The Grammarphobia Blog

Graphic arts

Q: I’ve had many discussions with people (including some New York Times writers) who misuse the term “graphic designer” by adding “s” to “graphic.” We don’t say “dresses designer,” do we?

A: When I worked at the Times, editors on the Culture Desk used the term “antiques dealer” rather than “antique dealer.” I suppose the thinking was that the person was a dealer in antiques, not an antique himself.

But I feel that if no misunderstanding is possible, a phrase like “graphic designer” is fine. To my ear, “graphics designer” sounds unnecessarily fussy. Let common sense and your ear be your guide. Go with what sounds idiomatically right.

In fact, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) lists “graphics” as a noun and “graphic” as an adjective. The dictionary also has separate entries for “graphic arts,” “graphic design,” “graphic novel,” etc.

And if those Times writers you mentioned insist on using “graphics designer,” you might mention (tactfully, of course) that the Times stylebook says the phrase should be “graphic designer.”

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