Next Stop: Your Magazine Dream Job

The Words Every Magazine Assistant Should Know

By Kristin Granero

Whether you’ve just been hired for a first magazine gig (congrats!), or still job hunting (this can help!), it usually doesn’t take very long to notice the magazine industry has its own set of rules and vocabulary.

To give you a leg up (or, at the very least, keep you from embarrassing yourself in that staff meeting), we’ve rounded up some of the most commonly used magazine terms (you may want to save them on your phone for quick reference just in case).

This is the section of a magazine (or website) that lists out the “who’s who” behind every issue. In addition to a rundown of the entire staff, it isn’t uncommon to see regular contributors listed on the same or following page.

The term “hed” (short for headline) is often used in place of, or simultaneously with, title. For example, “3 Things You Should Be Doing Every Day.”

A “dek” is a short blurb of copy meant to immediately follow and support the “hed.” For example, a dek for the hed listed above might be “It’s not what you think! The fool-proof ways to be more productive.” For a meatier piece, you may add to or replace this with a longer intro, typically in the form of one to three “grafs” (short for paragraphs).

Front of Book/Back of Book
Also referred to as “F.O.B.” and “B.O.B.,” these sections refer to the front and back of the magazine (about one-third of the way in on either side). This is where you’ll typically find the shorter pieces– monthly “Top 10” or “What’s Hot”/”What’s Not” lists and columns– and get a good sense of the overall magazine style. Since content tends to follow a more regular pattern here, it can also be a good place to pitch when you’re just getting started or doing an edit test.

The “well” is the meaty part of the magazine, smack in the middle and typically sans-ads. This is where you’ll find longer, more in-depth pieces (also called “features”), like cover interviews, investigative pieces, fashion spreads, etc.

The “gutter” refers to the inside margins between two magazine pages, often where photo and style credits live.

Below the Fold
This term was originally used to distinguish the lower (less desirable) half of a newspaper cover, but has also been used in magazines and digital when referring to layout. For example, you might want to make sure a specific piece does not fall “below the fold” of a website (or require a user to scroll down) to ensure maximum visibility and clicks.

“TK” (which stands for “to come”) is often used as a placeholder when pieces of a story, like names, images, facts, are still being hashed out. For example, “As of press time today, Hillary Clinton was beating Bernie Sanders by TK points.”

A combination of “advertisement” and “editorial,” this refers to a sponsored section that is similar in look and tone to the rest of the magazine.

Media Kit
The “media kit” is a multi-page document (either print or digital, often found on a website) that contains key advertising information for a magazine, such as circulation (how many magazines are printed), paid circulation (how many people are buying), and page views (how many people are visiting the website).

The “CMS” stands for Content Management System, an application (such as Drupal or WordPress) that allows editors to input, edit, and publish content to a website via one user-friendly interface (typically without the need to have excessive developer knowledge).

Short for “Hypertext Markup Language,” this is the standard language used to create web pages and format the content within them. While you likely won’t be expected to create whole pages (that’s what the CMS is for), you may be expected to do some light coding (adding <i> in front of copy to make it italic, for example) from time to time.

Thanks to the “WYSIWYG” (short for “What You See Is What You Get”), an editing tool often built into the CMS to allow users to format copy and see exactly what it will look like once published, that “time to time” is becoming less frequent.

Short for “Search Engine Optimization,” SEO is the practice of optimizing content for major search engines (like Google and Yahoo). While larger media companies tend to bring on full teams of SEO specialists to ensure their magazine sites are “ranking” (showing up among the top results yielded for terms they deem important – “Women’s Magazines,” “Easy Hairstyles,” etc.), they often rely on editors to input the basics (such as key tags, meta description, etc.) when uploading articles to the CMS.

Also referred to as “shipping,” this refers to the cycle it takes an entire issue to be completed (and therefore “closed”or “shipped” to the printer). For example, you might tell someone you’re stuck at work all week trying to “close” or “ship” an issue.

Now go out and impress all your friends with your new mag language skills.


Want even more must-know mag terms? Ed keeps a handy dictionary for you.

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