At one point in time, the Scribe Source employed four different editors who all received a minor in Publishing and Printing Arts from the same school, Pacific Lutheran University. While they each went through the program at different times, this unique degree steered them all into the world of professional editing and, eventually, to working for the Scribe Source. So, for this back-to-school edition of our Team Spotlight, we checked in with team members Hannah Comerford, Rachel Sandell, Emily Fahey, and team “alumna” Rachel Diebel and asked them:
What made you decide to pursue a degree in publishing and editing, and what was the best editing lesson you learned in school?
Hannah Comerford, Senior Editor at the Scribe Source: I chose the PPA minor after reading the class descriptions. A class devoted to how books have developed over time and shaped society? Sign me up! The Book in Society, Publishing Procedures, and Art of the Book classes were all as engaging as I had hoped. I enjoyed discussing the formula for the basic romance novel, creating my own broadsides with the printing press, and learning proofreading symbols. But beyond just the enjoyment of the class, I found that this minor had some of the most direct impact on my life after graduation. The Publishing Procedures class in particular revealed that I had a knack for proofreading, which in turn brought me to the Scribe Source in 2011.
One of the most helpful editing tips I picked up in my Publishing Procedures class was to use erasable colored pencils and paper copies of manuscripts while proofreading. Printing out manuscripts is imperative for catching all errors in a final proof―your eyes will catch more in print than on a screen. A red pen, though easy to see, can’t be erased when you change your mind. And if your client does see the edited pages, purple lead will look less intimidating than red ink. Pulling out the Crayola pencils and printing a novel may feel odd in today’s digital world, but it’s a great habit that has proven very helpful over the last decade.
Rachel Sandell, Editor at the Scribe Source: I decided to pursue PPA on a whim after taking a couple of courses that would satisfy my English requirements. I had no idea that Publishing and Printing Arts existed until talking a bit with my professor! I started taking more PPA classes, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. Just the names of the courses were enough to hook me: Art of the Book, The Book in Society, etc. I learned the intricacies of the book, how it has impacted―and been impacted by―society, and how to craft a physical booklet myself. Everything about the degree was perfect for me and my almost-unhealthy obsession for books. By better understanding the publishing and printing arts, my love for books and the art of crafting them only grew! I didn’t know it was possible to fall deeper in love with literature.
Publishing Procedures was especially fascinating to me, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to be an editor. Of course, I’m a writer first and foremost, but I had never even considered editing and proofreading as possibilities until I realized how fun they were in this class. I started as an editorial intern shortly after, joined the Scribe Source over the summer, and I’ve been editing ever since!
The most useful editing trick I learned is to pay special attention to titles, headers, and bolded and italicized text. This is where mistakes often hide, and it’s easy for the eye to skim over them. The use of editing shorthand is also very helpful. It saves a lot of time and feels like writing in a secret code!
Emily Fahey, Writing Team Coordinator at the Scribe Source: I have always loved all things books, and I was the kind of kid who would correct typos in my textbooks. So, when my best friend and I walked into the program fair during our first year at PLU, the Publishing and Printing Arts table immediately caught our eyes.
From my very first class (The Book in Society), I fell in love with the program. What I loved most about the PPA minor was how comprehensive it was. I learned how to bind books and set type, and I experienced the despair of knocking over a typeset tray and literally having to “mind my p’s and q’s” to get all the letters and symbols back in order. I was fascinated by the intricacies of copyright law and learned why Disney keeps fighting to extend their copyright limits. Learning the practical tips and tricks for being a meticulous editor validated my younger self, who would mark corrections in textbooks. And I adored the rigorous conversations we had around why romance novels are often pooh-poohed and yet remain the number one best-selling genre, or how we would categorize A Million Little Pieces after James Frey admitted that he had fabricated parts of his “memoir.” I also appreciated the way the PPA program provided the flexibility of choosing an emphasis in Communications, Art, or English to further explore ways that a publishing degree could be used professionally.
The number one lesson I learned is to check your headlines. That is where the majority of mistakes and typos slip through. This lesson has served me in every job I’ve held, whether I was writing an article, reviewing a newspaper layout, proofing fundraising copy, or editing a dissertation. Even when you think an edit is complete, go back one more time and read through all the headlines and section headers!
Rachel Diebel, former editor at the Scribe Source, Assistant Editor at Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan: I found out about the PPA minor while I was searching for colleges online and then discovered more during a campus visit. I knew I wanted to be involved in publishing in some way, and so the PPA program was pivotal in my choosing PLU―plus, I loved Professor Robinson, who runs the program! She made me believe that I could actually work in publishing, which is the biggest thing I took away from her. I absolutely adored the art classes, where we learned how books are physically made and got to make them ourselves on a traditional press! Since so much of my college education was essay writing and reading, it was nice to be able to do something more physical with a tangible end product.
This sounds very simple, but attention to detail is the number one lesson I learned. Even the classes that don’t seem quite as applicable, such as the art classes, really taught me how to focus and look for the details in all writing. If your “q” is upside down while typesetting, you need to know sooner rather than later! That’s a skill that I used every day at the Scribe Source, and it’s been invaluable to me as an editor.