I’m in Las Vegas this week for the annual convention of the American Copy Editors Society. This will be my fifth ACES conference and my fourth in a row as a presenter. More on that later.

So what is ACES and why does it need a convention? ACES members are editors, but editors of a certain stripe. At American newspapers they’re typically called “copy editors,” but in Britain they’re “subeditors,” and in a lot of contexts they’re simply “editors,” although that term is really too broad. The person in charge of a publication is its “editor in chief,” but that person isn’t necessarily the sort of editor who frequents ACES.

Most of the editors here are finishing editors — typically the last editor a work of content sees before it meets its audience. Many of the big-picture questions of a piece often (but not necessarily) have already been answered by the time it sees a copy editor. Ideally, a copy editor sees a piece that’s fresh and nearly complete, with only a basic understanding of what it’s supposed to accomplish. That allows the copy editor to be, in a way, the piece’s first reader, the first test of whether the piece accomplishes its goals. If it doesn’t, the copy editor is there to fix it, or to suggest to its writer and assigning editor ways to fix it. Once that’s done, the copy moves on to polishing — making sure the text is grammatically sound, fixing typographical errors, ensuring the text is clear and appropriately concise. A final step for many copy editors — and an increasingly important one in interactive contexts — is to write the display type: headlines, subheads, photo captions.

All that stuff, and how to get better at it, is what we’re talking about at ACES. And what I’ll be blogging about here. I’m not sure who’s going to read any of it, this not being a blog that has ever had any readers, but you have to start somewhere.

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