Know Your Typography Terms

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Ever have trouble communicating with others regarding typography? Use these key terms to pave the way to better understanding.

  • ascender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends above the x-height.
  • baseline – The invisible line on which the letters rest.
  • boldface – A heavier version of the normal weight of a typeface.
  • centered – A typographic arrangement in which type appears in the center of a defined space.
  • characters – Individual letters or numbers.
  • condensed – A narrower version of the normal width of a typeface.
  • descender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends below the x-height.
  • drop cap – An enlarged initial letter that extends below the first base line of body text. A drop cap should be base aligned with one of the text’s base lines.
  • font – One design of a particular typeface. It includes all of the designed characters such as numerals and punctuation.
  • initial cap – A larger letter at the beginning of a block of text. An initial cap may be a drop cap, or it may sit on the first line of text.
  • italic – Type in which the letters are slanted to the right and drawn to suggest handwriting.
  • justified type – Lines of type that are flush on both the left and right edges.
  • kern – To tighten the space between letterforms to achieve optically-consistent letter spacing.
  • letter spacing – Insertion of space between the letters of a word to improve the appearance of a line of type.
  • line spacing/leading – In text, the space between the baseline of one line and the baseline of the next.
  • loose lines – Lines of text with too much space between letters and words.
  • point size – The size of type measured from the top of the ascenders to the bottom of the descenders.
  • ragged – Multiple lines of type set with either the left or right edge uneven.
  • roman – Name often applied to the Latin alphabet as it is used in English and most other European languages.  Also used to identify vertical type as distinct from italic.
  • sans serif: Type without serifs. (The display text in this manual is sans serif.)
  • serifs – Small strokes at the ends of the main strokes of letters. (The body text in this manual has serifs.)
  • soft return – A carriage return that breaks to a new line but doesn’t start a new paragraph. In most programs, you can type a soft return by pressing the shift-return keys.
  • text type – Type, usually between 6 and 14 points, used for text compositions.
  • typeface – A named type design, such as Garamond, Helvetica, or Times Roman.
  • type family – All the variations of a particular typeface. Type families usually consist of the basic roman, italic, and bold. Larger type families may include condensed, expanded, outlined, as well as a variety of different weights.
  • typography – The style and arrangement of the headline and subhead letters on a page.
  • x-height – The height of lower-case letters without ascenders and descenders. It is defined by the base line and the mean line.

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Magazine design is much more than simply arranging type and art on a spread. Your magazine’s job is to talk to your readers in a way they can understand. Your words do that, but the magazine’s design also talks to your readers. What is your magazine telling your readers?

Your readers may not know what magazine architecture is, but they will recognize a poorly thought out design system. Is your magazine’s architecture sloppy or have you developed templates for departments, created a carefully thought-out design system, and identified usage standards? Does your magazine have a visual identity or is it a hodge podge of pictures and text? Do your readers recognize your brand and identify with it?

Your magazine’s design is just as important as its editorial content. Even if you hire someone to handle your magazine’s design you need to know how to communicate with the designer.

As an editor you may be drawn to the editing course. But, please consider whether your magazine really needs a well-informed editor who can help form the magazine’s visual identity. You do not need to be an artist to attend this course. If you know your magazine and your reader, then you are a critical part of the design team. Ideally you should attend this course with your designer. But if your designer isn’t able to attend, you will still benefit from a course, which teaches you how to identify the characteristics of a well-designed magazine and gives you the tools to talk to your designer.

Learn more about the Magazine Publishing Institute

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An article status chart is one system to help keep track of the progress of work on upcoming issues. This sample chart (for a bimonthly magazine) shows the status of assigned articles. You may also choose to use project management software or cloud-based solutions.


*You can download this chart and many more free samples here.

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We are glad to let you know about a Spanish-language online course on creating comics from a Christian perspective.

