December 1, 2007 | Alyson Stanfield

Listing Dimensions of Your Art Properly

Each stage of proofreading my book before it’s sent to the printer results in more precise editing than the last stage.

H x W x D

There are a couple of places in the book that list dimensions of artwork.

As I’ve said here many times, fine art is listed as HxWxD in inches or centimeters. I had always written dimensions as follows:

12 x 9″
12 x 9 inches

While the bottom version is fine, the top is not–according to the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, my style book preference). According to CMS, this is proper:

12 x 9 ”   (with a space after the last number if there is a space before and following the x)
12″x9″ (with no spaces, but the inch sign repeated)

Click here to download

This last one is the version I opted for in the book since I felt the space looked funny after the number. However, in the newsletter I use “12 x 9 inches.”

Of course, another style book might have different rules.

February 2019 update for the 4th edition: My editor and proofreader emphasized that the x should be a plain sans serif x that looks like a multiplication sign. Further, they insisted that the ” in dimensions be the straight vertical inches mark and don't look like quotes.

8 comments add a comment
  • Peggi Habets

    Hi Alyson, As a former graphic designer, I am a stickler for those pesky typography rules. One thing many people don’t realize is that using the ” sign does not always yield an inch sign. Depending on the font, you may get a quote sign. There are design programs that will change this for you, but most will require a change in font for the inch sign. (This also goes for the ‘ sign.) They should also be done in italics when that option is possible. Peggi

  • Eli Bishop

    Yes, please use the “chicken scratch” straight quote for inches; it’s very common to see curly quotes instead (like in this post!). :) It’s less about the font and more about whether your program is set to use curly quotes or not. For instance, if you’re composing in Microsoft Word and copying & pasting posts to the blog, it’s likely you’re copying the curly quotes with them.

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    Peggi & Eli: Yes! I forgot to mention that. And I just corrected those quote marks in my book text to make sure they are inch marks. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    PS: I don’t write these posts in Word, but in a plain text font. I have no idea how to change to inches in TypePad.

  • Does the HxW listing of original artwork dimensions also apply to art prints? It seems odd to list print prices that way (i.e. 20×16 rather than 16×20, etc.), especially if all prints of a particular size are a specific price. I tend to work almost exclusively in vertical format, so the dimensions would almost always need to be listed in reverse.

  • Catherine Johnson

    When listing the image size of a piece of art, do you list the width first or the length first. We are having many discussions about this and cannot seem to find a definitive answer. Can you help? Please.
    Thank you.

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