RE: Gutter language

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 descriptive.

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 similar.

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

Received on Friday, 5 July 1996 17:03:40 UTC