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Letterpress/typography terms in common English

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Ralf Herrmann

(Not sure if asked this before)

I am trying to collect words and phrases which come from the field of typography/letterpress, but are used in common English today, like uppercase/lowercase, stereotype, “out of sorts” …

Who knows more of these words/phrases?

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George Thomas

I started to try and list some, but then did a Google search "letterpress terminology" which turns up several glossaries which may be helpful to your project.

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Ralf Herrmann

Sure, but since English isn’t my native language, I might not even see the connections that might be there. People with experience in the field and English as native language can know or see these connections much more easily. 

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Hey Ralf,

When you say "common English", do you mean language used to describe typography and letterpress by the laymen so-to-speak, as opposed to experts?

If so, in my experience the following terms are commonly used:

bleed, embossed, copy, double-sided, finish, gilt-edge, landscape, litho, proof, run-on, script

Hope that helps somehow? :happy:

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  • 1 month later...
Ryan Howell

The first that came to mind is "Mind your P's and Q's." In typesetting with movable type, a lower-case p and lower-case q are easy to mistake to the untrained eye. 

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  • 2 years later...
Ralf Herrmann

I’ve finally turned this into an article:

The “mind your p’s and q’s” didn’t survive the fact checking. 


Investigations by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2007 when revising the entry turned up early examples of the use of Ps and Qs to mean learning the alphabet. 


  • very interesting! 1
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