I had the pleasure of attending my first ACES (American Copy Editors Society) conference the past few days in Pittsburgh, PA. There were amazing presenters and fabulous energy, and I’m already hoping I’ll make it to next year’s meeting in Portland. Here are my impressions and takeaways from the sessions I attended:
Rookie Mistakes That Even Veterans Make (Bill Walsh)
Walsh’s humorous take on these common errors was a wonderful way to kickstart the conference. Subject-verb agreement and use of commas with multiple adjectives aren’t always straightforward. Editors need to keep up on the evolution of language but not always charge ahead with transformations before they become the norm. Balance clarity with not treating your reader like an idiot. If you can avoid stating the obvious, do so. Recognize when consistency can be sacrificed for readability.
The Latest Research on Editing (Alyssa Applebaum, Steve Bien-Aimé, Fred Vultee)
Does good editing actually affect readers’ perceptions of content and quality, reliability, recall, and professionalism? Applebaum’s research suggests no; Vultee’s research suggests yes. Their methodologies differ, though, and it’s a subject that could always merit more investigation. Takeaway: editing doesn’t make everything better for everyone, but it makes it better for some. Bien-Aimé’s qualitative work explores representations of gender and race in sports media. Topics differ, as stereotypes are both reflected in and perpetuated by coverage.
Early in one’s freelance career (or any career, really), it’s normal not to earn a lot of money per job. What we earn in those early projects is not so much material as it is experiential. I had an early client that became one of my first “learning experience” clients. We had good rapport at first, and we decided on an hourly structure for a job that would last a month, editing and applying APA style to her dissertation. The first two weeks went well, and I sent her weekly drafts of the work. She paid me readily for my progress on each.
After that, I fell behind a little bit but still had time to catch up. Instead of a third-week draft, I pushed forward and got my document back to her at the end of the last weekend of the month, submitting my time sheet on the bidding site we were using and thinking I had just completed a quality job. Apparently, the client didn’t agree.
Even though we had made no agreement guaranteeing weekly drafts, the two weeks without a draft had made the client nervous, and we were riding her deadline for her dissertation draft. Although I’d included a lengthy (perhaps unbelievably lengthy?) list of fixes I’d made, she had taken a cursory look at the final draft and noted that I had neglected to include running heads in the draft, which she understood to be a detail critical to APA style.
Two words that are often mistaken for one another are “affect” and “effect.” Most of the time, the difference between the two words is explained by applying noun status to "effect" and verb status to "affect." It's a little more complex than that, though, and I’d like to present a simple chart that illustrates not only the commonly used meanings but the secondary meanings that make a rigid affect=verb / effect=noun rule inaccurate.
The green boxes are "all systems go." These are the meanings you're most likely looking for when you use each word. If you're using it as a verb, you probably want "affect." If you're using it as a noun, you probably want "effect."
Caffeine has a strong effect on me. ("effect" is usually a noun)
However, you also might not. And that's what the yellow boxes are: "proceed with caution." Because there is a noun form of "affect" and a verb form of "effect," and these—especially the latter—contribute to the difficulty so many people have with remembering which is which.
You know how sometimes just one small piece of a conversation you have sticks with you for years because you keep thinking of ways you could have addressed some part of it differently? I have one of those for you today. At some point between five and ten years ago (I know that’s a big gap, but like I said, I don’t remember the majority of this conversation), while I was in grad school for women’s studies, I was hanging out with a postdoc in biology.
Somehow we ended up talking about Sigmund Freud. I don’t remember exactly why or how, except that I had mentioned for some reason that psychoanalytic theory is used (among many other approaches) in some feminist theory. “Freud?” she repeated. “I thought he was debunked long ago!”
I tried to explain that while a lot of Freudian theory was considered obsolete if taken at face value, there were other aspects that could be considered useful unto themselves and even more that later theorists had used as conceptual starting points and then built on into something completely different.
While I didn’t think of it in these terms then—which is exactly why the conversation replays in my mind years later—I was arguing that there’s no such thing as “debunking” in the humanities…
Everyone loves the internet, right? At least some of the time. When it comes to research, for instance, it’s hard to imagine what life was like without it. There are pitfalls to relying on the internet for research, however, and although they should be fairly obvious, it never hurts to be reminded of them.
My main hobby is trivia: playing online trivia, writing questions, and hosting games. I do almost all of my trivia research online, and over the years I’ve become a much better skeptic than I was when I started in 2008. The other activity I do a lot of research for is citation editing. If I am given a particularly messy set of citations, I might spend quite a while trying to piece together the details missing from the entries. Many of the problems I run into with trivia fact-checking apply with citation editing, as well. But trivia is more fun to talk about, so take a trip with me.
The Rabbit Hole
A tweet by @HaggardHawks caught my attention. “B.O., as an abbreviation of “body odour,” it said, “was coined in an American deodorant advertisement in 1919.” And with that, I embarked down the rabbit hole, trying to find an image—or at least the exact text—of this infamous ad.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.