In June, the ACES Twitter chat featured Steve Bien-Aimé, an assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University who researches race and gender issues in media and a member of the advisory council of Conscious Style Guide. Steve spoke about the editor’s role in ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented. View the full recap on Wakelet.
Diversity and inclusion mean representing a lot of voices in your editing. The more robust the editing process, the more authentic you’ll make the final product.
ACES: What advice do you have for editors when discussing diversity and inclusion with an author?
Steve Bien-Aimé (@Steve_BienAime): Tone is everything. Authors have visions for their work, and our job is to facilitate that. In terms of being inclusive, telling an author that their work marginalizes certain groups might be an illuminating conversation or the conversation could become hostile. Perhaps explaining that a specific character or passage will distract or anger a large portion of the audience could be more productive. Anything that can be perceived as bigoted doesn’t help the overall product, and the lasting memory is the hurtful passage.
Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (@KOKEdit): I like to tell authors that inclusive language reaches the largest number of readers without making anyone feel left out.
Laura M. Browning (@ellembee): I also like to point out what the cost is to the writer. This is too simple an example, but changing “wheelchair-bound” to “wheelchair-user” costs the writer nothing, and it positively affects a lot of people.
Aleksandra Sandstrom (@aleksandraedits): One point I nearly always make when discussing inclusive language with writers is that most people won’t notice that you’re using friendlier language if you just do it and don’t draw attention to it. But if you use non-inclusive language, people hurt by it will definitely notice.
ACES: What are some of the key points you include in a style guide to ensure diversity and inclusion when editing?
Steve: Second, always ask whose voices are missing in the piece I’m editing. For example, if I’m editing a news article about student debt, am I interviewing current college students, am I getting rural vs. urban perspectives, four-year college vs. community college, etc.? Third, is the perspective nuanced or is the perspective hackneyed or stereotypical? Folks and viewpoints have a lot of depth. We must make sure that is respected at all times.
Carolina VonKampen (@CarolinaMarie_V): I look for phrases like he/she, mother and father, boys and girls, and sisters and brothers that can be edited to be more inclusive of all gender identities when possible (ex. they, parents, children, siblings). Small tweak but it makes a difference.
Melanie Padgett Powers (@MelEdits): Adding to this: When you are talking about pregnancy, consider “pregnant people” or “those who are pregnant,” not “pregnant women,” so as to include trans people. I’ve successfully encouraged a client to do this who was willing to listen and learn.
Jenna Skwarek (@JennaSkwarek): I am reminded of something I once read: being a good editor doesn’t mean knowing everything, it means knowing where to look.
Patty Boyd (@Dottyeyes): But there’s also a trick in knowing what you don’t know. And with issues of race, disability, gender, religion, and so many other wonderful diverse characteristics of people, I don’t always know what I don’t know.
ACES: What are some good practices for creating an inclusive style guide?
Steve: The best practice, I think, is to have a diverse committee of folks to inform, critique, or create your style guide. That committee needs to represent a broad spectrum, not just “elite” viewpoints. Essentially, keep looking for who’s not included, and add them. Make everyone feel welcome to contribute and have their perspectives be heard.
Jen Anderson (@clearing_blocks): Provide context and additional resources when necessary.
Robin Marwick (@RobinMarwick): Providing the “why” of a suggestion is always helpful. Which means educating ourselves about why a particular term or framing may be hurtful or problematic. Which means reading widely.
ACES: What role can editors play to ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in the work being produced?
Steve: Editors are always the advocate for the readers. The readers want their experiences and lives reflected in the work produced. If authors/writers disrespect the readers, then everyone loses. Our job is to make sure each person has dignity.
Jen: Something we maybe haven’t talked enough about is that one way we can work on diversity/inclusion in editing is making sure that we’re spending time developing new editors, especially QTPOC.
Christina Folz (@MsEditor): Diverse voices and faces should be part of every story, not just stories about diversity and inclusion or about niche topics. Editors can play a big role in making that happen.
ACES’ Twitter Chats are held at 4:00 p.m. ET on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Join in the fun at #ACESChat.
#ACESChat: Diversity and Inclusion in Editing was originally published in Tracking Changes (Summer 2020 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.
Header photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash.