ACES President Neil Holdway's reflections on 2023

ACES President Neil Holdway's reflections on 2023

December 20, 2023 By Neil Holdway ACES News
Neil Holdway, president, ACES Board of Directors

In 2023, ACES and ACES members were really getting down to business.

While in 2022 we were excited to return to more normal routines in a pandemic world, most notably with the annual in-person ACES conference plus a robust virtual conference, this year we’ve had some serious things to talk about at those conferences and elsewhere.

Our freelance businesses regularly came up. ACES’ conference sessions, webinars, and online chats were full of discussions about starting an editing business, maintaining them, and dealing with the intricacies of them. 

Editors who work for companies or organizations big and small could get advice on working with colleagues like subject matter experts, navigating their workplaces, and developing their careers. We even had discussions on switching back and forth between writing and editing for a living.

The growth of AI

The state of our careers certainly are on our minds, especially with the growth of AI. We’ve seen ChatGPT and other platforms increasingly being used to generate copy, and ACES has welcomed presentations on studies of AI’s work. They’ve largely shown that AI can create basic copy pretty well but goes off the rails when more sophisticated demands are placed on it — in a way reinforcing the role we’ve long had in ensuring that copy is accurate. We see that AI perhaps can help us with mundane tasks, but it still has us worrying how much of our own human, intelligent, thoughtful, creative work will remain in demand. We’re certainly not giving up just yet — by no means should we — and it’s a topic that we certainly will continue to discuss.

Editing talk

And of course, we talked editing. Not just grammar, though of course we always love to talk about that. We had a webcast in November that brought insights from cultural anthropology. A session at VCON23 in September looked at working through the lens of disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent editors. Another session similarly advised on website accessibility. A session at our in-person conference in Columbus focused on the art of dialogue in fiction. We’ve had sessions and an online chat about book editing. Don’t forget editing all the other varieties of copy, like recipes and grants and government documents. There’s really so much that we talked about.

By the way, you ACES members have talked about all these things amongst yourselves, too, such as in our conference coffee chats — the first in-person chats were launched at the Columbus conference — that are becoming popular.

Strategic plan and committees

Meanwhile, we’re starting year two of our strategic plan, and the ACES Board of Directors, with the help of a group of volunteers spread among six committees, continue to work on the goals we established. We are working on refining our online trainings, and we’d also like to re-establish in-person trainings around the country. This as our editing certificates created in conjunction with The Poynter Institute are being updated. 

We are preparing a re-envisioned email newsletter and we are eager to bring back the blog. A team from the Communications and Publications Committee has created a great guide for new editors that’s about to be released. We are reviewing our member benefits. And we’re about ready to start work on new research on the value of editing, as well as pay rates, to emphasize the value of editors.

The loss of Bill Connolly 

Each year sadly does not come without losses in the ACES world. This month we learned of the passing of William G. Connolly, a founding member of ACES and the ACES Education Fund. Those of us who’ve been involved with ACES for a long time are heartbroken, as Bill was a mentor and an inspiration. He was instrumental in shaping ACES, and he had already been an advocate nationally for editors over decades. I am so fortunate to have had the privilege of working closely with him.

ACES is more than 5,000 members strong, and I really appreciate everything that you all bring to the discussions of the editing world. All of us are learning from each other, and that’s a big reason ACES exists. We will keep providing places to gather, fostering the important discussions, and working to improve your career and life.

Learn more:

2023 Year-End Summary from Gigi Sutton, ACES Executive Director

Review 2023 with ACES Education Fund President Lisa McLendon

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