discovered our common hunger for learning, for improvement of our skills. We discovered, too, that we had a voice.

That voice was what Pam and Hank sought to give us. We are practitioners of an obscure craft too often casually disregarded or misunderstood at our own publications. ACES gave us a platform. At the time, when American newspapers and magazines were still flush, the possibilities seemed ripe. Today, with our industries in confusion, with some editors and publishers questioning the very value of editing, it is more than ever crucial for us to stand up for the craft, to raise our voice in defense of accuracy, clarity, precision — of editing.

From ACES, that voice may not always be heard, or heeded, but it is persistent.

It will be heard again this week in Denver. Those of us prevented by circumstances from attending offer our distant salute.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:38 AM | | Comments (3)


I took attended that first ACES conference, including your session on the language, John.

Now I, too, am checking the Web site to see friends made through these annual conferences as recently as last year.

No, you didn't teach us to leave typos in copy, as I did at the start of my last post.

Your bowtie was missed. Oh, and you too, I suppose.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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