In our graphically designed worlds, we’re used to seeing lots of polished layouts. In print. On the web. Well done graphic design surrounds us. Yet, when one does this work, when one actively does the designing, how does “layout” become a verb?
Art directors, designers, and publishers, this one is for you.
- As a noun, we know “layout” means the overall positioning of the design elements on the page, whether text, photo, illustration, or otherwise.
- As a verb, “lay out” (notice how it is two words?) can mean to prepare for viewing or presentation, to arrange and organize, and even to knock unconscious.
But here’s the tricky question, when you put “lay out” into the past tense, what does it become? And what are the other forms of this verb?
(Virtual fist-bump to the writer who recently asked me this question.)
Please don’t stress about old “lay” vs. “lie” confusion here. Whether you’re talking about how to lay out the elements on your website or whether you need to lay out a towel to dry in the sun, these usages follow the same patterns as the verb “lay.”
- Today, you might lay out that magazine article.
- The art director lays out the cover.
- Yesterday, you laid out a different magazine article.
- The graphic designer might still be laying out the ad pages.
Newspapers, magazines, books, websites… there are countless usages of “layout,” the noun, and “lay out,” the verb.
“Layout,” the noun, has been used in English since 1852. As a verb, though, it’s been in use since the 1400s, so I think it’s absolutely time to get comfortable with how to handle it.
I hope no one feels laid out after this writing tip. It’s never good when grammar and word usage discussions feel like a punch to the gut. As for me, I’m going to check in on the layout of my next book. (Shameless plug. You know I can’t help but do it.)
Happy writing, folks.
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