Collaboration among Language Professionals: Representing ATA at the ACES: Society for Editing Annual Conference

Conference attendees buzzed over the latest updates to the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Crowds of word nerds filled the hallways between sessions. Colleagues who had only corresponded electronically for the past year hugged one another, excited about the fun weekend ahead.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, there are other word nerds who go on and on for hours about all things language-related?” You bet! It was my great pleasure to represent ATA at this year’s annual conference of the ACES: The Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society) in Providence, Rhode Island. With over 800 attendees from various fields and backgrounds, I felt right at home among this bubbly group of professionals.

ACES is an organization for editing professionals in various industries, as well as educators and students.1 I also represented ATA at the ACES conference in 2018 in Chicago. My presentation and attendance at that conference were so well received that I decided to propose another session for this year’s event. As it turned out, there were a few other translation-related proposals this year! The conference organizers contacted us and requested that we work together to form a discussion panel on translation. We were delighted!

Fellow ATA member and current ATA Interpreters Division Administrator Helen Eby presented with me on the panel, along with Helaine Schweitzer, the senior editor of Watching America, which provides news and opinions about issues involving the U.S. published in other countries.2 We each brought a different perspective and skill set to the table, something the organizers recognized early on and had the vision to request that we work together to share our expertise on translation with attendees. At the end of Helen’s portion of the panel, she noted, “I’m impressed that ACES noticed how our topics complemented each other and brought us together for a stronger presentation where we could connect the dots. This shows thoughtful programming.” I couldn’t agree more!

Our panel (entitled “Language: Barrier or Bridge?”) was well received, with 30 to 40 people in attendance. When it was my turn to speak, I asked if there were any translators in the room, and several hands shot up! A few even mentioned being ATA members and working both as professional translators and editors in their areas of specialization. It was clear to us that attendees were happy to see translation being represented at this conference, since ACES attendees are known for being inclusive and welcoming of others who study language.

Getting the Word Out about ATA and the Importance of Hiring Professionals

Some editors attending our panel mentioned previous experiences working with translators. There were a few who regretted having learned the hard way about working with a specialized translator. After hiring someone they believed to be a professional, they realized that the presentations they had paid to have translated were unusable with their target audience. They were happy to know about ATA, and those who hadn’t yet worked with language professionals were very interested in finding ways to collaborate with translators and interpreters in the future.

This is where we stepped in! I directed attendees to ATA’s Directory of Translators and Interpreters as a prime resource for finding professional translators and interpreters. I mentioned the various search filters they can use (e.g., sort by location, language, or services) to find the right professional translator/interpreter to work with on their projects. ACES members and conference attendees are very receptive to working with freelancers, as most are freelancers themselves. They have a good understanding of what it means to be a true professional in an unregulated field, shouldering the responsibility of relaying the meaning of the words on the page as they were intended. They were very thankful to have a resource like ATA’s online directory to access. This understanding and common appreciation of one another’s work might be what I find most compelling about building collaboration between translators, editors, and other professional associations.

Welcoming Diversity and Collaboration

This feeling of inclusivity began even before I headed to Providence. A few weeks before the conference, ACES circulated the winter edition of its member newsletter, Tracking Changes. The theme of the issue was Spanish editing, and I had been invited to write a piece entitled “Preparing Your Copy for Translation: 7 Tips for Success.” Several other ATA members were also featured in the issue.3 The opportunity to contribute to the organization’s main publication made it clear to me that ACES was truly glad to welcome translators and interpreters into the mix.

During the conference, I was invited by an ACES board member to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Breakfast event on Friday morning. Another board member stopped me in the exhibit hall to ask about my conference experience so far and to express how refreshing it was to see ACES events welcoming professionals from other fields. He was clearly pleased to know that translators and interpreters would find the ACES conference beneficial. This feeling of welcoming diversity and collaboration stayed with me throughout the conference weekend.

From left: Mignon Fogarty, host of the popular Grammar Girl podcast, with Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo at ACES2019.

