grade Letter from the Editor | February 2018

by Mariah Beckman

Published in Issue No. 249 ~ February, 2018

Misplaced modifiers that twist up the meaning of your sentences. Or dangling mods that overlook the perpetrator of actions with ludicrous results. Deceptive verb tenses and homonyms. Double spaces that date your sentences. En-dashes creating arbitrary compounds where there should have been a stalwart em-dash.

These are just a few of the common writing mistakes that cross our desks on a regular basis. We quietly correct these errors (with author permission, of course) and slink back into the introverted paradise wherein most editorial types live. There is not much glory attached to the job of altering another’s work, although there is some degree of skill and creativity required to do the job well. I like to think of editing as tailoring work: a good seamstress will make a roomy pair of pants look bespoke and is able to let out a pair that’s too snug without ruining the garment. So it is with our kind: we mimic the author’s voice if rewrites are required, we trim the fat on hefty lines and we fix the literary smudges on the made-up faces of finished documents.

Fame and fortune may be missing from this lifestyle, but that’s not to say that there aren’t rewards to be had for a job well done. Pif’s Writing Contest Calendar is full of links to wonderful fellowships, prizes and awards available to skillful writers, but I think it’s only right to highlight a few awards that are available to the fixers of the writing world.

There are many professional organizations that offer editors a way to connect, find work and share freelancing tips. (I have to take a moment to plug mine: the Northwest Independent Editor’s Guild, serving the Seattle area, has been an invaluable resource for meeting successful editors, offering tips to new ones and sharing referrals for work. If you’re an editor and you’ve been on the fence about joining up with a guild, I highly suggest you invest in one. The benefits far outweigh the losses no matter how you slice it.) Some of these editing organizations have observed the contrast between the glut of writing contests and great lack of editing awards, and they’ve decided this simply will not do.

Listed below are a few opportunities for your favorite grammarian to get his or her due with deadlines coming up in 2018.


ACES (The American Copy Editors Society)

The Robinson Prize: Launched in 2005, ACES’s award for editorial excellence honors an exceptional copyeditor who has furthered the craft or helped “their organization succeed in an era of increased competition.” Named for Pam Robinson, a founder and past president of ACES, this competition serves one of Pam’s goals in the editing community: to make copy editors more visible in the workplace and to encourage them to take a constructive role in the publishing process. 

Nominees are evaluated on a combination of elements, which can include editing, design, mentoring and training, fostering a sense of teamwork and pride among colleagues, and anything else that furthers the craft of professional editing.

“This award isn’t designed to applaud the best speller or the best grammarian,” says ACES President Teresa Schmedding, who helped establish the award in 2005. “Being a good wordsmith isn’t enough. Today’s copy editors need to be skilled in conflict resolution, show excellent judgment, demonstrate initiative and be able to find creative solutions to help their publications succeed in this era filled with increased competition.” The award for this prestigious honor is a $2,000 prize. Nominations for the Robinson Prize are open until January 31 each year. Only ACES members may nominate someone, and all nominations are made online. 

Other awards include the Glamann Award, which honors some of the heaviest hitters in the editing industry. (Last year’s winner was the copyediting great Bill Walsh, who passed away in March of 2017.)

ACES annual Headline Contest rewards good headline writing in print and digital media. Entries are evaluated not just on the cleverness of the headlines, but on their sophistication, uniqueness, appropriateness and likely success in capturing readers’ attention. Headlines published from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, are eligible for the contest. Entries must be submitted in portfolio form through the ACES online form by Jan. 31 each year.

And, if you’re looking to expand your substantive and developmental horizons, ACES offers various scholarships  to help you grow your skills.


The Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence is presented each year to “an exceptional editor who played an important role in the success of a project completed in English or French.” Any type of written project—book, magazine, government or corporate report, software documentation—is eligible, as is any type of editorial work. The winner will receive CA$2,000, and finalists will receive CA$500 each.

Editors Canada also awards the Karen Virag Award, created in memory of long-time association member Karen Virag in recognition of her many contributions to the profession. The Karen Virag Award recognizes the efforts of an editor or an organization to raise the profile of editing in their community. The contribution may take a variety of forms, including writing, public speaking, teaching, participating in broadcast or new media, and sponsoring editing-related activities and community building in Canada and abroad. Nomination packages may be submitted in print or digital format and must include a letter of nomination (100 to 300 words) that clearly and convincingly explains the
contribution made by the nominee, and supporting documentation.

The Editors Canada President’s Award for Volunteer Service recognizes outstanding service to the organization, at the branch, twig or national level, by member and student affiliate volunteers. Candidates for the award may have served Editors Canada by conscientiously performing volunteer activities over an extended period of time, taking initiative to identify and solve a critical problem or meet a specific need within the organization. Or they may have organized or directed an activity that has a tremendous impact on the association or inspired others to participate more fully within the association. From among the nominations received for the President’s Award, one volunteer is selected to receive the Lee d’Anjou Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Claudette Upton Scholarship is a $1,000 award designed to help support continuing professional development in editing. The recipient is encouraged to use the scholarship to attend the Editors Canada national conference, purchase Editors Canada publications or attend association seminars and webinars. The recipient is acknowledged in person at Editors Canada’s national conference.


The UK’s professional editing organization has been presenting the Judith Butcher Award (JBA) annually since 2011. This award recognizes valuable contributions made to the organization itself, specifically, “a clearly identifiable and valuable difference to the way the SfEP is run” or the completion of a “specific project that has been of particular value to the SfEP and/or its members.”

Calls for nominations begin in March, with a closing date in mid-April. There is no nomination fee.


In 2017, Australia’s premier editing organization, IPEd, presented its first award for editorial excellence: The Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Award, or the Rosie. Notes the website, “The Rosie is an award to recognise excellence in editing, as demonstrated in one work, with testimony from author, publisher and editor. The nomination can come from any of the parties.”

The biennial Rosie will be given in 2019, alternating with the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship, which will be presented this year. The Rosie prize is AU$4,000.

IPEd’s other awards include the IPEd Prize and the Barbara Ramsden Award.


CSE recognizes excellence in science editing with its Award for Meritorious Achievement, presented to a person or organization “that embraces the purposes of CSE–the improvement of scientific communication through the pursuit of high standards in all activities connected with editing,” according to the website.

Other CSE awards include the Distinguished Service Award and the Certificate of Appreciation. Copyediting’s O’Moore-Klopf was one of two recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in 2017.

While nonmembers can win the top award, only members may nominate. Nominations can be made for any of the awards on CSE’s website.

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Mariah Beckman is a Seattle-based writer and editor. A transplant from the cloudless skies and arid heat of the Arizona desert, Mariah spends most of her time trying not to feel soggy. Mariah holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Arizona State University and spends much of her free time with her beau, her family, and her pot-bellied pig, Bebop. When she’s not pretending to know how to knit, she loves to run, hike, kayak, shop, snap photos, and explore the nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest.