SIM/Procedure: SIM layouts

January 29, 2004: Issue 74

SIM STYLE: The way we do the things we do
We continue our focus on SIM routing procedures. Remember to send your questions my way, and I’ll make sure they get addressed in an upcoming issue.

THIS WEEK: First-proof layouts
• Layouts route on their own. Once a story reaches layout stage, stash away the story folder somewhere and route only the layout with the routing slip attached.
Why it matters: Why risk losing film or other story-folder contents? The layout is all that’s needed.

• Before routing a first-proof layout to CEs, make sure the story is copyfit; captions, sidebars, liftouts, charts, and other story elements are real text; and standing elements such as credits, resources lines, Web refers, running titles, and end bugs are in place.
Why it matters: Making a first proof as complete as possible saves everyone time on reroutes and spot checks later. There may be times when it makes sense to route a first proof even if not all elements are complete (such as when you’re waiting for product price information or for a final illustration). In those cases, indicate on the layout which elements are not final.

• If a story is in the “At CEs” folder, do not make changes to the electronic document (no matter how seemingly insignificant). If you must make a change while a story is in the “At CEs” folder, ask to get the layout back from your lead CE or group liaison first. Why it matters: Stories in the “At CEs” folder have been sent on disk to freelancers outside the building. Once returned, those files are copied back onto the server. Any changes that were made while a story is in the “At CEs” folder will be lost when the file is saved over. Remember, regardless of where a file resides on the server, only the person in possession of the routing slip should make changes to it.

For more information, see Issue 7273.

GRAMMAR: What’s the difference between “lineal” and “linear”?
“Lineal” refers to pattern—things arranged in lines. It may also refer to a line of ancestry. “Linear” refers to a single dimension, and in our magazines it’s the word we want in most uses.
incorrect: The countertop costs $50 per lineal foot.
correct: The countertop costs $50 per linear foot.
incorrect:To define spaces, the designer arranged the furniture in a linear fashion.
correct: To define spaces, the designer arranged the furniture in a lineal fashion.

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SIM/Procedure: SIM color rule II

November 13, 2003: Issue 71
SIM STYLE: Color rule redux
Which of the following examples is hyphenated correctly?
example one: The room’s focal point is a forest green wall.
example two: The room’s focal point is a cherry-red wall.

Would you believe both are correct? SIM style is to defer to Webster’s 11th on hyphenation of colors—in all uses. “Forest green” is in Web 11 as two words, so that’s how it appears in SIM copy, even as an adjective. “Cherry red” is not in Web 11, so just as with any other compound adjective, it’s hyphenated.

When faced with a color question, start by looking it up in Web 11. If the color appears there, you’re in the clear: Treat it the same way in all uses. If a color is not in Web 11, SIM style generally follows standard rules of hyphenation. The new (updated May 2003) step-by-step color rule in the SIM Stylebook will help you with any specific color. Just start with Step 1 and continue answering “yes” or “no” until you find the correct style.

Note: Two-color combinations, such as “blue-green” and “orange-red” are always hyphenated.

For more information see Issue 30.

GRAMMAR: Do “if” and “whether” mean the same thing?
No, they don’t. These conjunctions are used in much the same way, but the two have distinctly different meanings that are often confused. Use “if,” which means “in the event that,” to signify a conditional—a hypothetical event, probable or improbable. Use “whether,” which means “if it happens that,” to signify two or more alternatives.
correct: If it rains today, the event will be canceled.
correct: If Shelly can’t make it, Juanita will go in her place.
correct:She said that if she can’t attend, Juanita will make the presentation.
incorrect: Shelly doesn’t know yet if she can go.
correct:Shelly doesn’t know yet whether she can go.
correct: The presentation will be made regardless of whether Shelly attends.
incorrect: Shelly asked if she had researched costs.
correct:Shelly asked whether she had researched costs.
correct: Juanita wasn’t sure whether the cost information was accurate.

Note: “Whether or not” is redundant. The “or not” is implied. Just say “whether.”
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SIM/Procedure: SIM color rule I

May 15, 2003: issue 59

SIM STYLE: Colors of change
The beloved SIM “color rule” (the first subsection under Colors in the SIM Stylebook that addresses hyphenation) has finally changed to something that—we hope—makes a little more sense.

Here’s the essence of the new rule: If a color appears in Webster’s 11th, treat it the same way in text regardless of usage. If it doesn’t, apply standard rules of hyphenation.

• “Forest green” appears in Web 10 as two words. (Always use as two words in copy.)
correct: The forest green wall creates a focal point.
correct: The designer painted the wall forest green.

