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Posted on Mar 17, 2022

Should You Join the American Copy Editors Society (ACES)?

The American Copy Editors Society (also known as ACES: The Society for Editing) is a US-based organization that holds conferences, provides editing training, and creates networking opportunities for its members. Like many editor associations out there, you will have to pay a membership fee to be part of ACES. What does this fee get you, and is it worth the investment? We’ll go through the main features of an ACES membership and help you make a decision. 

Membership for everyone 

American copy editors society logoWhile most editing organizations cater their activities to freelancing professionals (like the Editorial Freelancers Association), the American Copy Editors Society has a wider membership base. With over 5,000 members from news, academic, technical, legal, and book editing, this organization is a meeting point for a diverse range of professionals, including those in full-time employment. 

The ACES’ annual membership fee structure reflects some of this diversity, and memberships are categorized as follows:

  • Full or associate memberships: $75/year
  • Student membership: $40/year
  • Corporate membership: $60-$70/year per employee

All members get access to the society’s newsletter plus discounts for resources (including books on editing, like the Chicago Manual of Style) and editing conferences organized by ACES themselves, as well as events run by Editors Canada. 

Where the main difference lies is in the amount of say different members have over the running of ACES. Full members and corporate members get to vote in the society’s elections, while associate and student members don’t. To qualify for a full or corporate membership, you have to have some background in any kind of editing or journalism, whether through teaching or working. 

This makes the ACES community quite a dynamic one, with discussions on many different professional niches. The availability of a variety of membership types make this a place that anyone who hopes to hone their knowledge or further their editing career can join. 

Limited selection of courses 

If you’re new to the editing profession and are hoping to get some training, ACES can help you with their comprehensive copy editing courses. In particular, the organization works in collaboration with the Poynter Institute’s News University to provide two certificate programs, one for beginners and one for those with some prior experience. ACES also has a seminar-based course that can be combined with the intermediate certificate course. All courses focus on teaching technical copy editing skills — knowledge that applies in various industries. 

ACES The Society for Editing | Online courses
The training packages ACES makes available to you.

However, if you want more specific training — i.e. you want to dive deep into medical editing, or you want to improve on the administrative side of editing projects — then you might want to go elsewhere. The Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders, for example, provides a variety of tailored courses that tackle copy editing niches and help you improve soft skills. 

All this is not to say that ACES offers little in the way of professional development. They do have plenty of resources for editors — they just don’t come primarily in the form of courses. Which leads us to the next feature of this organization… 

Monthly virtual discussions among professionals 

Most associations have annual conferences where members come together, network, and attend panels and seminars about editorial topics together. Fewer put together regular virtual discussions that editors can participate in wherever they are — but ACES is one of them. 

ACES coordinates a webcast every month, and Twitter chats twice monthly. The frequency of these events means that they’re often very timely and reflect new developments in the editorial field.

Insightful monthly webcasts 

Every month, ACES welcomes a couple of guests onto their webcast channel, who will then discuss a topic for an hour. You can expect lecturers in linguistics and journalism, veteran editors, and writers from all sorts of industries (law, news media, book publishing — you name it). Drawing from their training and experience, these experts share their insights on how to become a better editor. 

Recent ACES webinars have investigated a wide range of topics, from detecting and flagging microaggressions when writing, to how to use PerfectIt, to what to expect when you edit for a magazine. As such, what the organization doesn’t necessarily provide in the form of a traditional course, it makes up for with these videos. While this does mean that you don’t get to practice and get personal feedback, as you would do when enrolled in a course, webcasts are often more dynamic and up-to-date in themes, so you can still expect to learn a lot over time. 

Members get to attend all these events for free, while non-members pay $30 per event. If you think you'll get a lot out of these webcasts, then a membership will be worth the investment. 

Fortnightly #ACESchat on Twitter

If you are on Twitter (as many editors are), then you might enjoy the #ACESchat discussions that are put on every first and third Wednesday of a month. For each chat, an editor comes in with a topic (think how to deal with multiple projects at once, or what you need to know about SEO as an editor), and then breaks this down into 4-5 questions which they then reply to. These questions and answers will be tweeted, and anyone can reply to it with their own tips and experience. 

American copy editors society ACESchat 2022
Here are the topics covered in early 2022. Visit ACES's archive.

Think of it as a fun and social way to learn — or even as an educational way to network with other editors. Technically, all you need to do is tune into the chats using the #ACESchat hashtag on Twitter, so this perk isn’t hidden behind a paywall. However, if you want more say in the conversation, a full membership does let you vote for the board of directors, who ultimately shape the direction of the organization and encourage new topics of discussion. 

Scholarship programs for learners

If ACES’s array of material hasn’t convinced you of their commitment to education yet, then let their scholarship programs do the work. The society offers a range of scholarships and fellowship opportunities to support students going into undergraduate or graduate studies at a university, who have a love for language or a strong interest for a career in editing. 

A membership is not needed to apply, and membership fees don’t go directly into the funding of these programs either. These programs are funded by donors, meaning you can do your part without being a member. But if you want to be part of the Education Fund Board and help manage the funds, then you'd have to be a member. 

Verdict: Should you become an ACES member? 

The most beneficial aspect of an ACES membership is the networking opportunities, and the way you can enjoy and participate in building the organization’s rich resources. There’s a lot of valuable information being shared by users and members, which can be of great help for yours and others' professional development.

ACES membership is not, however, a prerequisite to working as an editor, and will not necessarily bring you greater exposure to clients. If you hope to advertise yourself as an editor and get requests directly from clients, you can head directly to a marketplace without joining this organization. 

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And in all fairness, you can enroll in an ACES course or attend its Twitter chats without a membership. But you won’t get the chance to network closely with the people who put all of this together, or contribute to the organization of these activities. If you want to become part of a highly experienced and dedicated editor community, and contribute to the growth of the profession, then this may be the place for you.


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