From the beginning, one of the most important values of the Sewcialists has been to lift up, and to hold space for, the voices of sewists of all kinds.
Over the years, we’ve had dozens of volunteer Editors, and between them, they have sought out and coordinated posts from untold numbers of Authors, as well as writing posts themselves. (I say untold numbers; I’ve always intended to actually do a count, but the more posts we’ve had, the more impossible that task felt!)
This means that we’ve had Authors from all around the world contributing posts. We’ve had contributors of all ages. A whole range of educational backgrounds. People for whom English isn’t their first (or even third or fourth) language. People with neurodivergent brains or with disabilities that make writing difficult. People who were balancing day jobs and side hustles and family obligations, but managed to bang out a quick post on a topic they cared about. People who felt isolated and poured their hearts out over days of writing. People who researched their posts like mini dissertations. People who wrote from lived experience, full of deep-felt emotion. People who wrote about sewing the most important garments of their lives. People who wrote about sewing the most whimsical, just-for-fun projects! People who wrote about gender and disability and ethnicity and skin colour and love and hate.
And, of course, on the other side of the screen, there’s just as much diversity in our readership. We know our readers come from around the world as well, and you, too, run the full gamut of fluency, accessibility needs, background life experiences, and so on.
That is where the Copy-Editing team comes in.
We’ve written about our team here before, so I won’t re-hash the whole description of our role here. You can check out this post from one of our team members:
The point, really, is that the Copy-Editing team at Sewcialists has existed to smooth whatever gaps there may be between our Authors and our readers. We wanted to amplify our Authors’ vibrant voices, not standardize them into some idealized style — but we also wanted to make sure that their ideas would translate well to the diverse readership, who come at the posts with their own varied sets of expectations and biases.
We’ve been the ones double-checking if the pants the Author refers to are underwear or trousers. We’ve been the ones wrestling with coding gremlins to try to make alt-text appear for those who can’t see the images on the site, or when one WordPress plug-in or another has broken the formatting for captions yet again. We’ve been checking to make sure that the posts are full of information, not advertisements, and that no one has snuck in a cheeky affiliate link. We’ve been there in the background, combing through posts to make sure that they are as inclusive as possible, stripping out unnecessary gendered language and flagging value-laden terminology like “flattering” or “normal”.
Yeah, we also check for typos. In fact, that’s where our role began! But I think the careful work of the Copy-Editing team has become a really special part of the Sewcialists blog.
If anything, I wish our turnaround between receiving drafts and publishing posts was longer, so that we could have had more opportunities to workshop posts with Authors, going back and forth over multiple iterations, but in any volunteer organization there’s always a balance between volunteer time and energy (the Authors, Editors, and Copy-Editors are all volunteers, remember!) and a perfect outcome. And in a perfect world, we could have copy-edited Instagram posts and stories too — but our focus has remained firmly on the blog, and I do hope and believe that the blog is better for it.
I want to take a moment to thank all of our Copy-Editors, past and present. It’s a strange thing, to hone a craft that is ultimately invisible — like stage managers, event planners, engineers of many kinds, and sewists who make underpinnings. Our work is invisible when done well, and only really attracts attention when done poorly. Three cheers for all of you and all of the work you have done!
I also want to make an offer to other community blogs and sites out there, present and yet-to-be-thought-of. We’ve developed a set of guidelines for our Copy-Editors, including a pre-publication checklist, and I’d be happy to share it with any other groups that are looking to incorporate this type of role into their teams.
What it is:
- An orientation to editing for inclusivity and diversity
- A suggested workflow for how Editors, Copy-Editors, and Authors work together
- Tips for things like writing good alt-text, and what kinds of tags are useful to add to a post
- A pre-publication checklist of all the things we try to keep in mind
- A living document that we’ve been adding to over the duration of the Sewcialists
What it isn’t:
- A formal style guide — we don’t dictate specific spellings, punctuation styles, etc.
- A universal guide to the endless variety of blogging platforms out there — a few pieces are quite specific to the functions of our particular WordPress build and our Slack workspace, though most of the guidelines are applicable to any platform
- Anything remotely approaching perfect or comprehensive! It’s a working document, backed up by lots of one-on-one and group discussions about how to handle specific situations
If you’re interested in reviewing our guidelines document, with an eye to using it for your own community, please drop me a line at anniebeeknits @ gmail.com. I’d love it if the work we’ve done here can live on in other communities, helping to lift up voices and strengthen connections elsewhere.
Anne is proud to have been the lead Copy-Editor at the Sewcialists, and will always be proud to be Gillian’s big sister. Find her on Instagram as @anniebeeknits.