And are there special names for each of the four sides? If so, what are they?

I may wish to ask my typesetter to indicate the imaginary line between the margins and the body text with a red outline.

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  • I'm not sure what area you mean, because generally the body text extends to the margin on all 4 sides, so there is no space for a line to go in (unless the type is set with a "ragged right", in which case there is a varying amount of space between the end of each line and the actual right margin).
    – Hellion
    Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 23:16
  • 2
    Sounds like the text boundary.
    – Yosef Baskin
    Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 23:30
  • Hi. Welcome to GDSE. Could you post an example image that shows what you are describing? Please edit your question and add more details. Thanks
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 0:28
  • @Hellion RE: "no space": One use of the line or box is to confirm just that. If the text does run right up to the margin, the thickness of the line would invade some of the type. Whether there is space or not depends on the method of printing, I suppose. In my thinking, we can put marks anywhere, including on top of previously marked areas (whether this should be done has to do with the intended use of the page and the aesthetic applied).
    – Ana Nimbus
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 18:32
  • 1
    Sounds like the margins. Upper margin, left margin, right margin, bottom margin. See definition of margin. Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 19:21

6 Answers 6


Ask your typesetter to outline the type area for you. The English term is a bit ambiguous here, in German for instance the somewhat more precise term is "Satzspiegel".

To give you a bit of context:

A big decision in editorial design is to decide where to place content on the page/spread. Here's a very traditional/simple way of defining this placement:

The red area is the aforementioned type area (of course it can also include images or any other type of content ;)) spread layout construction

The green space around this area is referred to as the page margins, or more generally the pages' white space page margins

Note, that they are different for top/bottom inside and outside – to accommodate binding or pagination for example.


It is simply the "Margin" (Top Margin, Bottom Margin, Left Margin, Right Margin).

The Margin is the invisible line and not something you can color or even delineate. (beyond not having your subject material spill into it).

In Adobe Illustrator you would create a text box (to the Margins) for your text and add a red stroke to the text box.


To be able to convey this to your typesetter something along the lines of:

"I want a 2 point wide red box around the type, at the margin, with the type inset 3 points inside the box."

Depending on the program your typesetter is using there will be (should be) different ways to do this.

enter image description here

  • OED agrees. I am looking for terminology which will help me be precise. If I ask for a red margin, it seems that there is too much ambiguity (I've edited my post to illustrate two possible outcomes).
    – Ana Nimbus
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 1:24
  • 2
    @AnaNimbus language is inprecise when it comes to things like this. I wish it weren't it makes my life harder as a mechanical engineer. But the sad thing even a simple geomterical thing can not be adequately described in words. Send your typesetter a picture.
    – joojaa
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 5:17
  • @joojaa +1 A picture is worth a thousand words!
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 14:19
  • 3
    Its a common expression "to write in the margins"; many people will think "margin" refers to the entire area outside the text, not the delineation between them. Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 15:03

In Adobe inDesign and other page layout programs, those lines are called guides. There are margin guides, column guides, bleed guides, and slug guides. The guides are non-printing "imaginary" boundary indicators. You can toggle between "show guides" and "hide guides."

The margins themselves comprise the area between the edges of the page and the area where the printed matter appears—the "live area."

What I think you want to tell your typesetter is: Please delineate the live area. Or—if you're speaking plain English: Please draw a line around the live area.


It's always interesting when linguistic people communicate with visual people. I often learn from it. This is a good example of how writers and designers sometimes talk past each other. Linguistic people tend to be very precise when describing visual things. Sometimes to a degree where it actually confuses visual people who, on the other hand, can be quite sloppy with their language.

When you want the designer to "indicate the imaginary line between the margins and the body text with a red outline" you are being very precise. Simply asking the designer to "indicate the margins with a red outline" should suffice.

Similarly you wouldn't ask for someone to "outline the imaginary line between the area inside the rectangle and the area outside the rectangle". You would simply ask them to "outline the rectangle".


These are layout margins (bottom, top, left, right)

Layout margins provide a visual buffer between a view’s content and any content outside of the view’s bounds. The layout margins consist of inset values for each edge (top, bottom, leading, and trailing) of the view. These inset values create a space between the edges of the view’s bounds rectangle and the content inside the view.

Apple developer

They may also be referred to as inset spacings

Acuity training

  • I looked at the "Apple developer" link. It seems that there they are talking about a region of positive width around the text. I am asking about the zero-width boundary between that region and the body text.
    – Ana Nimbus
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 1:27

There's no particular word for it, as far as I know. They're just edges of “text block” or “type area”.

I'd ask them to outline the text block or type area edges, or to make a bounding box around them.

Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style:

Textblock: The part of the page normally occupied by text.

James Felici, The Complete Manual of Typography:

Type area: The part of a page populated by the main text and usually defined by the top, bottom, outside, and binding margins.

Ellen Lupton, Thinking with Type:

“Hanging punctuation” prevents quotations and other marks from taking a bite out of the crisp left edge of a text block. [...] Make a clean edge by pushing the quotation marks into the margin.

Justified text, which has even edges on both the left and right sides of the column, has been the norm since the invention of printing with movable type, which enabled the creation of page after page of straight-edged columns.

Erik Spiekermann, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works:

To achieve a nice, smooth edge on both sides of the column, the punctuation is hung in the right hand margin.

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