What Is a Floating Block?

A. Leverkuhn

A floating block is an item that is printed independently from the main flow of text on a page. This includes various forms of graphics, text, or combined inserts that serve various purposes within a published presentation of a piece of writing. A floating block provides versatility in layout and is generally labeled so that readers can understand its relation to the broader text article.

A magazine layout might use a single quote or block of text as a floating block, to highlight something notable in an article.
A magazine layout might use a single quote or block of text as a floating block, to highlight something notable in an article.

One popular kind of floating block is described as a “figure.” The figure might serve to illustrate some specific detail within the text, or it might play a more general role. In either case, the figure is often presented at the margins of a page, center aligned between paragraphs of text, or in other out-of-the-way areas where whitespace surrounds text. Figures are often in on the same page so that readers can find them easily, and often include specific descriptions that show the reader why the figure was included. They are particularly common in academic textbooks.

A single quote or a block of text might also be designated as a floating block. This is a common technique in magazines and similar media, where a quotation in a interview might be emphasized in this manner. The same is true for complex tables that rely list-type information, or pictures that illustrate a specific idea in the general text.

Some specific types of floating blocks include a sidebar, which may summarize a larger piece of writing, or a simple drawing that depicts a sophisticated idea in physics or other sciences. The floating block, as a rule, accommodates the idea that visual illustrations help many readers to understand ideas that may be described thoroughly in a piece of text.

In modern publishing, floating blocks are treated in specific ways. In some kinds of web coding, there are unique commands that create a floating block. Modern layout programs will accommodate floating blocks to keep them separate from a flowing text and embed them where it is most convenient; those involved in publishing and layout may need to have familiarity with these programs in order to secure work in this field.

Publishers and writers might also regard floating blocks in a mockup or sketch layout. Generally, they will have to ensure that the floating blocks are located near the ideas that they complement and that they will remain relevant to the overall text. Good placement may also require clustering and other elaborate techniques.

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