The Language of Publishing: A, B, C

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September 2012
by Linda Carlson

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In a post on, where Joel Friedlander offers “Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books,” he describes what things were like in publishing and printing “back in the bad old days,” when “everyone was a specialist.” As he notes, “If you wanted to get type set, you went to a typesetter, and when you wanted to print a book you had to actually go to the book printer. Although it seems like things would have been more difficult to accomplish, in some ways they were easier . . . because the system of production was clear, structured, hierarchical.”

If you’re an old-timer adjusting to the demands of digital publishing, you may be struggling to understand pixels vs. picas, line screens vs. dpi, and RGB vs. CMYK. If you’re a newcomer to publishing, you may be mystified by its vocabulary and fearful that disaster will strike if you confuse em spaces with en dashes, gutters with margins, or signatures with units. And all of us sometimes have to deal with an author or a customer who needs a translation of traditional publishing terms.

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