When using CSS what little tricks have you done to remember (perhaps a saying?) the order of left, top, right, bottom when defining combined CSS attributes such as border, margin and padding.

I'm forever forgetting and Google seems populated with crap like W3Schools.

  • 6
    How is w3schools.com "crap"? It's easier on the eyes to read their CSS3 Reference than the W3C CSS 3 Specification document...
    – danlefree
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 21:31
  • 8
    @danlefree See W3Fools for a long list of complaints. (Though I'm not aware of them being wrong anywhere as regards this particular question.)
    – Su'
    Commented May 20, 2011 at 22:03
  • Danlefee, see Su's response. w3schools is a satan on promoting learning and resources on HTML/CSS/JS. A movement is ongoing to get the crap dropped from page 1 google. Commented May 21, 2011 at 3:17
  • 2
    I wonder why nobody mentioned North, East, South, West. It's equivalent to clockwise, but hey :).
    – Kevin
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 11:07

5 Answers 5


They all go clockwise, starting from top.

  • 4
    Except background positioning (which seems a little relevant in this case), opting for left offset first, then top offset second.
    – Marcel
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 6:50
  • @Marcel, very true, which explains why I always get that one wrong the first time.
    – John Conde
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 6:55
  • background positioning is ordered for x-y coordinates which is more reasonable when you're using numeric values, rather than left top.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 20:36

CSS is trouble. T-R-B-L Top-Right-Bottom-Left

  • Bah, beaten to the punch. A sporting +1.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 1:51

I remember it by visualising a clock face: starting at 12 o'clock (top), then moving to 3 o'clock (right), then 6 o'clock (bottom) and finally 9 o'clock (left).


In addition to the straightforward winding analogy, I offer another mnemonic: Top, Right, Bottom, Left gives the initialism TRBL, pronounced terrible—or trouble if you like. (Hey, even treble gives me trouble as a baritone.) It fits in well with CRAP (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity), the four principles of sound Web design.

  • 1
    CRAP. Well done, sir Commented May 21, 2011 at 1:57


I don't recall ever using any special method of memorization for this little tidbit. I do know I learned they were set in the clockwise order from the top, but then I proceeded to write a lot of CSS.

When you do a task repeatedly there is a tendency to memorize the details for efficiency, so at this point:

  1. all
  2. top&bottom right&left
  3. top right&left bottom
  4. top right bottom left

is second nature. Just like:

border: <width> <style> <color>;


background: <color> <image> <repeat> <attachment> <position>;

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