Monday, February 4, 2013

Common Magazine Terms Defined

As I jumped into a discussion of magazines in my freelance writing class earlier today, I discovered I was talking in what many students in my class thought was a foreign tongue.

As so many people do when they're speaking the language of their profession, I rattled off magazine-specific terms and phrases in my discussion as if everyone sitting around the table with me knew what I meant.

As it turns out, once I stopped to ask them, most did not.

So I slowed down and spent some time explaining a few of the most important terms to my students, because the truth of the matter is, if you're going to be a successful magazine freelancer or editor or even designer, you need to speak the language.

Here are a few of the most common terms we discussed or will be discussing soon:

Departments/Front of Book (FOB)/Back of Book (BOB)—Departments are the sections generally found at the front of the magazine (or front of book—FOB) and the back of the magazine (or back of book—BOB). Departments usually feature smaller articles focused on a specific topic, which are grouped together in the same section of the magazine. (Side note: At many publications, departments are a great place for freelancers to "break in" to the publication.)

Features/Feature Well—Features are the key content of the magazine. Most publications include a variety of types of features each month—say, a profile or two, an investigative piece, maybe a service article of some type. The length may vary, but generally these articles are longer and more in-depth than what you'll find in the departments. Feature articles are usually grouped together in the feature "well," located at the center of the magazine.

Coverlines—The short titles or article descriptions that appear on the cover of the magazine and are used to "sell" the content in that issue (sometimes called "sell lines").
Masthead—A partial- or full-page list at the front of the magazine (usually near the table of contents and/or editor's letter) that credits the magazine staff including editors, designers, proofreaders, photographers, and executives associated with the publisher. (Sometimes lucky freelancers even get listed in the masthead as contributors.)

Table of Contents (TOC)—The listing of all departments and feature articles included in that particular issue of the magazine—often with brief descriptions of each—found near the beginning of the book.

Hed—Magazine slang for "headline," or the title of each article.

Dek—Magazine slang for "subtitle," or the words located near the title that provide additional clues as to what the article is about. (Not all department pieces include a dek; most feature articles do.)
Subhead—Short phrases or words used within longer articles to break up different sections of the story and provide organization.

Byline—The name of the author listed with the article to give him/her credit.

Cutline—The words that appear near a photo to describe the image or its context (also called a "caption").

Folio—The line that usually appears near the outside bottom of most magazine pages, which generally lists some combination of the page number, name of the magazine, and/or date of the issue.

Initial cap—The first letter of a word designed in a different typeface and/or larger type size to stand out (sometimes also called a "niche cap"); it's often used to introduce the first letter of the first word in a feature article.

Dingbat—Also called an endmark, it's the small image or icon some magazines use to signify the end of an article.

Pull quote—Words pulled from an article that are designed to serve as a textual element on a photo or a visual break on a text-heavy page.

What common magazine terms did I forget? Let me know!