A final thought from ACES
Been sitting here the past few days getting back in the swing and reflecting on how to summarize the ACES meeting. As usual, there was a cornucopia of good stuff. But if I had to pick what seemed to be a common theme, it is that a lot of questioning is going on about the "rules" we have lived with for years -- and that's good.
This is not to say that as copy editors we have suddenly become a loose bunch. Precision remains paramount. But it's precision of thought, of meaning, of context. It's not enough anymore to obsess about whether that comma belongs there or whether to change like to such as. We really can miss the forest if all we do is concentrate on the trees. And as Bill Walsh (of the Washington Post), John McIntyre (of the Baltimore Sun) and others keep noting, some of the "rules" aren't really "rules" at all, and some of the others, which are imposed by the necessary arbitrariness of style, not grammar, are due for a critical look with the knowledge that ours is a living, adapting language.
It can be scary; it takes us out of our comfort zone. But it is, after all, what we as copy editors are supposed to do best: precision questioning.