by Michael Bedford
Published at 2021-03-17
Like any profession, editorial work involves keeping up with how professional standards and tools of the trade change over time. Unlike aviation standards, though, changes to editorial standards aren’t always big news, so it’s generally up to individual editors to try to keep on top of how and when the editorial goalposts have shifted. One of the most effective ways for writers and editors to make sure that they’re on the cutting edge of editorial standards, of course, is to keep their subscriptions to the major style guides current. Keeping tabs on the editorial world is about more than just updating your style guides, though. There are a variety of editorially focused websites and social media accounts with an editorial bent, and each offers its own insights into the ever-evolving world of grammar and usage.
Depending on one’s editorial focus, it may not be cost effective to keep all of the major style guides current. Some editors may find that their clients all prefer a specific style, so they have no use for the current version of every major style guide. Editors who find themselves engaged in more than one type of editing, though, will likely have to make reference to more than one guide. Matters are further complicated by the fact that some clients will prefer previous versions of guides, preferring the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style to the 16th, for instance.
Signing up for email newsletters from the major style guides is a great way to ensure you’re on the cutting edge of editorial standards. And, in case your client prefers previous editions of specific style guides, many websites offer access to previous versions of their guides. Check out these excellent resources for information on a variety of major style guides:
No editorial library is complete without at least one good usage guide as well. A standard is Garner’s Modern English Usage: Fourth Edition. Usage guides sometimes get a bad reputation for being overly prescriptive, but writers and editors who disagree with these guides are, nonetheless, better off knowing what the experts recommend and how those experts came to their conclusions.
Editors Canada offers a number of webinars every year. Or, if a specific topic covered by a previous webinar has caught your eye, many webinars are archived on the Editors Canada website, and are viewable on demand for a fee.
Webinars are informative but those looking to engage in conversations with other editorial professionals on editorial matters are likely to find more of what they’re looking for on Facebook or Twitter. One such helpful Facebook group is the Editors’ Association of Earth, whose members discuss a little bit of everything the editorial world has to offer, including if and when rules of grammar and usage are changing or, in some cases, changed long ago.
Editorially focused websites are also a great resource for editors and writers looking to keep their editorial toolkit up to date. If you’ve never been to the online home of Mignon Fogarty’s character Grammar Girl then you’re missing out on an informative and engaging editorial resource. Grammar Girl’s recent article, “Top Ten Grammar Myths,” gives advice about a number of outdated or altogether incorrect assumptions about grammar.
Grammarist is another great resource for editorial professionals. Although lacking in much of the pizzazz that makes Fogarty’s Grammar Girl so engaging, Grammarist acts as a repository of commonly asked questions pertaining to grammar and usage.
The most important thing any editorial professional can do to make sure their editorial toolkit is up to date, though, is to ensure that they stay connected to the editorial community. Although staying connected allows editorial professionals opportunities to learn the pronouncements of grammar experts as they happen, the online editorial community also allows editorial professionals to do their part in shaping conversations about editorial matters, giving them opportunities to stay active in their field, even though they might be physically distant from other members of the industry.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He can be reached at https://mgb-editor.com/.