A una semana del inicio de nuestro curso libre:

“Creación de Cómics con perspectivas cristianas”, con el diseñador gráfico Jose Carlos Gutiérrez.
Este curso lo ofrecemos LetraViva Red, Media Associates International (MAI) y COMIX35/Christian Comics International.
– No es necesario saber dibujar bien para conocer más y aprender a desarrollar este arte
– Editores y escritores: una oportunidad para familiarizarse con esta forma de comunicarse
– Un medio muy difundido entre los jóvenes de la cual podemos aprender mucho, y con la cual podremos comunicarnos mejor. Dirigido a personas de cualquier edad.

You can find more information in:

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Why do I need guidelines?

Most magazines will provide a set of “Writer’s Guidelines” to potential and interested writers who want to contribute to the publication. A good place to start, even before a query letter, is to obtain that magazine’s “Writer’s Guidelines.” This way you can make sure the article you want to write is in keeping with their publication’s audience, tone, etc. Reading the guidelines is a great way to not waste your time or the magazine’s by knowing ahead of time what they may want.

But what is it?

What are “Writer’s Guidelines” exactly? It is a one- or two-page description of the kind of articles the magazine publishes. Magazines should post writers guidelines on their website or send them to prospective writers, so you won’t need to keep explaining over and over what your magazine is looking for—, not looking for, —and the procedures for submitting articles.

Take a look at some free samples so you know what you are looking for as a writer or so you know what to provide to potential writers.

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By Matthew Stibbe

Thought leadership articles are one of the hardest forms of content marketing to get right. You need in-depth research, remarkable writing and impeccable style.


Thought leadership articles have to be based on solid industry knowledge, a good grasp of current trends and events and deep insight into a marketing persona’s potential problem or challenge. They need to be backed up by solid, objective data. They need skilful writing in order to weave in your company’s position and expertise without compromising credibility.

Here are a few research tips that will help you anchor your copy:

  • Start at the source. Scour your company intranet for documents, brochures or videos that could help. Devour and break down whatever you can find.
  • Ask an expert. Whether it’s a product expert from inside your company, a third party specialist or a happy customer, there is always someone out there who knows more than you. Interviews should be guided and informative conversations. Your role is to listen.
  • The site you can never cite. Wikipedia is fantastic for getting an overview of a person, a term or anything else. Of course you should never rely on it absolutely as a source, but start there.
  • Google News and Blog searches. Looking at what comes up in the headlines, and where in the world that topic is buzzing is a brilliant way to tap in to the heart of the current conversation. Start with Google News, then drill down into industry or interest-specific publications

Using your sources

Sourcing means getting information, writing with it and keeping track of where it came from. Attribution, at least in this context, is how you report where it came from in your writing. Sourcing is always a good thing. Attribution is more subtle.

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A transcript of the ASME-award winning editor’s keynote at the Folio: Association Media Summit.

Editor’s note: In March, editors, publishers, marketers, and other professionals from membership associations all across the country gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for the second annual Folio: Association Media Summit. Among the full-day event’s many highlights was the breakfast keynote delivered by Bob Love, legendary editor of AARP The Magazine, and a 35-year veteran of the magazine business whose ASME-award winning career has featured stops at eminent titles like Rolling Stone, New York, Playboy, and Reader’s Digest, among several others.

Below, enjoy a slightly abridged and lightly edited version of Love’s keynote address, full of invaluable wisdom on the inherent challenges involved in publishing an association magazine, and how they are different — and similar — to those faced by their counterparts in the mass consumer space.

Good morning, and welcome to the National Press Club. With your indulgence, a little story about Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa dies and appears at the Pearly Gates. God says, “Welcome to your heavenly rewards for a lifetime of work with the poor and the sick. It’s your turn now, Mother T, and I’m here to help. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do . . . Maybe something in cloud-computing?”

The little nun considers this for a moment or two, looks up at God and says:

“Well,” she says, “I always thought I’d be a great magazine editor.”

And there you have it folks, everything you need to know about our work in a single sentence.

On days when the copy is singing, your headlines are genius, your deadlines are met, and your art director is being angelic, the job feels like heaven.

On other typical days, you’re never far from being reminded — by a reader or a board member — that many people believe a deceased Albanian nun with no journalistic experience could do a better job than you running the magazine.

