Casting off

According to Masterson

Casting off is the process of estimating the number of characters in a document, including letters, numbers, spaces, symbols and punctuation. Getting a character count is the first stage in preparing a cast off (Masterson 210).

Therefore, casting off involves counting the number of words in a manuscript or book in order to estimate the number of pages required to print the manuscript or book.

The casting off process contributes to the book production process because it predicts the number of pages required to print the book. This will affect the cost of producing the book. It will also influence decisions on the font type, font size, head presentation style, section ornaments, drop to chapter openers, chapter opener style and the amount of white space required. The amount of pages in the book will also impact on the style and type of cover. These factors will also influence the over all design of the book. If the book is small a larger font or a different font type may be used in order to give the book more shelf presence in a bookstore. Likewise a book that has a large number of pages may be printed in a smaller font in order to reduce the number of pages required. These decisions can only be made after the casting off process that indicates the number of pages required.

To ‘cast-off’ printer’s copy is to estimate in advance how many sheets will be required to print a given manuscript, and to estimate the amount of copy needed to fill a single sheet. The practice meant that work could be shared out among a number of men working simultaneously. It was adopted for the Shakespeare First Folio. Mistakes could result in the spreading out of a small amount of material over a large space, or in the crowding, even omission, of lines. In Titus Andronicus, for instance, at the foot of a page, a single line of verse is printed as two lines (III. i. 95), whereas on the crowded last page of Much Ado About Nothing, verse is printed as prose, words are omitted, and abbreviated forms are used to save space (Oxford index).

According to Lewis

For appropriate casting-off a word equals six characters. These six units include inter-word spaces and punctuation marks. An even more readable line is the normal column setting of a newspaper or journal, of from five to seven words (Lewis 90).

According to Lewis there is also a casting off calculation –

Number of characters in manuscript
_______________________________   = number of lines

Number of set characters per line


page depth
_________  = pages in book

line feed

When looking at the calculations it will be readily seen how a chapter-by-chapter calculation gives a much more accurate count of the pages in a book. This takes account of the drop-heading at the commencement of each chapter into the next when chapters do not begin on new pages (Lewis 116).

Based on the figures the book is then sent out to printers for bids on printing. The cast off figures also allow printers to give an estimate of the time scale required to print the book.

Lewis, John. Typography: Design and Practice. New York: Taplinger Pub., 1978. Print
Masterson, Pete. Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers. El Sobrante, CA: Aeonix Pub. Group, 2007. Print.
Oxford Index. 24 Feb 2013. Web.

Contributed by Sinead O’Connor.


One response to “Casting off

  1. Neda

    This was helpful. Thank u!

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