In support of the efforts of Alexis Grewan, our national chairperson, to work towards greater diversity and inclusion in PEG, I offer my thoughts on what this means for PEG and its members and what it requires of all of us as professional language practitioners.
PEG currently requires its members
. . . to abide by the South African Constitution, Acts and laws. This includes no direct or indirect discrimination against (or disparagement of) any person or entity, in actions or statements, on the basis of one or more of the following: race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, belief, political opinion, culture, language or birth.
However, in keeping with global trends and international best practices, it is vital for an organisation such as PEG to formulate a clear statement outlining its position on diversity and inclusion. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in this regard – there are great examples of our international partners’ initiatives worthy of emulation.
Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading
For example, the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) has a dedicated page on equality, diversity and inclusion on its website that states:
‘The CIEP is working to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across everything we do. We aim to foster an environment where all members feel safe and equally able to contribute to CIEP activities.’
Furthermore, the CIEP has a Dignity Policy that draws on best practices to ‘define the behaviours we consider unacceptable in CIEP spaces, including discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying’.
Importantly, CIEP issued a public statement outlining the vital role of editors and proofreaders as intermediaries between authors and their anticipated readership; to highlight potentially harmful or problematic language and depictions; to suggest alternatives; and to alert publishers to the damage they do if they allow such things to get into print.
Editorial Freelancers Association
Another example is the ongoing work of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) to centre diversity, equity and belonging (DEB), as outlined on a dedicated page on its website.
Central to the EFA’s mission statement is its commitment ‘to support a more diverse membership in the EFA by welcoming members of groups that have historically been marginalized and by promoting equitable access for all.’
Furthermore, the EFA has published its detailed non-discrimination statement:
‘We at the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) welcome and value members of all backgrounds. We don’t discriminate, but more than that, we want the EFA to be an organization where all can feel they belong. We welcome people of every ability, age, ancestry, belief system, body size or appearance, citizenship, colour, culture, education, gender expression, gender identity, health, military status, national or ethnic origin, neurotype, race, parental status, relationship status, religion, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic background. We are nothing without our members, and encourage everyone to volunteer, to serve on the board, and to participate in our community.’
Like the CIEP, the EFA produces materials, facilitates events and hosts webinars to equip editors and proofreaders with the tools to carry out our mandate. Topics and resources include:
- Editing for conscious and inclusive language
- Microaggressions in editing: Understanding bias and undoing harm
- Trans allyship for writers and editors
- Word list of diversity and contested terms
- Sensitivity reads: A guide for professional editors
- Language bias: An editor’s guide to biased language
- Respectful querying with nuance
Our peers in professional freelance editing have made great strides in producing materials to demystify and explain the key concepts governing conscious and inclusive editing; many language practitioners facilitate training courses in this area.
Leading practitioners have published online sources such as regular newsletters and podcasts; a few examples follow:
- Louise Harnby: see, in particular, Conscious language resources for writers and editors.
- Crystal Shelley, who asserts ‘[e]diting is about more than just fixing words on a page – it’s about assessing the impact those words can have on readers.’ She facilitates several courses, notably one on learning: How to help writers choose their language with compassion and intent.
- Karen Yin: The Conscious Style Guide provides general guides and tips to develop a basic understanding of inclusive, empowering and respectful language.
- Alex Kapitan: The Radical Copyeditor runs an anti-oppressive language project that produces materials on the power of language to bring about positive change and provides guidelines on how to edit for inclusivity.
- The Diversity Style Guide helps media professionals write with accuracy, authority and sensitivity. This guide is a compilation of definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organisations and other resources. The guide contains more than 700 terms related to race or ethnicity, disability, immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol and geography. Users can browse the stylebook by letter or by category using one of the topic glossaries in a drop-down menu or looking up a term in a search box.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it serves as a starting point for those needing orientation into editing for conscious and inclusive language.
PEG member intention
In summary, it is possible (and necessary) for a professional organisation of volunteers to develop a mission statement that is unambiguous about its commitment to diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging. In line with international best practices, all new and existing members will be required to confirm their acceptance of the organisation’s mission statement. In the same vein, as professional language practitioners and members of a progressive editors’ guild, it is our responsibility to give expression to PEG’s mission statement by constantly upskilling ourselves, staying abreast of current trends and best practices, aligning our work with our values and ensuring that we, as conscious and inclusive editors, provide the highest levels of editorial support to our clients.