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Legal and Letter Sized Paper. What’s the difference and when would I use one over the other?

So there’s some good news and some bad news…The good news is that we have a simple explanation of the difference between legal and letter sized paper.

The bad news? Both are capable of giving you an unpleasant paper cut.

The simplest way to explain the difference between legal and letter-sized paper is that legal paper is sized at 8 ½ x14 inches and letter paper is sized at 8 ½ x 11.

Letter Sized Paper (8 ½ x 11)

If you’re like the majority of Americans working in an office or from home and utilizing a standard printer, you likely are already using letter-sized paper. Sometimes referred to as “A” sized, it is what you’ll be using 99% of the time. This is why whenever you receive PDFs or presentations, they are already formatted to this size, making it easy to print out.

Legal Sized Paper (8.5 x 14)

Legal Sized Paper is sometimes referred to as Foolscap, referring to an old brand of paper that used the “foolscap” logo as a watermark on the paper. Legal Sized Paper was traditionally used for writing contracts, the idea being that the longer paper lent itself to longer documents, and made it easy for marking notes and recommended changes. Of course, these days, most lawyers stick to the typical letter-sized for their agreements.

Another theory comes from the bad joke department: Lawyers use legal size because they need 14 inches to say what ordinary folks can say in 11.

At the end of the day, you’re more than likely to do just fine with traditional letter-sized paper. They work with almost every printer, are easier to transport, and if you’re really prone to paper cuts, you can always cover your fingers with a lovely little rubber thimble.

Here’s a little bonus: A simple cheat sheet for understanding all the different types of paper out there.


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