Why Editors Should Join International Editors’ Associations

Why Editors Should Join International Editors’ Associations


There are many editorial associations across the world—some focus on the editorial profession in general and others focus on specific topics or genres of editing. All associations offer benefits to their members related to the profession that make the annual cost of membership worth it. Each association lists member benefits on their websites, but an editor has to determine whether these listed benefits are worth the cost and determine which editorial association is right for them. Some of these benefits depend on the editor member being local to the country the association is situated in, while others are just as beneficial to international members; however, some associations do a better job at engaging their international members than others. Although many of these benefits apply to in-house and freelance editors, I will be focussing on how joining editorial associations, particularly international associations, can be of benefit to freelance editors. Each association offers a unique list of benefits to their members; however, for the purpose of this essay I’ll focus on three: Editors’ Association of Canada (Editors Canada), American Copy Editors Society (ACES), and Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) based in the UK. The list of benefits these associations offer is longer than the list of available associations, so I’ll be focussing what I deem to be the four most important benefits when choosing an association: networking, job opportunities, professional development, and accreditation. Other available benefits—useful to some, but likely not used by as many association members as the four listed above—can include (but are not limited to) editorial blogs, newsletters, discounts on office equipment and software, membership affiliations, and insurance options.

One of the greatest benefits of belonging to an editorial association is the networking opportunities it provides, both online and offline. Meeting other editorial professionals provides referral and professional development benefits (both to be discussed below), as well as social benefits for freelancers who do not have in-office coworkers. For local members, most Editors Canada regional branches and twigs have monthly meetings that include a short lecture or workshop, social time and refreshments, and announcements from the national committee (Editors Canada website). Editors Canada also has an annual conference held in rotating cities across Canada, which is open to attendance by members and non-members from across the world, but is cheaper to attend as a member. Although Editors Canada provides many networking opportunities for its members, SfEP seems to offer the most options for international or non-local members. There are SfEP member groups that meet in-person both locally in the UK and in various other locations outside of the UK, including a group in Toronto, Canada (Janet MacMillan). In addition to in-person meetings, there are groups of SfEP members that meet monthly via video chat on pre-determined topics; Janet MacMillan, a long-time Canadian member of SfEP (advanced professional member), mentioned that she has made many friends “with like-minded people” through her involvement with SfEP, and even visited these friends in the UK and hosted them in Canada. SfEP also has an annual conference every September that takes place in the UK, but attracts members and non-members from around the world; SfEP members are actively involved in the selection of session topics presented at the conference (Janet MacMillan). This selection process always includes topics for editors of all levels, which increases the value of networking for new editors as they can meet mentors and learn from experienced editors’ advice, and for experienced editors to gain new contacts for referrals and other job opportunities.

Another major benefit of association membership is increased visibility and work opportunities. Most associations—Editors Canada, ACES, and SfEP included—offer their members multiple ways to find new clients. All three associations offer an online directory of editors (ODE) for members and a job board for individuals or associations looking for an editor to post a job opportunity. Many editors find that this benefit in itself is worth membership to an editorial association, and most editors who responded to an inquiry in the Editors Association of Earth Facebook group said that referrals from contacts made through editorial associations make up a significant part of their business. Amy Haagsma, Editors Canada member, said that most of her work “has come from referrals, and [she] can trace 100% of those to being involved with Editors BC and Editors Canada.” Similarly, Susan Fitzgerald, also a member of Editors Canada, said that over half of her new clients come from the ODE and job board, and many others come from referrals from people she has met through branch meetings and professional development workshops. Although Haagsma and Fitzgerald are local members of the association they are gaining these benefits from, the ODE and job board are open to international members—some contracts offered on the job board are in-house positions, but most tend to be for contract positions that can be carried out anywhere in the world. Being a member of multiple associations across the world is definitely beneficial for gaining visibility as an editor and receiving more job opportunities to your email inbox.

