Talking Language to “Word People” at the ACES: Society for Editing

It’s always great fun to meet fellow “word people” and discuss language. I had the pleasure of doing so recently in Chicago, when I presented a 60-minute session at the ACES: Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society) annual conference in April. ACES is an organization for editing professionals in various industries, as well as educators and students.1 Similar to ATA, its members are word-loving, friendly, and collaborative. So, I was delighted when my proposal to present “What to Know Before You Send Your Copy for Translation” was accepted. While I only recently became a member of ACES, I found that I was not the only translation/interpreting professional at the conference. During my time in Chicago, I met with two other ATA members who also belong to ACES and who found the conference to be a good investment in their professional development.

While I had the advantage of speaking to an audience of professionals who understand and appreciate the power of carefully placed punctuation and selecting the proper term for a given text, I was also surprised to find that this audience had its own set of questions about what we do and how we do it. There were about 35 people in attendance during my session—editors and copywriters, team leads from mid-size companies who frequently work with translators and localizers, and even some senior editors from large corporations. There were even some students who approached me afterward to discuss their interest in ATA and in potentially pursuing a career in translation. All in all, the diversity of attendees impressed me and reminded me of the diversity within our own organization.

My presentation was about how to find and work with professional translators and editors who specialize in the specific area(s) in which copywriters and editors produce content. I began by talking to attendees about what it takes to create a great translation and how to find professional translators and editors in the target language. I promoted ATA’s Directory of Translators and Interpreters several times throughout the session, and those present were grateful for the resource.

Next, I discussed important ways a translation team can support one another in gaining insight about the target language. I covered such topics as the ability to discuss nuances in the source text and how they will translate to the target language, how to define the purpose or goal of the copy to be translated, and how to determine the ideal readership. I mentioned that all these factors can and do affect such aspects as word choice, the level or technical nature of language used, and sentence structure. I also briefly discussed the importance of creating a style guide with the translation team’s assistance. I found the article by ATA member Carolyn Yohn in the January/February 2018 issue of The ATA Chronicle, “Copyediting for Stand-Out Style in Any Translation” to be a helpful resource for this audience and shared it with them.2 They were very pleased to receive this information as well.

I went on to examine other factors to consider discussing with when working with a translation team, such as active versus passive voice, the use of gender and pronouns, and formal versus informal language use. I mentioned the many advantages of collaborating with the translation team throughout the translation process, as good translators ask questions to produce the best product. I drove these types of messages home by sharing callouts like this one on my slides:

“It is better to answer questions during the process itself than to have your copy become lost in translation.”

As it turned out, these callouts were a great idea, as the conference organizers had assigned a hashtag to each session. The hashtag used for my session was #ACESTranslation. I thought this was a very clever way for everyone to follow along with the sessions they were interested in learning more about, especially those unable to attend.

Attendees also posed some thought-provoking questions after my presentation. One that stood out concerned the use of machine translation (MT) and its potential capabilities in assisting copywriters and editors in their work. I mentioned the limitations of MT and why it’s best to avoid it when creating copy that is meant to engage, persuade, convince, or inform. The discussion was lively!

One attendee, a senior editor from Apple, was quite skeptical at first about some of the points I was making with regard to collaborating and working closely with a team of skilled human translators. She said, “I don’t see how this can work. We translate our materials into over 20 languages!” But by the end of the session she was thanking me for the insight and helpful information that she was going to take back to her colleagues at Apple. She now understood how vital it is to work closely with the translation teams who handle their copy, and she had real questions about the processes used and the limits of MT in producing content in other languages for Apple. Perhaps a comment made by one of the other attendees is what truly made her question Apple’s practices. He said, “It’s often faster and less expensive to hire a professional to translate than to rely on machine translation alone.” While we all know that poorly translated material—whether the result of relying solely on MT or unskilled humans(!)—can be a cost creator, it was refreshing to see a professional in another industry draw this conclusion himself and share it with his colleagues.

In addition to questions from attendees about my presentation, I also had several people come up to me afterward to ask about becoming a member of ATA. It was particularly nice to know that there are colleagues in related industries who see the value in being a part of our great association. Throughout the weekend it was clear to me that professional editors and copywriters face many of the same challenges as translators and interpreters: dealing with educating clients on the importance of hiring a professional, taking time off to recharge and plan the future of our businesses, and continuing to take advantage of opportunities for continuing education while balancing a full workload from clients. I found so many parallels between the topics discussed at ACES and those we discuss among ourselves as translators and interpreters that it struck me—we can really learn from these folks, and they can learn from us as well. To conclude my presentation, I left attendees with this point, as I knew it would be something they could relate to as word people:

“Just as there is no magic formula to writing great copy, there is no magic formula to creating a superb translation. Both take time, expertise, patience, and experience.”

I encourage other ATA members to attend and present at events like this one on a regular basis. Not only was I able to network with high-level professionals in a parallel industry, but I was also asked to write a post for the ACES blog prior to the conference based on the topic of my session.3 I was glad to do so, as it stirred up additional interest in advance and prepared attendees for the topic of the presentation.

As I have mentioned in a previous Chronicle article, it can be truly beneficial to look to other industries sometimes to help you see things more clearly in your own. Doing so can give you new ideas and creative breakthroughs while growing your network as a professional. I believe that this particular conference would be of great interest for translators of all levels.

While smaller than a typical ATA conference, the ACES event welcomed 700 attendees from many areas of expertise. There were several extra events available, such as a set of simultaneous networking lunches on the first full day of the conference. Attendees were able to choose which networking lunch to attend based on the field or industry in which they work. One networking lunch, for staff editors, was even added to the list of options a few days before the conference because the organizers realized there was enough interest to justify doing so. Extra events like this one allowed attendees to spend more time together, share ideas, and even tap into a pool of potential partners for future projects and client work.

Overall, I found those present to be very collaborative, diverse, and excited to share what they were learning with other colleagues who were unable to attend. Most of all, they were extremely interested in the work we do as translators and interpreters. I highly recommend attending if you get the chance! The ACES 2019 conference is set to be held in Providence, Rhode Island.

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. Yohn, Carolyn. “Copyediting for Stand-Out Style in Any Translation,” The ATA Chronicle (January/February, 2018), 17,
  3. Zampaulo, Madalena Sánchez. “What to Know Before You Send Your Copy for Translation,” ACES Blog (March 12, 2018),
  4. Zampaulo, Madalena Sánchez. “Nine Ways to Stand Out in the Translation and Interpreting Industry,” The ATA Chronicle (March/April, 2018), 8,

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, an ATA director, is the chief executive officer of Accessible Translation Solutions, which she founded in 2010. She joined ATA’s Public Relations Committee in 2012 before becoming its chair in 2014. She has also served as administrator for 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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