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Book Composition Glossary for Self-Publishers

Book Design

Below you will find Terms and Definitions regarding the composition of a book.

Blurb: Descriptive text on a book jacket.

Body: The text or contents of a book. The pages are usually numbered sequentially and often divided into chapters.

Bold: A heavy version of a regular typeface.

Case: Uppercase letters are capital letters. Lowercase letters are small letters.

Drop Cap: An initial that is set in a large size to drop down two or more lines; that is, the first and second lines (or more as necessary) are indented to permit the initial to be dropped down, flush with the top of the first line of type. A decorative option used for the first sentence of a book or chapter.

Ellipsis Points: Spaced periods used to indicate omitted words in quoted matter: “. . .”

Flap Copy: The text you would like to appear on the front or back flaps of your dust jacket if you are printing a hardcover book.

Flush Left (or Right): Type set to line up at the left (or right).

Flush Paragraph: A paragraph with no indention.

Folio: The page number.

Font: A complete assortment of letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc., of a given size and design.

Hanging Indent: When the first line of a paragraph juts out further left than the rest of the text.

Italic: The sloping kind of typeface used especially for emphasis or distinction and in foreign words.

Justification: Describes how the left and right edges of a block of type are arranged by the typesetter. Flush left type is even on the left margin and ragged on the right edge as a standard amount of space is used between each word and lines are allowed to end wherever, creating a “ragged” appearance. Flush right is the opposite. Justified typesetting varies the amount of space between words (and sometimes between letters) to create straight margins on both the left and right sides of a block of type.

Kern: To adjust the spacing between individual letters so that they look visually proportioned.

Leading: The space between lines of type that’s measured from one baseline to the next.

Orphan (or Widow): When the end of a paragraph or beginning of a column of text is short due to a single short word, end of a hyphenated word, or only one line of text.

Pagination: Dividing a book into pages, and the assigning of page numbers (folios) to the pages in a specific style of numbering.

Points: A typographic unit of measure used by designers when working with your interior pages and cover typography. One pica, or 12 points, equals approximately 1/6 of an inch.

Ragged Right; Ragged Left: Describes typeset copy in which word spacing is even and the lines of type align vertically along one margin but do not align along the other margin, so that one margin has a smooth edge and the other an irregular, or ragged, edge.

Reverse Type: When you print white on black, instead of black on white.

Run-Around: The term describing type set to fit around a picture or other element of the design.

Running Head/Running Feet: Page elements that show the reader where they are in the book, running heads (at the top of the page) or running feet (at the bottom of the page) can include the book title, author name, part title, chapter title, or subject headings to provide navigational help to the reader.

Safe Area: Designated by a book printer, the area that is far enough away from the trim or gutter edges to be considered “safe” within the tolerances of the printer’s manufacturing equipment.

Serif, Sans Serif: A slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces. Type designs without these flourishes are sans serif (from the French).

Signature: When printed on offset presses, books are printed in multiples of 8, 16, or 32 pages on large sheets of paper. Once the paper has been printed and folded to the size of the book, it becomes a signature. If the sheets hold 16 pages, we refer to the book as being printed in “16-page signatures.” There are no signatures for POD books as each page is printed individually.

Text: The body matter of a page or book, as distinguished from the headings.

Typesetting: Typing copy into a program and applying all the formats needed to layout the job correctly, i.e., applying the correct fonts, size, line space, width, etc.