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Editors' Conclave: The Speakers' Perspective

An audience comprising mainly copy editors? And showing them not slick visuals but text slides? That sure made me jittery. And the last time I was a conference speaker – and not a trainer or a teacher – was more than a decade ago. At the same time, the reassuring thought was that I’d be ‘at home’, among fellow copy editors, who would be there by choice, not because they had been compelled (as is the case when I teach PG students).

Then there was the problem of timing: Visalakshy said 30 minutes and no more, and yet there was so much to share. I kept whittling down the presentation deck until I was sure that I won’t go beyond the allotted time. Also did a quick rehearsal at home, and I was done.

By the time we arrived at the venue, the butterflies in the stomach were done with their mating dance, thanks to the friendly chat over breakfast with Arpana, Bushra, and Nilima and Venkataraman and, once we were at the venue, the festive and friendly atmosphere. Then Manish stepped in and gave a fine start to the day’s proceedings; it was a lively talk indeed, and my nervousness returned, because I knew that my talk was nowhere going to be as uplifting and entertaining, but by then it was already my turn and time passed too quickly for me to think of anything else but putting across to the friendly audience all that I had planned to share.

A couple of members who were in the audience have already shared their impressions on this forum, and I am happy to gather that my talk was of some help – although I am not so sure about being compared to good old Mr Chips – but Vivek has asked me add a speaker’s perspective—hence this blog post.

However, coming to think of it, I’d like to extend my brief: after all, I was a speaker only for 30 minutes but a member of the audience far longer and enjoyed that role much more and also profited by it. Copy editing is a lonely pursuit: what Cory Stamper says of lexicographers – ‘You must be temperamentally suited to sitting in near silence for eight hours a day and working entirely alone’ – is, to my mind, also true of copy editors. Yet, here was an opportunity to get together with like-minded souls, and the conference (conclave?) was a wonderful opportunity to do just that, especially for freelance copy editors who work from home.

Dr Venkataraman’s categorization of errors struck me as being far more pragmatic than the traditional system (spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, usage, and consistency), especially for those who manage copy editing. My loss was that I never got around to asking him to share his list of more than 150 things that could go wrong with tables.

Arpana’s talk showed me that there is hope yet for those like me who are weary of social media, and Bushra’s analysis of the pros and cons of belonging to professional organizations was convincing enough to make one want to join up. I also enjoyed Nilima’s introduction to Alt-Text writing; her talk was a model of what introductory talks should be: not only clear and structured but making you want to try your hand at the game.

Chitralekha’s journey impressed me the most. I had read Rich Adin’s The Business of Editing but it is one thing to read about a topic and quite another to have it explained by somebody with first-hand experience, and even better when that somebody is Chitra with her enthusiasm, commitment, and business sense.

The fitting finale was the panel discussion, which got down to the nitty-gritty of the business of copy editing, the struggle to meet deadlines and yet to ensure quality, the ethics of business, and dealing with competition.

All in all, a rewarding day indeed. Here’s looking at the second edition, then.

Yateendra Joshi has been editing technical documents for nearly 30 years, a career change he made after working for a decade as a scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (1978–88). He was with TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) in New Delhi for 15 years, moved to Pune to work with WISE (World Institute of Sustainable Energy) in 2005, and has been on his own since 2007, dividing his time between freelance copy-editing and teaching.

Copy-edited more than 400 papers in the past few years for an international agency. Accredited editor with Diplomate status certified by the Board of Editors in Life Sciences, USA . Diplomate status is awarded only to those who demonstrate exceptional editorial proficiency (currently, only 30 editors worldwide have the diplomate status, and Yateendra is the only one in India).

Awarded Grade A in the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) examination conducted by Cambridge English Language Assessment, Cambridge University: this is equivalent to Level C2, the highest of the six levels specified in the Common European Framework of Reference for language assessment.

Participated in several international conferences of EASE, the European Association of Science Editors: Oxford, Helsinki, Tours (France), and Tallinn (Estonia).

Member, Editing Office, Atomium Culture, Brussels

Member, Editorial Board, Information Design Journal

Was an invited Editorial Fellow at the World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

Worked for a year as Senior Editor at ICRISAT, Hyderabad.

Currently Associate Fellow, Communication Research Institute, Canberra; has been, at one time or another, a member of

# Society for Technical Communication, USA # Council of Science Editors, USA, and # International Institute of Information Design, Austria.

Was a member of the committee of experts constituted by IGNOU, the Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, to advise IGNOU on the diploma course in publishing.

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