The next benefit I’ll examine is professional development. Language and usage evolves constantly, so it is important to take courses and workshops often to keep up to date. Professional development can be anything from workshops and seminars to multi-session classes to conferences, and all three associations offer all of these forms of professional development. Conferences, although attendance in-person is necessary, are often attended by association members and non-members from far away, as the location for each associations’ conference changes every year within their given territory (Canada, US, and UK). Lea Galanter, long-time member of ACES, said this about attending the annual ACES conferences: “[they give] me a chance to get to know colleagues and expand my skills, especially with regard to marketing my independent business… I also learn how to edit doc types I didn’t have a lot of previous experience with.” ACES also holds regular Twitter chats using the ACES account and #ACESchat hashtag, which directs users to the chat and allows them to participate easily from around the world. These Twitter chats are run by editorial professionals and ACES members, and often offer advice or answer questions involving copy editing and other professional topics. Courses and workshops are most often held in-person, but each association also offers webinars—workshops that are offered solely online through video instruction or interactive web-based instruction. Attending professional development events can also help to increase the networking value of your association membership, increase referral rates, and allow editors to charge more for services advertising that they are professionally trained.

The final benefit, accreditation, is the one that varies the most between associations, and determining which version is the best is entirely up to personal opinion or requirements of job applications. Accreditation is the authorization or approval of credentials for a professional conforming to a standard of quality in their industry, or, as Merriam-Webster puts it, “to consider or recognize as outstanding.” Editors Canada accredits its members through certification tests in structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading—two of these tests are offered each year. Members can take any one of the aforementioned tests and be certified in the corresponding level of editing; members that pass all four tests are given the credential of Certified Professional Editor (Editors Canada website). Editors Canada states that these tests are “the gold standard of editing” and stresses that they test for excellence, not for competency—80 per cent or higher is required to pass an exam, as opposed to 60 per cent that is required to pass most classes in a university or college certificate program (Editors Canada website). Although the tests are open to non-members, the fee to take the tests is considerably lower for members, and discounts on study materials are only offered to members. Editors Canada also offers editorial excellence awards to its members—the Tom Fairley Award, Claudette Upton Scholarship, Karen Virag Award, and the President’s Award. Similar to Editors Canada, ACES offers awards for editorial excellence to its members: the Robinson Prize and the Glamann Award, as well as the Bill Walsh Scholarship for students. These awards, like those provided by Editors Canada, provide additional accreditation for editors, and can help elevate your bid on a potential job over that of others. SfEP provides accreditation through tiered membership levels: entry level, intermediate, professional, and advanced professional. A new editor starts at the entry level, and as they take classes and gain work experience, they can advance to the intermediate level (SfEP website). The professional and advanced professional members are required to have over 5 years editing experience and regularly participate in training workshops and classes to keep their skills up to date (SfEP website). Achieving the two highest tiers comes with a high sense of accomplishment for the editor, and is often celebrated among colleagues; these two tiers also provide benefits of the greatest number and value, such as a listing in SfEP’s ODE and targeted job announcements.

Maintaining membership of an editorial association can be costly—and maintaining membership of multiple associations more so—but most professional editors polled in an Editors Association of Earth Facebook group said that not belonging to one is even more costly due to the loss of networking, job, and professional development opportunities, and discounts on office supplies, software, and conference passes. Many editors said that their ODE listing and access to the job board more than paid for their membership each year, and offered the opportunity to foster continuing relationships with colleagues and clients. For other editors, the social aspects of networking and regular meetings—whether online or offline—is worth the membership, as being a work-from-home freelancer does not offer these social benefits. Each editorial association offers a similar list of benefits to their members, but the way each benefit is executed varies between the associations. As a local or international member of any of these associations, every editor must consider what they need or want to get out of a membership to determine which association is right for them. As for me, I’m already seeing the benefits of being a local member of Editors Association of Canada, and as my freelance career becomes more internationally focussed, these benefits will surely multiply through memberships to the international associations I’ve mentioned as well.



American Copy Editors Society. https://aceseditors.org

Editors’ Association of Canada. http://www.editors.ca

Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook Group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EditorsofEarth/

“Editors Canada Names Tom Fairley Award Finalists.” Quill and Quire. https://quillandquire.com/awards/2017/05/10/editors-canada-names-tom-fairley-award-finalists/

“Everyone Needs an Editor.” Publishers Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/63468-everyone-needs-an-editor.html

Fitzgerald, Susan. Interview.

Galanter, Lea. Interview.

Haagsma, Amy. Interview.

MacMillan, Janet. Interview.

Society for Editors and Proofreaders. https://www.sfep.org.uk

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