Your Editor, Andrea Howe
I’ve always noticed typos and incorrect usage in books, on billboards, even in subtitles. I can’t watch the news without cringing because a newscaster misused or mispronounced a word.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a copy editor before I knew the name. I was tired of seeing errors in the school paper. So I went to the adviser and asked if there was a position for someone to check spelling and grammar. She told me it was the job of the editor in chief and turned me away. Imagine my horror when, in my senior year, they misspelled my name in the paper in a feature story they did on me.
Had that teacher allowed me to edit the paper, I might have taken a different path in college. Lacking that experience, I went with my second choice—computer animation.
I couldn’t afford the fancy art schools, so I took my Cal Grant scholarship to the University of California, Irvine, where I was accepted under electrical engineering. After speaking with my academic counselor about my future career choice, I switched over to computer engineering before classes even started.
Not long after I began my college education, I found that not only did they not have a major in computer animation, but there was not a single class on the subject, despite what the counselor said.
That simple twist of fate put me in a position to pursue my two favorite pastimes—reading and asking questions that, while interesting, most people don’t really care about. So, naturally, I changed my major to philosophy.
I loved it. I learned how to read for deeper meaning, to find the question in the midst of an answer, and that sometimes the only way to express a convoluted idea is with a convoluted sentence.
All this was wonderful, but I didn’t have a career path. I didn’t want to teach, and the life of a starving philosopher did not appeal to me. It was at this time that a friend of mine, who was studying journalism at another school, told me to go to my school newspaper’s office and tell them I wanted to be a copy editor. I asked him what that was. He said simply, “It’s what you do.”
The New University hired me once I passed the test. Not long after I started working there, I knew I had found my calling.
Three months out of college, I was hired as a proofreader at Bowne & Co. in Dominguez Hills, California. After a year and a half, I was promoted to supervisor. The work was interesting, but it was a long commute in L.A. traffic. I spoke with some of my coworkers and decided I wanted to start my own freelancing business and work from home.
In January of 2002, I sent out résumés, and by the middle of February, I was turning away work because I had to spend time at Bowne. I knew then that it was time to leave.
Few people my age get to pursue a career dream as I am. I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Many people have mentioned to me how they would have liked to be able to do what I’m doing. The people at Bowne have said they’ll miss me, but that shows that I’ve been a good employee. I like to leave employers with a good impression.