Professional Development: Red Pencil Conference

When Carol Fisher Saller of the Chicago Manual of Style announced the style guide's new edition updated “Internet” to “internet” and “e-mail” to “email,” the room erupted in cheers and applause as you'd only find at a conference for editors.

I was clapping and woot-ing along with my peers, hundreds of editors of all kinds — fiction, non-fiction, magazines, academic, and corporate. It was my first time at the Northwest Independent Editors Guild's biennial conference, Red Pencil: Tracking Changes in Editing, and it was a pleasure to be part of professional conversations with fellow editors and writers from around North America.

Editors as Gatekeepers

The conference opened with a thought-provoking keynote by Karen Yin, the force behind AP vs. Chicago and the Conscious Style Guide, the latter of which was her focus at the conference, held at Bastyr University in Kirkland, Washington.

Yin's speech reminded editors of the role we play in allowing sensational stories and fake news to spread and using language to hurt and silence. She asked us to reflect on how editors can foster compassion, healing, and truth with the language we allow to go to press.

Editors have a responsibility to make sure we print the unbiased truth without overstating harm or using language that traumatizes. We are gatekeepers and gate openers who can choose to use language mindfully to help people become open to changing their minds about the way they think.

What a responsibility we have as editors. Yin's speech reminded me to reflect on the word choices I make as a writer and the ones I allow as an editor and consider the impact they will have on people who have a different background than me and therefore read and interpret my words differently.

Following Yin's wonderful keynote, I attended a session on proofreading, one on Editors Canada, and one on editing for e-commerce. The latter was fascinating and will help me when I craft language for online consumption, whether for blogs, websites and listings. SEO was a big part of the conversation, how to choose keywords that readers are likely searching for to help them find your information.

I left the conference with my mind full of new information and ideas. As I write this a week later, I find the things I learned are starting to sink in and become part of my philosophy of working. I'm eager to see how these new insights improve my next projects.

Why I Attended

My decision to attend this conference was made in conjunction with the business coach I worked with in 2016, Erin Acton. I committed to attending a conference or workshop where I would learn in a group setting and make connections with my peers. I'm grateful to Erin for helping me set this goal and putting the steps in place to ensure I followed through.

Jessica Woollard