Words of Others | ACES 2011 Edition

I spent a big chunk of last week in Phoneix at the American Copy Editors Society's annual conference. It was as great and inspiring as it was last year, when I attended my first ACES conference. I gushed about it then, and it all applies again this year, so I won't repeat myself. I learned a lot, had a ton of fun, and met up with lots of old friends and made some new ones.

One of Friday's workshops was Watch Out For the Speed Bumps, with Merrill Perlman, who used to run the New York Times' copy desk and is now a consultant as well as the writer of the Columbia Journalism Review's Language Corner column. (She tweets here.) Here's the workshop's description from the program:

  • There’s fact-checking, and then there’s instinct-checking. There’s rarely enough time to check everything, but you can tune in to what your brain knows and listen for when it reads something and says: “Wait a minute! That doesn’t sound right!” You might be surprised by how much you know that you didn’t know you knew, and by how you can avoid those head-slapping “I WONDERED about that!” moments.

Merrill does great workshops, and this was no exception. She said one thing in particular that struck me as important for copy editors to remember, and that is hard to do as we correct things day in and day out, putting us into a frame of mind where we think there are errors lurking in every corner:

  • "Ours is not a search mission. Ours is a receive mission."

If we are spending so much time hunting, hunting, for mistakes, it can be easy to read right over big picture things. Good to be reminded of that.