• “Jet-black” appears in Web 11 hyphenated. (Always hyphenate in copy.)
correct: The jet-black wall creates a focal point.
correct: The designer painted the wall jet-black.

• “Pale blue” does not appear in Web 11. (Hyphenation depends on usage.)
correct: The pale-blue wall creates a focal point.
correct: The designer painted the wall pale blue.

Copy editors will receive a copy of the full rule to replace that page in their stylebooks. If anyone else would like one, too, let me know and I’ll get a copy to you.

GRAMMAR: How should I treat numbered items in a list?
Use numbers or letters, either followed by periods or set off typographically—not followed by a single parenthesis. Parens must always come in pairs and cannot be properly used alone.

1. Dig hole.
2. Plant tree.
3. Water.
1) Dig hole.
2) Plant tree.
3) Water.
A. Bucket
B. Spade
C. Hose
A) Bucket
B) Spade
C) Hose

For more information, see Issue 39.

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Religious References: Heavenly words

May 14, 2009: Issue 289

Here’s how to treat some words that describe bliss.

capitalize in all references
Tour a lush backyard Eden.

lowercase unless you’re referring to the place where God lives
With a fancy new paper trimmer, this scrapbooker was in heaven.
Serious illness often brings up kids’ questions about God and Heaven.

capitalize in all references
Storage is the key to kitchen Nirvana.

lowercase in all references
Perfectly grilled ribs must be the food of paradise.

lowercase unless you’re literally referring to a perfect society
The annual show is a quilter’s utopia.
Unless you live in a Utopia, stress sneaks into your life every day.

About that geography question: Reader Talley Sue Hohlfeld explained why it’s proper to use city and state names as modifiers. They’re not adjectives in this case but attributive nouns. As to why the same isn’t true of most country names, she suggested that we don’t need to make countries into attributive nouns because they already have adjectival forms (France/French, China/Chinese). We’ll buy that, Talley Sue. Thanks, and there’s a prize on the way.

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Ranges: Range limits II

August 7, 2003: Issue 65

SIM STYLE: If I use an ampersand (&) to replace the word “and” in a series, do I still use the serial comma?
No. The two marks appear awkward together.
incorrect: Style, News, & Inspiration
correct: Style, News & Inspiration

Note: An ampersand should be used only in display type, usually headlines or cover blurbs, for visual appeal. In all other uses, the word “and” is most often appropriately written out.

GRAMMAR: Is it correct to specify a range, then add “or more”?
No. Any time we give a range, it should be considered all-encompassing. Usually when we see this construction, it’s with prices or temperatures, where we intend to give a typical range yet indicate the value may sometimes go higher.
example: The widgets cost $20-$40 or more.

The problem with this construction is that the “or more” makes the upper boundary indefinite, rendering the numbers themselves meaningless. A tweak in the wording, to offer either slightly less or slightly more information, is usually all it takes to fix the problem.
correct: A typical widget costs $20-$40.
correct: Most widgets cost $20-$40, but some can cost as much as $100.

I tend to prefer the “slightly less information” tack. Even the least savvy consumers know that just because they can pick up a toilet seat at Home Depot for $25 doesn’t mean J.Lo and Ben aren’t going to drop $100,000 for a diamond-encrusted model. The sky is almost always the limit, and there’s usually not much to be gained by pointing that out.

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Ranges: Range limits I

May 1, 2003: Issue 58

SIM STYLE: How do I handle heights of people and things?
It’s SIM style to always use numerals with dimensions and to write out the unit measure itself.
incorrect: The living room has a nine-foot ceiling.
incorrect: The living room has a 9-ft. ceiling.
correct: The living room has a 9-foot ceiling.
incorrect: Betty, who is five-foot-one, appreciates the change.
incorrect: Betty, who is 5′ 1″, appreciates the change.
correct: Betty, who is 5-foot-1, appreciates the change.
incorrect: The hutch stands six feet six inches tall.
incorrect: The hutch stands 6′ 6″ tall.
correct: The hutch stands 6 feet 6 inches tall.

Notice the differences in punctuation in the correct examples above. Apply standard rules of hyphenation to heights used a compound modifiers, as in examples 1 and 2. Otherwise, use no punctuation at all, as in example 3.

For more information, see Issue 73.

GRAMMAR: Give it your all, and then some …
Phrases such as the following often creep into our publications: “Similar products cost up to $2,000 or more.”