The Sessions

Perhaps one of the main reasons the ACES conference is so attractive to a variety of professionals is because of the range of sessions and the obvious inclusive nature of the event. With over 60 sessions taking place over three days, attendees have the opportunity to learn from experts in several areas of editing. Sessions encompassed everything from tips for editing literary copy to recipes, how to handle sensitive content, and editing for readability. One of the most popular topics this year was related to making a conscious effort to avoid unconscious bias in language when discussing (and editing) topics about gender, sexuality, and race.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that this year’s “What’s New in the 2019 AP Stylebook” session covered a range of updated stylebook entries, including a new umbrella entry called race-related coverage.4 Paula Froke, lead editor of the AP Stylebook, mentioned changes with regard to the terms “racism” and “people of color.” The AP has also chosen to remove hyphenation from dual-heritage terms (e.g., “African-American” is now “African American”).

Other changes announced were the use of the % symbol instead of writing out “percent” when associated with a specific amount, and the now acceptable use of accent and diacritical marks in names when quoted from a language in which they tend to be used. Changes like these are important for translators who work into English to know, as the AP Stylebook, while typically associated with journalism, is often used for copy consumed online. This particular session is always well attended. In fact, conference attendees look forward to it every year!

But there are many other reasons to attend an ACES conference aside from informative sessions that allow you to stay abreast of the latest style manual changes. It’s the perfect venue to meet editors in all stages of their careers. Newbies and veterans, in-house editors and freelancers all come together over the written word to discuss, collaborate, and enjoy one another’s company. The event is also known to attract larger names in the editing world. This year, I had the opportunity to meet Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House and author of Dreyer’s English, as well as Mignon Fogarty, host of the popular Grammar Girl podcast.

Conference attendees also have a chance to put down their red pens and have some fun. There is an annual banquet where winners of the ACES scholarships and of various awards are announced, a spelling bee that includes new dictionary entries and frequently misspelled words, networking lunches for specific interest groups within the field of editing, and more.

The Importance of Learning from Complementary Industries

I’m convinced that translators (and interpreters) would find this event beneficial and enjoyable. If those translators who attended our joint panel session were any indication, there’s a lot we can do to continue our collaboration with ACES members.

How? Well, for one we can use the ACES conference and other events like it to raise the profile of our professions. As I mentioned earlier, I took the opportunity to point editors to ATA as a source for finding professional translators and interpreters, highlighting the Directory of Translators and Interpreters as an essential resource. By reaching out I discovered that many attendees were interested in hiring and collaborating with professional translators. (Some even said they wanted to attend ATA’s Annual Conference to learn more about what we do!) This is a great reminder of how important it is to attend events in complementary industries, such as editing. Not only can we create a variety of service offerings for clients by working together, but attending conferences outside the translation and interpreting world allows us to expand our knowledge, learn from others we might not normally have the chance to meet, practice our elevator speech, or even meet our next client.

At the very least, taking the time to attend conferences in related industries provides us with the chance to teach people about what we do and put ourselves on their radar. If you want to propose a session at a conference where most of the attendees are unfamiliar with the translation and interpreting professions, I would suggest thinking about how translators and/or interpreters can benefit these professionals. What kinds of challenges do they face that a professional translator or interpreter can help solve? What goals can we help them reach? By thinking about your ideal session attendee, you can tailor your proposal and your presentation to be incredibly relevant and valuable to them.

So, consider attending an ACES conference in the future! I would love to see an even stronger presence of translators (and interpreters) next year at the annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Who’s with me?

Three Tips to Get the Gig

Want to spread the word about the value of translation and interpreting to a group or organization? The following tips will help you gain an edge in terms of getting people to ask you to speak at their event.

  1. Research your target audience and decide how you can provide value to their work and/or industry with your knowledge and expertise.
  2. Approach the organization either as a member or as an outsider who has a different perspective to share and make a pitch.
  3. Review ATA’s Client Outreach Kit for more tips and strategies on getting the gig, preparing your presentation for your target audience, and more. You can find it here:
  1. ACES: Society for Editing,
  2. Watching America,
  3. Tracking Changes (ACES, Winter 2019),
  4. To learn more about changes to the Associated Press Stylebook, see

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is an ATA director and chair of the Membership Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee (2014–2018) and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011– 2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at Contact:

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