I have a very strong, nagging suspicion that there is a specific term for what I am thinking of here, but I cannot for the life of me recall it.
In books, it is fairly common to see brief—or sometimes not so brief—bits of text (and sometimes illustrations) explaining or dealing in more detail with some point or notion mentioned in the main text, or giving factoids or tidbits about something that relates to the topic in the main text. These are frequently set off graphically from the rest of the text by being placed in a box, having a different background colour, being set in a different typeface, etc. They normally have their own, individual headers (often also in a different style from the regular headers in the copy), which show what it is in the copy they relate to.
I’m currently editing a book which is full of these, many of them being an entire page or spread set apart from the main flow of the text to talk about an interesting aside. The authors of the book have, quite unimaginatively, simply called them boxed texts in the manuscript, which seems to me a terrible cop-out.
What are these ‘boxed asides’ called?
I keep wanting to call them vignettes, but I don’t think that’s right—no dictionary I can find includes this meaning. Please tell me my mind isn’t playing tricks on me, and that there is an actual, proper (preferably single-word) term for them.
After scouring the books in the office, I managed to find one that uses these things: our old edition of Politiken’s etymological dictionary of Danish uses them to give more details about individual words (in some cases) and groups of related words. Some are just text, some are illustrated, usually with maps or family trees. Here is a scan of a spread that has two of them:
The boxes have a faint, grey gradient background which didn’t come through very well in the scanned file, so I’ve added a nice, pink box around each of them to illustrate. As you can perhaps tell, they each relate to content that is on the page (the words knæsætte and ko, respectively), but as ‘boxes’ they are set apart from the text.
The boxes in this book—given its nature—are quite straightforward info boxes, but I do believe there is a term for the structural element that is function-agnostic… or at least I hope there is. In the book I’m currently editing, they are generally not info boxes, but contain anecdotes, personal letters, brief histories of companies or people or places, etc.