Which Conferences for Web Editors?

by Alison Lueders

It’s January, and I hope you are managing to stick to your resolutions. Mine were to get a cover for my Kindle Fire (check!), start using reusable cups at Starbucks (check!), and investigate composting (not yet). But I digress.

January is also a time for planning the year ahead. Last month, I spent time assessing what worked and what didn’t for my writing and editing business. I want to do better this year for my clients. As part of that, I’m researching conferences that are the best bets for web editors. Web editing covers a huge gamut – business writing, science writing, journalism, fiction, and much more. But I’m curious where the web editors in this group choose to go, and what their experiences have been.

This year, I’m amping up my focus on the craft of web editing.  And I’d like to make more connections with fellow writers and editors. Partly because I see them as potential partners, more than competitors. And partly because I feel quite at home with the writers and editors I know. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time with people they like?

So – back to conferences. What’s your feedback on any or all of these:

There are MANY more conferences that belong on this list. Please share them. It’s quite possible that the “mothership-conference-for-web-editors” is not listed here, and it should be.

And who knows – based on the ideas compiled here, we may even meet at one or more of these conferences in 2013. Wouldn’t THAT be fun?

I hope we are all off to a great start in 2013. I can’t wait to see your comments!

The Hyphenator: Always and Every Time

By Cathy Hodson

“An editor edits above all to communicate to readers, and least of all to address the sensibilities of editorial colleagues….But self-serving, retentive, fastidious, fetishistic, and even some aesthetic and ethical types of compulsiveness have no place in mass communications under deadlines; they must be purged from new staff members for the sake of the staff’s longevity in the field.”

I cannot begin to tell you how much relief I felt after reading the above paragraph in Arthur Plotnik’s The Elements of Editing, A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists. I first read it in the mid-1990s, when I had just left the employ of a most fastidious and retentive editor. He was The Hyphenator. Happily, nay, gleefully, commanding his staff of editors that they must use a hyphen at every turn. Anywhere it was possible to use a hyphen, hyphenate we must.

He wasn’t a bad guy, he was actually a good friend and a terrific person. He also wasn’t some old cranky guy who had formed persnickety ideas about grammar and usage after centuries of editing. He was young (we were both in our early 30s), but he had definite ideas of what he liked and didn’t like in editorial content. Hyphens he liked.

So much so that I told him when I left his staff, that the best part of leaving was I would never have to hyphenate something ever again if I didn’t want to. I was positive that no one else in the world could be quite as attached to the hyphen as my boss was. So far this has held true.

While The Hyphenator believed that the hyphen fostered communication (and sometimes it does), I believe that too much of a good thing can be counterproductive. As Arthur Plotnik says above, the editor edits to communicate to readers, to facilitate the ideas and thoughts being conveyed, and not to appease an editor’s punctuation fetish.

Grudgingly I must admit that I learned a great deal from this editor. Not only about the placement of hyphens, but so many other things important to being an editor. Sadly, although only six months older than me, he left this world about 10 years or so ago after a valiant fight with a most debilitating disease. And while I miss his friendship and I am grateful for all he taught me, I still do not miss injecting hyphens everywhere they must go.

Editors all, we have our favorite things to look for during proofreading. Is it the hyphen? Is it the comma? Is it a split infinitive? A dangling modifier? What are your editorial pet peeves?

Approval Routes: Does Anyone Review Your Copy?

by Alan Eggleston

Do you have an approval route? Should you have an approval route?

Approval route reviewers

photo (cc) creative commons license by plantronicsgermany

Most editorial offices have some form of approval route or formal copy review. It may involve simply one person or as many as dozens. If you don’t have an approval route, you need to ask yourself: Shouldn’t I?

Your answer may be that an approval route just makes it harder, longer, and less efficient to publish. On the other hand, your answer might also be that an approval route serves a useful function for everyone in your organization.

Pros and Cons of Approval Routes

An approval route is a check and balance on accuracy. It is also a protector of message and organizational interests. And it also protects against risk to the organization, if you have the right people on the approval route — an attorney, for instance.

There is no one perfect answer to whether an organization should have an approval route and no perfect answer on how it should look if the organization decides to have one. Here is my experience, and I would love to hear yours and how it affects your view of approval routes:

One Editor’s Experience with Approval Routes

I have worked at and for a variety of organizations – small, medium, and large; privately owned and non-profit association as well as lots of little companies as a freelance editor and writer.

The first company I worked for had no internal approval route and chiefly involved our salesman getting the client’s okay on the copy. (The client was the approval route, but there was no internal approval route.) No salesman ever came back to me for a rewrite before taking copy to the client, and no one above me in the organization ever read or responded to copy. Although I felt at the time that I was writing good copy, without some kind of internal feedback, I could never improve or even know if I was hitting the mark except by getting a nod and the occasional detail correction from a client. That was no way to run a creative service. That was no way to serve clients. That was no way to help your staff perform and grow. It was the total opposite from my next job, where I received continual feedback.

The second company I worked for was a huge privately held international corporation. Our department had a copy review process and then copy went to each department with a stake in the information being messaged, including Marketing and Research and Development for products, and then General Counsel or someone in Legal. All along the process, I received feedback and corrections and tweaks. You might think this was overkill on an approval route – indeed, when I started working there, I was overwhelmed by it – but to this day I view that approval route as the organization’s most valuable feedback loop for quality. I learned not only how to take criticism on content, but also how to negotiate changes and decide what was reasonable to ignore as criticism and what was important to change – all of those are necessary and important skills.

Now I work with smaller clients. Some are just the client with whom I work directly. Others are small clients that work through a public relations or marketing person. With the former, I get feedback directly from the client, but having worked with marketers, R&D nitpickers (meant in the kindest way), and attorneys, I know to maximize sizzle while staying true to the claims and reducing risk on the client’s behalf. In the case of the latter, the marketer/public relations person acts as a first reviewer and then passes the copy on to the client. In both cases, I’ve already learned the valuable skills of negotiating changes to satisfy everyone.

Approval Routes Add Value

Approval routes don’t have to be a hassle. They don’t have to be time intensive. But they can be a valuable source of feedback and correction that every writer and editor values. If you don’t have one, you really should look into one.