In the grand scheme of things, few things really matter. But within the world of packaging editorial, even the small details matter-a lot. More…


In the grand scheme of things, few things really matter. But within the world of packaging editorial, even the small details matter-a lot. That means names, numbers, sizes, amounts and, perhaps above all, many of the common terms found in packaging and in packaging editorial.

It was a lesson that I learned early on in my editorial career, circa 1992, through a red-inked copy of my story draft and a one-sided discussion that there was no such thing as cardboard. I was simply not to use the term at all in any articles I wanted published. That was one of the first and firmest of many lessons I have been taught over the years, including from three future members of the Packaging Hall of Fame. They were passionate about accuracy, in both grammar and technical aspects, including many found only inside the wide world of packaging.

I have appreciated their uncompromising standards more with the passing of time.

A recent letter to the editor received by our sister publication, BrandPackaging, that was routed among the packaging group editors sparked a flashback. It was from Larry Dull, CPP, of the Packaging Knowledge Group and, as I subsequently discovered, an instructor for the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ (IoPP) Fundamentals of Packaging course.

His note stated: “At the risk of being accused of being just another [persnickety] packaging engineer, I must point out that ‘corrugate’ is a verb. It is not a noun, even though there is some segment of the packaging industry that insists on using it incorrectly. ‘Corrugate’ means 'to produce corrugations.' If you are in need of a noun, the proper term could be chosen from the list of words including: corrugated; corrugated board; corrugated box. Thanks for helping to stamp out the improper use of the word ‘corrugate’."

His note resonated immediately with me. I wrote to Mr. Dull and noted my own “inherited” problem regarding cardboard. His reply began, “At last! A voice that understands. I've been on this campaign for years now and every time I think I'm making progress, the misuse pops again." And later, he writes: "As an instructor, I feel it is my duty to provide the most accurate information I can and the proper use of terminology is an important part of my classes. I also try to use the more correct term ‘polymer’ and not the more common term ‘plastic’ in my teaching efforts.”

That was a new one for me, which I shared that with my fellow packaging group editors at BNP Media while soliciting them for their own pet peeves. They did not require much prompting. For example, Joe Pryweller, managing editor of Packaging Strategies, replied with his contentions centering on words that have become ubiquitous as synonyms for sustainability: “Green, environmentally friendly, and eco anything.”

While I agree in principal with his criticism of using words that are either confusing and/or say little, “sustainablewashing” doesn’t work for me.

Finally, and out of curiosity, I checked an authoritative resource, The IoPP Glossary of Packaging Terminology. According to the 1998 edition, edited by Soroka, Walter G., and Zepf, Paul J., cardboard is defined thusly: A general term for a paperboard 150 micrometers (0.006 inches) or more thick. The word has been adopted by the public to describe various materials including (incorrectly) corrugated board.

It is with satisfaction that I can respond, yes, I knew that. I felt that I had come full circle.

If you feel any packaging terms are being misused, feel free to comment (below) or contact us directly.

Meanwhile, my associates here and our counterparts elsewhere along with professionals scattered throughout the industry remain ever vigilant against packaging (terminology) abuse.