Intern’s Report: Stop and Smell the Pages
Much like the process of selecting perfumes for The Book of Scented Things, there is a sort of art form to good writing. Anyone can be taught to write, but not everyone, particularly in this day and age of character counts and texting shortcuts, understands the beauty of the written word in its correct form. If I had a penny for the each time I have had friends say, “Oh, I thought it was spelled rediculous,” I would have already paid off my student loans. The biggest letdown was when the Associated Press changed e - mail to email because it, essentially bowed down to popularity over the former usage or in press release terminology, “it evolved.” If you can guess, I refuse to comply.
I know, not everything you write needs a meticulous grammar check. I, for one, am guilty of being a terrible texter who often forgets important articles or punctuation marks. However, when it comes to essays or creative writing, it’s important to employ this art of proofreading. How can I take a job offer seriously when it makes so egregious an error as misspelling an institution’s name? The world is not spinning so fast that you can’t take extra time to scan documents for proper spellings and word placements. When Lindsay and Professor Dubrow talked with me about the job of the Literary House Press Intern for the spring semester, I jumped at the thought of being able to assist in proofreading the anthology. I think I even gushed, saying, “Even if you don’t want me as an intern, I can totally help proofread on the side.” Hey, if my science friends can get excited over agonists and antagonists in cell terminology, I can get excited when people remember to use the oxford comma.
Anyhow, proofreading as an art does not necessarily take talent so much as it takes consciousness and practice. No one can give you the right sense of smell to differentiate good perfumes or the sense of taste to select the best wine, but everyone can master the art of proofreading. It’s a process, really. And since I like lists, I’m going to describe it as so, using The Book of Scented Things as a guide.
Phase 1: The Initial Reading
So, you get the manuscript in front of you. It’s printed in all its 200 page glory, and it sort of feels like a secret Christmas present because, sitting in front of you is a book that is yet unpublished. Imagine how the editors of the Harry Potter series felt! You, as the intern proofreader, are one of the few sets of eyes that are able to read this anthology in its entirety, and you’re going to get to do it long before its fall release date. (I’m not going to lie to you when I say this initial phase might just be the reason why I want to go into editing and publishing in the long run. Constant Christmas mornings? Yes, please!)
Let this initial reading be you reading this book for the first time, like a regular reader. Get into the plot of the poems, marvel at that incredible use of an adjective, and do not worry about any proper proofreading just yet. Even if you try to look at this new manuscript with editor glasses you’re going to slip into your reader glasses anyway, so enjoy it! Get lost in the descriptions, imagine the scents, and picture the imagery.
Phase 2: The Style Sheet Reading
Okay, so now that you’ve gotten the reading-for-pleasure out of your system, it’s time to force those proofreading glasses back on. One of the processes that the LHP does, which I absolutely love, is to put together a comprehensive style sheet of all the words or phrases that require a second look. Now, these sheets are not necessarily misspells or misuses of words. They are simply uncommon words or phrases that you will want to double check. For example, we listed every contributor’s name and the perfumes on the list simply because they weren’t common language. Sometimes this leads to a change in the word (and this is where the hyphen debates arise), other times it simply means nothing but that we took time to look at it twice.
Once you’ve completed the style sheet, you’ll want to send each contributor a list pertaining to their piece and a PDF file of what their poem will ultimately look like. If you found anything in your style sheet reading that would require an explanation, then it is called a “query,” and the contributor will reply with their answer or preference. These queries can be the spelling of a word, confusion over a foreign word or name, or the decision to hyphenate or not hyphenate something.
Phase 3: The Proofread Reading
Now is when you get to go crazy with the red pen, marking up any instance that might be questionable. Fix cliche to cliché or add that forgotten comma in its rightful place. I think I’ve waxed on about the beauty of grammar checking enough, so I’ll save you from the additional paragraph.
Phase 4: The Read, Read, Read Reading
You’re going to want to read this piece so many times that that initial Christmas morning read will seem a distant dream. You’re going to read it enough that when you finally say something to Professor Hall, it’s going to be, “Oh you wrote ‘Not Her Body’ for the anthology” without even needing to double check it. This way when you send it to print (in our case, 48 Hour Books in Akron, Ohio, which is a fantastic service that everyone should use because their customer service is so good), you are 100% confident in its perfection.
Phase 5: The Marvel Reading
This reading, which may never repeat itself or which may repeat itself constantly, is the reading you do of the hard copy. The book is printed, it’s beautiful, it looks like a work of art, and it is yours now, meant to be placed on your bookshelf. Your job is done, and now you simply can return to the initial reading phase and read it for pleasure when you like, knowing that you contributed the small, but refined art of proofreading and the continuance of literature.
Oh, and you’ll get to see your name in print on the inside pages as physical proof. Instagram that page as you like.