Looking for definitive answer re: Are photographs technically con sidred "Figures"?

Subject: Looking for definitive answer re: Are photographs technically con sidred "Figures"?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 09:10:50 -0400


Sara-Sue Clarke wonders: <<... whether calling a photograph in a document a
"figure" is technically correct?>>

Certainly; I've been doing it for years following the style guides of the
Canadian Forest Service and a wide variety of scientific journals. The more
important question is what your house style guide says, because someone
might hold you accountable for not following that guide. If the guide
provides no firm guidance (you suggested that neither Chicago Manual of
Style nor Ruebens Scientific Style Guide provided a definitive answer), feel
free to make your own decision based on common sense and standard practice.
Don't forget, they're style _guides_, not style _rules_.

<<Chicago talks about plates and sometimes calls photographs in a book
"illustrations".>>

In the good old days before desktop publishing, photos were often grouped
onto boards and photographed as a unit to produce what were called
photographic "plates", hence the origin of the name. I offer no proof, but
strongly suspect this dates back to the days before photolithography, when
books were composed using galleys of lead type (hence the name "galley
proofs") and photographs were prepared separately from type via the halftone
process. Nowadays, photographs are easily integrated into text and output on
film at the same time as text, so there's no good reason to treat photos as
anything other than figures.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
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