What’s wrong with this structure? We’re setting an upper limit ($2,000) and then exceeding it (“or more”) in the same sentence. We can do one or the other, but not both. As written, all this sentence says is that similar products cost money—period—as ANY amount fits this definition. We probably mean to imply that most products will cost $2,000 or less, but that a few may be more expensive. Simply rewording will fix the problem. It’s generally safe to assume the sky’s the limit and not even mention the “or more,” but if you feel it’s needed, make sure it’s logical.
correct: Most similar products cost up to $2,000.
correct: Similar products cost up to $2,000, although some can be more expensive.

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Ranges: Page ranges

August 21, 2003: Issue 66

SIM STYLE: Out on the (page) range
Around here, where we’re constantly looking at issue maps, story lineups, tracking documents, and contents memos, we think of stories by the number of spreads they occupy in a magazine. So when it comes time to direct readers to those stories in editor’s letters, TOCs, and other references, we have a tendency to identify the full range of pages they cover. That’s almost always unnecessary. Simply point readers to the beginning of a story or section.
unnecessary: See “The Best Story Ever,” on pages 36-42.
better: See “The Best Story Ever,” page 36.

There are times when we want to point out to readers the value of a large section, and in those cases, we may choose to use a range of pages.
correct: See our bonus special section, pages 32-63.

This tactic is best utilized if the reference doesn’t already specify the number of pages in the section, as in the above example. If it does, give just the beginning page number.
correct: See our bonus 32-page special section, starting on page 32.

GRAMMAR: When it comes to dimensions and units of measure, why do some plural subjects take a singular verb?
They don’t. The confusion here is that some subjects that appear to be plural on first glance are actually singular.
example: The extra 100 square feet make/makes a world of difference.
We’re talking about square feet, and we’ve got 100 of them, so the subject must be plural, right? Wrong. We’re talking about ONE SPACE that measures 100 square feet. The subject is actuallysingular, and the correct verb is “makes.”

Check out these more obvious examples.
correct:She says 12 feet is [not “are”] too deep for the pool.
correct:She says 80 degrees is [not “are”] a perfect temperature to picnic.

It goes without saying that we’re talking about ONE DEPTH and ONE TEMPERATURE here. When you’re confused about dimensions, apply the same logic. If the subject refers to one area, keep the verb singular.

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Ranges: Number ranges, limits

April 14, 2005: Issue 87

Minimums and maximums should be specific numbers, not ranges. When you mean to specify a range, leave out the limits.
incorrect: Plant at least 6—8 inches deep.
correct: Plant at least 6 inches deep.
correct: Plant 6—8 inches deep.

incorrect: Space the hooks no more than 12—15 inches apart.
correct: Space the hooks no more than 15 inches apart.
correct: Space the hooks 12—15 inches apart.

For more on ranges, see Style on the Go Issue 65 on

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Ranges: False ranges

May 20, 2004: Issue 76

SIM STYLE: Ranges that Aren’t
Watch out for: a numerical range that isn’t.

example: Apply two to three coats of polyurethane, lightly sanding between each coat. 

What’s wrong with that sentence? It creates a range of “two to three,” but how does one apply more than two coats and less than three? It’s a nonexistent range. The phrase should read “two or three.”

There’s nothing wrong with creating a range of two consecutive whole numbers, as long as there’s a possibility of falling somewhere in between.
correct: The process takes five to six months.
correct: The homes have three or four bedrooms.
correct: Allow one to two hours to plant four or five rows of vegetable plants.

The point may seem picayune, but getting it right (like so many of the finer points of editing) sends a subtle message to readers that they have in their hands a top-notch publication in which no detail is overlooked.

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Quotes: Single quotes in display type

September 4, 2003: Issue 67

SIM STYLE: Why do I sometimes see single quotes used in headlines where we would normally use double quotes?

In display type (headlines, niche caps, and sometimes pullouts), use single quotes rather than double quotes. Traditionally, using single quotes in large type was probably a matter of saving space. That’s not generally a concern in our magazines the same way it would be for, say, a newspaper headline writer, but single quotes are simply cleaner and less clunky in the large type treatments we often use. (This rule does not apply to graphic treatments of quotation marks apart from the words themselves.)

Use your eye, but as a rule of thumb, use single quotes with type sizes over 30 points.

GRAMMAR: Every time I use the phrases “warm temperatures” or “cool temperatures” the copy editors change them. Why?

Although no reader will misunderstand what’s intended by these phrases, temperatures themselves aren’t hot or cold. A climate can be hot or cold. So can an oven or a refrigerator. But temperatures are simply numbers, and “high” and “low” are better descriptors.
incorrect: The plant flourishes in warm temperatures.
correct: The plant flourishes in warm climates.
incorrect: The ceramics are fired at a hot temperature.
correct: The ceramics are fired at a high temperature.

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