Editing for editors: The process and rationale behind the updated ACES style guide

Editing for editors: The process and rationale behind the updated ACES style guide

November 1, 2021 By Lauren Filippini ACES News

It should come as no surprise that ACES has a style guide; when developing content by editors for editors about editing, a set of guidelines is expected. 

This year, the ACES Communication Committee was tasked with updating the existing ACES style guide for several reasons: to drive it from a consistent root style guide, to build out exceptions and industry-specific language, and to share it with our editing community so all writers and editors working on ACES content can share common rules.

As our working group started this project, a question continually floated in the back of my mind: How in the world are we going to create a style guide that all editors will agree on? The beautiful thing about ACES is that it’s a community of editors of a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We are editors using all major style guides, as well as house style guides. We work in various specialties, with some of us adapting to specialties by project. (I work in the fraternity industry and can tell you that the omega symbol won’t work in a hashtag, but I would have quite a learning period if I were to edit, say, a medical textbook.) We live and work with regional differences, professional preferences, and, of course, personal pet peeves.

It was through this thought process that I realized the question was not “How can we get all editors to agree?” but “How can we make a style guide that is consistent and easy to follow for those who are writing and editing for ACES?” Like any organization or company, ACES publications will adhere to our established set of guidelines, taking and breaking from other resources as best serves our needs.

Our first task was choosing from one of the major style guides to base our internal ACES guide around, which was not an easy task considering how fiercely devoted some editors are to one guide or another. We landed on the Associated Press Stylebook. AP style is known for use with “fast content” — news articles that come out daily and are updated by the minute online — compared to guides like the Chicago Manual of Style, which is used with long-form copy and longer development times. With most of the ACES content being delivered digitally, AP style is more applicable. AP style is also updated frequently and it is easily accessible online. 

The ACES style guide is built out with high-level guidance. In some cases it diverges from AP style to better serve the ACES community. That’s right, ACES style includes the Oxford comma.

Following that guidance is information on design, including color codes and fonts, to create a more consistent visual appearance. After that is a word list, with phrases and spellings that editors of ACES content see time and again; we rely on the online dictionary by Merriam-Webster to guide our choices here (especially for such important discussions of “copyeditor” versus “copy editor.” Spoiler: It’s the second option). It also includes a conscious language statement written by Crystal Shelley, a names list, and a checklist for editing Tracking Changes.

Did we make all the right choices in this guide? Our committee’s approval was based on the belief that they were right for ACES at this moment. Style guides are living documents, and we expect ours to change and grow over time. Our final goal in creating this guide was to share it with the ACES community so that all writers and editors would use a common set of guidelines. This certainly opens the guide up to feedback, and we welcome it! What are we missing? What needs to be changed?

A huge thanks goes out to members of this project’s working group — Sasha Nyary, Anna Tribolet, and Kassel Coover — as well as to the whole Communication Committee, led by Christine Ma, and our staff liaison, Kim Lawyer. Working with you is more fun than finding a misplaced modifier, and I’m continually learning from you all. 

Check out the ACES style guide on the website and let us know your thoughts. And consider writing for ACES to share your expertise with other editors! 

ACES Style Guide

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