The organizers of this event asked me to talk to you about my long experience in the trenches of consumer magazines: Something like 35 years now that I think about it. To see what lessons I may have learned that can be transferred to you and your publications, which like mine, now have the advantages and drawbacks of a built-in audience — membership.

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Here is a list of common terms used by magazine management professionals. Make sure you are communicating correctly by checking out the lingo and their definitions:

  • Audience: The people for whom your publication is produced.
  • Funding phase: A stage in the life of a magazine when funds are raised to launch the publication.
  • Launch phase: A stage in the life of a magazine during which publication begins.
  • Business strategy: A plan that defines what you want to do (your purpose), where you want to go (your vision), and how you want to get there (your goals).
  • Rate base: Refers to the level of circulation; the number of subscribers and/or single copy purchasers for each issue.
  • Vision: A written statement that defines where you want to go or the effect the publication should have on your target audience at a certain time in the future.
  • Employee: A paid staff member who regularly works on the publication.
  • Freelancer: A person who does work for the publication but is not a staff member.
  • Cross-tabulation analysis: To compare the readers’ answers on surveys with two or more variables. (Example: how all males answer question number three versus all females.)
  • Open-ended question: A question that suggests no answer but leaves space for the reader to write out an answer.
  • Ancillary products: Same as publication-related products.
  • Back issue: Any issue produced before the current issue.
  • Bulk sales: The sale of multiple copies of each issue to one location.
  • List rental: The practice of allowing other organizations to use your magazine’s subscriber mailing list to present their products or services. Usually money is charged for such a privilege.
  • Budget: A written financial plan showing how money will be spent and income received for a specific period of time.
  • Circulation: The various people who receive a particular issue of the publication (whether they pay for that issue or receive it free).
  • Circulation source: Any method used to obtain subscribers or readers of the publication.
  • Cover price: The price to purchase one copy of the publication.
  • Soft Offer: An offer on a subscription promotion that allows new subscribers to receive a trial issue of the publication without having to include payment until they decide they like the magazine.
  • Subscribers: People who pay in advance to receive a specific number of issues of the publication.
  • Frequency: The number of times each year a publication is produced.
  • Media kit: A collection of all information about advertising in the publication (rate card, advertising guidelines, sample copy of the publication, etc.), usually sent to potential advertisers.
  • Niche market: Any specific market that has a narrow focus, such as the markets of “pastors,” “book publishing companies,” etc.
  • “Rack” rates: The standard quoted and written rate at which advertising is charged. Actual advertising rates may vary from rack rates if the advertising staff choose to charge a price different from the standard.
  • Rate card: A written list of the type, size, and cost of advertisements that are acceptable in the publication.
  • In-room copy: Marketing pieces left in the rooms of a conference center for guests.
  • Package insert: A small printed marketing flyer or card that is inserted in the boxes or packages sent out by a book publisher.
  • Positioning: How the publication compares to other publications and its unique qualities.
  • Trade publisher: A publishing company that produces products primarily for other businesses, churches or companies.
  • Universe: The total number of people who fit your target audience, whether they are subscribers or not.

For more insight into the management of magazines, check out our DVD series and manual.

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By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

Conversations among writers, editors and publishers about the state of publishing often turn to the short attention span of readers. While I understand the concern and realize that complex topics take more than 140 characters to develop, there are benefits to short, focused content.

Writing short forces the writer and editor to carefully focus the main idea and judiciously choose words, as extraneous details are cut. This results in clear, direct content.

Writing short gives the reader a clear takeaway. Rather than wading through multiple examples and ideas, the reader can access one memorable nugget.

Writing short allows space for additional graphics to carry a message. While writers and editors might consider themselves “word” people, they are communicators. Words and graphics together communicate. By keeping content short, there is space for graphic elements to reinforce the message.

Looking back at magazines I edited more than 10 years ago, word count on a page was often 800 – 900 words for an 8-1/2″ x 11″ page. Now my target is 500 – 600 words per page with much more space for graphic design. Did people read every word of an 800 word article and remember it all? Does the reader even notice that the content is shorter?

Short, focused content communicates! This blog is 215 words.

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