Re: Gutter language

David Perrell (
Fri, 5 Jul 1996 13:46:18 -0700

Message-Id: <>
From: David Perrell <>
To: Ka-Ping Yee <>,
Cc: "''" <>,
Subject: RE: Gutter language
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 13:46:18 -0700

Hakon Lie wrote:

>I'm all for finding non-ambiguous terms; "leading" is useless these
>days due to two different interpretations. "Alley"? Perhaps -- has the
>term been used in this context before? It's not in the "glossary".

During the last 24 years in the business I can't recall any reference to =
"alley" besides the one I quoted. Column spacing was referred to as just =
that, or "space between columns" (never "gutter"). My partner vaguely =
remembers alley as a typographical term describing the space between =
ganged forms of hot-metal type. If so, it would be, like leading, an =
archaic term, but it would have the advantage of still being physically =

All of the old hot type shops I used in the past are gone except one, =
The "old master" typesetter is still there but is off for a long =
weekend. So I surveyed a few type shops with long-established-sounding =
names. I talked with two typesetters with linotype experience; one of =
those telephoned his father who had started typesetting in 1935. All =
three knew the old definition of "gutter" and would not have called =
column space the same thing. One thought he'd heard the term "alley" but =
wasn't sure.

One shop I called turned out to be run by a younger man who was familiar =
with typographic history, desktop publishing, and HTML. He knew the =
conventional meaning of gutter, but referred to column spacing as a =
"column-gutter," as Ka-Ping Yee suggested before considering "alley."

All of those surveyed thought that the word "alley" would be a logical =
term for column space and a good addition to the typesetting vocabulary. =
The younger typesetter stated that, as a web author, he'd much prefer =
"alley" to the unwieldy "column-gutter." The responses here have been =

I can expand the survey next week. But I'm quite convinced there is not =
yet an established word to describe column space.

Here is a specification crying for a more distinct and descriptive term. =
With Hakon's support, the language will be enriched and confusion will =
be avoided. This a rare chance to enhance the vocabulary. Let's not let =
it slip into the gutter.

David Perrell