#63 Upper & Lowercase (do you know which “case” this refers to?)

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#63 Upper & Lowercase
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UPPER & low­er­case, as in cap­i­tal & “small” let­ters, are called upper & low­er­case for a rea­son. It’s not because they are taller & shorter.

Upper & Lowercase job cases.The terms “upper” &low­er­case” orig­i­nated in the ear­ly days of hand-​​​set type where each char­ac­ter was cast on a sep­a­rate piece of met­al & stored in shal­low draw­ers known as job cas­es. Fre­quently there were two cas­es (draw­ers) for each font, one placed on top of the oth­er while com­posit­ing type. The upper case con­tained the majus­cules. The low­er case con­tained the minus­cules (these are the prop­er terms, though not heard much anymore).

This illus­tra­tion has the cas­es reversed — low­er­case is on top — to clear­ly show the var­i­ous sizes of indi­vid­ual com­part­ments need­ed to accom­mo­date the quan­tity of each low­er­case let­ter used for the aver­age com­po­si­tion. (The upper­case com­part­ments are all the same size.) There are more e’s used in the Eng­lish lan­guage than any oth­er let­ter, hence e is stored in the largest section.

Our friend the amper­sand is stored in the upper case (bot­tom in this illus­tra­tion), near the low­er right cor­ner: bot­tom row & sec­ond box in — see it?

Proof­read­ers’ marks

The red lines & dots in Amper­Art #63 Upper & Low­er­case are proof­read­ers’ marks. Although today’s man­u­scripts are proof­read & edit­ed with high­lights, tags & “sticky tag” call­outs — or just edit­ed direct­ly in the word pro­cess­ing or page lay­out pro­gram — there’s noth­ing quite like proof­ing a hard copy print­ed page — you know, paper, not pix­els. That’s usu­al­ly where the last elu­sive typo will be dis­cov­ered. (Anoth­er trick is to read the proof upside-​down.) Proof­ing hard copy is done best with a red pen & a set of good old-​fashioned proof­read­ers’ marks. Here’s a rather com­plete list:

Upper & Lowercase & many more proofreaders' symbols.


Upper & LowercaseCan you fig­ure out what the red proof­read­er’s marks in #63 Upper & Low­er­case mean?
Note: the design shows the final result after the request­ed revi­sions were car­ried out.
1. Close up (pull let­ters tighter together).
2. Make this a cap­i­tal (upper case) letter.
3. “Stet” — let stand, ignore changes, revert to original.
4. Change to lowercase.

Online ref­er­ence from Edit Fast, a ser­vice for writ­ers: online proof­read­ers’ marks chart.

Tri­va: See where it says “insert lead” & ”take out lead”? Most writ­ers & design­ers today know that “lead­ing” is the term for space between lines of type. But why is it called “lead­ing”? When type was set by hand (or even by machine, but still cast line-​by-​line) space was increased between the lines by insert­ing a flat strip of lead which var­ied from 14 point in thick­ness up to 12 points or more. Beyond stack­ing sev­er­al strips of lead for a very large blank space, blocks of wood were fre­quent­ly used. These strips real­ly were made of lead, which is why many com­pos­i­tors end­ed up with can­cer. (Many press oper­a­tors became alco­holics from inhal­ing the ink & sol­vent fumes. But that’s a dif­fer­ent department.)

Upper & Lowercase & all sorts of other edits!

Uh-​oh. The red pen.

This is how messy a page can get if an ama­teur writer is being red­lined by a pro­fes­sion­al edi­tor. This pho­to shows a gal­ley proof, so some of the proof­read­er’s marks might also indi­cate type­set­ter’s errors (typos) & artis­tic adjustments.

This image was “bor­rowed” from a won­der­ful­ly enter­tain­ing sto­ry on how copy edit­ing used to be. Read it here. Writ­ten by a Lon­don edi­tor, the term you’ll be read­ing is “sub-​editing” or “sub­bing,” not copy edit­ing as we call it in the US. Fiona Cul­li­nan’s mem­oirs of the days of when copy & paste meant razor blades & rub­ber cement are pure joy. Brings me back to the days of real gal­ley proofs & the “repro­duc­tion com­put­er.” Thanks, Fiona.

Image © Periodical Training Council training material.


Commas, dashes, upper & lowercase, syntax, spelling, &c.

The Fru­gal Editor

If you’re a writer on a bud­get — or if you’re just a com­pul­sive DIY­er — you can proof & edit, your­self, with a fan­tas­tic, thor­ough guide on self-​editing: The Fru­gal Edi­tor by Car­olyn Howard John­son. I high­ly rec­om­mend this valu­able & fru­gal invest­ment; see a few pages on ama​zon​.com.

The Fru­gal Book Promoter

Once you edit your book, you might want to sell it — right? Car­olyn’s flag­ship book in the Fru­gal series is The Fru­gal Book Pro­mot­er. See it here. This book is the most com­pre­hen­sive guide on self-​promoting (or with inex­pen­sive help of oth­ers) I’ve ever read. Just the one state­ment “start pro­mot­ing your book now, even if it’s not pub­lished yet, even if it’s not writ­ten yet!” is worth the price.

