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Marion Soubliere

Attending Conferences at Home and Abroad? Aye!

For editors, industry conferences are like chicken soup for the soul. Editing can be a lonely profession, but combining learning with camaraderie is a spirit-boosting elixir.

Many of us are still brimming with ideas and newfound confidence following June’s 2017 Editors Canada conference in Gatineau. Such learning and networking need not stop with membership in Editors Canada, though. When travelling to another country, check with its association of editors to see if you can attend a conference or workshop. I did while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland, this past spring to see family, and struck gold.

Presentations with cross-border appeal

The United Kingdom’s Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) happened to be having a one-day Scottish mini-conference in early May at the ethereal City of Edinburgh Methodist Church. At £40 (less than $70), the event was a steal. The day’s marquee sessions featured University of Edinburgh linguistics professor Geoff Pullum and U.S. author and editor Laura Poole, co-owner of editorial training site

Participants at the SfEP’s May 2017 Scottish mini-conference.

Pullum’s take on language usage was refreshingly contemporary: “You’ve got to make what you’re editing sound like sensible language of 2017, not from the early 1900s.” Books to avoid included Fowler’s Modern English Usage (“too old and idiosyncratic”), and “books to burn” featured, among others, The Elements of Style (“vapid and silly”). On the other hand, Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage and Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style were reference book favourites for the professor. But consulting handbooks alone is not enough, he stressed. To find answers to language dilemmas, editors need to do factual investigation, something Pullum demonstrated with Google searches substantiating popular language usage.

Presenter Laura Poole enlightens at the SfEP’s Scottish mini-conference at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church.

Poole, an exuberant and entertaining speaker, delivered savvy tips for growing your freelance business. (Those who attended her Freelancing 201: Level Up! workshop at this year’s Editors Canada conference can attest to that.) Consider doubling your rates, amp up productivity with time management software like Tomato Timer and think of value-added services to fatten your revenues. The latter includes creating broadly appealing workshops that you could present, for a fee, at all kinds of conferences.

Other tips came in SfEP member Ashley Craig’s talk on Word macros. In addition to PerfectIt, a growing favourite of many editors, two other handy editing and proofing tools are ToolKit PLUS 2014 from The Editorium and wordsnSync software with EditTools Version 8 datasets.

New discounts for Editors Canada and SfEP members

Learning how associations manage their affairs differently is instructive, too. For example, attending the mini-conference provided two points toward a continuing professional development score. That score can count toward an application to upgrade one’s SfEP membership to intermediate, professional or advanced professional level.

Thanks to a new partnership between Editors Canada and SfEP, all members of both associations can now benefit from discounts for each other’s conferences and training. See the members’ area of the Editors Canada website for details. And remember — the next time you’re travelling abroad, think about exploring a conference, too.

New knowledge is great, but international connections are priceless. Left to right: British editors Joanna Chisholm, Linsay MacLean and (in back) Lesley Ellen, U.S. editor Laura Poole (centre front) and Canadian editor Marion Soublière at Edinburgh’s historic Ensign Ewart Pub. Ellen, the mini-conference’s gracious and talented organizer, arranged for those still in Edinburgh post-conference to take part in the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, an evening of great fun. As tour-goers drifted between drinking establishments in Old and New Town, two skilled actors entertained with stories and antics — some in the musical Scots language of Robert Burns.


Previous post from Marion Soublière: How to Market Your Services to the Feds

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2 Comments on “Attending Conferences at Home and Abroad? Aye!”

  • Elizabeth d'Anjou


    Loved hearing about this. Thanks, Marion!

    I attended conferences of two American editing orgs in the last year: ACES and the EFA. Enjoyed both SO much. (Of course I also went to the Editors Canada conference—I even ran into a few of the Americans that I’d met!)

    Editors Canada has a partnership arrangement that includes conference discounts with ACES, too, and is in discussions with the EFA.

    Many years ago, when I was chair of the Toronto branch of Editors Canada and the conference was in Toronto, the conference committee asked me to say a few words at the opening reception. The only thing I could think of to say was this: “The most important thing we do as an association is to help editors, well, associate.”

    • Thanks for your kind words, Elizabeth, and for sharing your experiences about attending editing conferences outside Canada, too!

      Your closing sentence sums everything up perfectly in a few short words. The connections we make through editing organizations help us both professionally and personally. Well worth the price of membership.

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