Yes, I designed the cov­ers (you’ll see that if you vis­it the ama­zon links) but I was pas­sion­ate about the project because both books are incred­i­bly thor­ough & help­ful, writ­ten by a bril­liant & delight­ful author & publisher.


 listen up!Print shop was my favorite class in junior & senior high. I print­ed my own busi­ness cards, greet­ing cards, & fly­ers (which I kept pre­cious­ly safe in a stor­age facil­i­ty for over 50 years, intend­ing to share my child­hood cre­ations with you in an arti­cle like this…until they were all auc­tioned off Feb. 8, 2014 & are now in a trash heap some­where along with thou­sands of oth­er bits & pieces of my life, career, art­work — & my soul). My desk is a mess right now — pens, mark­ers, papers & books are every­where* & I guess I’ve had the same bad habit of not putting things away since my ear­ly years. You see, the type that I set my fly­ers & such with in print shop should have been called not upper case & low­er­case, but “floor case.” Because I pied (print­ers’ term for spilled) more type than I set, & nev­er went back to pick it up off the floor. I just pulled more type out of the cas­es. My poor print shop instructor!

*But all my Cray­olas are in the box where they belong.

Production notes for #63 Upper & Lowercase:
Original size: 20x30 inches
Program: InDesign
Fonts: Garamond, Franklin
Ampersand: Franklin
Credits for #63 Upper & Lowercase:
Job cases: Unknown
Proofreaders’ marks: Pearson Higher Education (pear​son​high​ered​.com)
Mark-​up page: Fiona Cullinan, design​ersin​sights​.com © Periodical Training Council training material.
Cover of The Frugal Editor: I designed it — see the book here.


Relat­ed arti­cle in the Print­ing & Pub­lish­ing series:
#93 Work & Turn

For pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design, please vis­it Des­i­mone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

Enjoy & share…

10 thoughts to “#63 Upper & Lowercase (do you know which “case” this refers to?)”

  1. This is a super-​awesome graph­ic & post! I recalled some of what you wrote from my jour­nal­ism class and my time work­ing at the news­pa­per in New Zealand years ago. I tru­ly enjoy all the fas­ci­nat­ing details and espe­cial­ly the infor­ma­tion about leading…so sad, though, about the cancer.

    Thank you for the won­der­ful work you do, Chaz! It is very much appreciated!

  2. Hi Chaz,

    I always look for­ward to your new Amper Art. And always amazed with the store behind each new one. Anoth­er one hit out the park. My Friend

  3. This post brought back mem­o­ries of my first job as a reporter back in the days when lino­types were used to set each issue of The Salt Lake Tri­bune where I worked. I loved the news­room (type­writ­ers and rolls of newsprint paper to type on), but I loved the back­shop where the type was set just as much. What a love­ly (prob­a­bly poi­so­nous!) smell! And dir-r-r-ty! 

    I even had the good for­tune to meet my hus­band there. He man­aged the place­ment of the adver­tis­ing on each page and his desk was­n’t too far from that lino­type, molten lead and all!

    Oh, and thank you for includ­ing my books as part of this lit­tle his­to­ry les­son! I can’t tell you how much I love them! It’s beyond words – and ampersands!

    Car­olyn Howard-Johnson
    Mul­ti Award-​Winning Author of the HowToDoIt­Fru­gal­ly series for writ­ers includ­ing the sec­ond edi­tions of the Fru­gal Book Pro­mot­er (http://​bit​.ly/​F​r​u​g​a​l​B​o​o​k​P​r​omo and The Fru­gal Edi­tor (http://​bit​.ly/​F​r​u​g​a​l​E​d​i​t​o​r​K​ind )The lat­ter is e‑book only.for the time being.

    1. There’s a soap I use from time to time made with tea tree oil. It smells just like a press­room, like print­ing ink. I use the soap just for the won­der­ful (to me) aro­ma! But not before a date, unless she’s a printer.

    1. Don’t feel bad, Mary Ann. I don’t under­stand sci­ence. Near­ly blew up the class­room once.

  4. Excel­lent post, Chaz!

    You just brought back some mem­o­ries from my pre­vi­ous life as a type­set­ter. Being an “old school” guy, I remem­ber the proof marks you show here. And if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, the assem­bled type was put into a met­al device known as a “chase.”

    Very infor­ma­tive arti­cle. Well done!

  5. I <3 today’s Amper­Art! I espe­cial­ly love the “Sto­ry Behind the Sto­ry”! and the bonus Proof Read­er’s Marks.

    1. Thanks, Deb­bi. Typog­ra­phy has always been my pas­sion, so this was an enjoy­able arti­cle to write. It’s also one of my favorite Amper­Art designs; every­thing just fell into place (once I fig­ured out how to even­ly dis­trib­ute the alpha­bet char­ac­ters on each line).

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