Paper Sizes - US Gov't

Just to confuse things further, the std size for paper used by the US Gov’t is 8 X 10.5. Why, do you ask? Well some genius :wally , I would love to credit this idiocy to our current president but what I am about to relate occured over 30 years ago, noted that no one wrote all the way to the edge of the margins! Imagine that! Well, since government employees didn’t need a full 8.5X11 inch size of paper, to save money, the gov’t in its incredible wisdom reduced the page size to 8X10.5 inches! Of course had other administrations noted the continuing problem with gov’t employees still not writing to the edges by now we would truely have a PAPERLESS Gov’t!

Gee, when you think about it, that’s not a bad idea at all!


Welcome to the SDMB, emberk.

When you comment on one of Cecil’s online columns, it is appreciated if you could provide a link to the same. Doing so can be as simple as pasting the URL into your post, making sure to leave a blank space on either side of it. Like so:

This has Urban Legend written all over it. I challenge you to come up with some proof of this assertion.

Naturally, and as usual, the Republicans are to blame:

I work for the US government. We use 8.5 x 11. We have never used 8 x 10.5 to my knowledge. Urban legend.

Not an urban legend. The official size of U.S. Government paper was indeed 8 x 10.5, according to my cite. It was set as such by Herbert Hoover in 1921 and the standard remained in place until 1980-81, at which time the government switched to standard American letterhead.

203 × 267 mm = 8 x 10.5 inches
216 × 279 mm = 8.5 x 11 inches

I do a lot of government work myself. But I do realize that the government has been in business a lot longer than I have been associated with it.

It is an urban legend.

The OP didn’t talk just about the size, but asserted a rationale for it. That rationale is classic urban legend.

The fact that there was an official (if ignored) size for “letterhead” of 8 by 10.5 isn’t what is the “urban legend.” Pay attention. :wink:

Thank you for getting it.

The “rationale” given in the OP is an old joke about government. I used to be surprised that anybody would spread this nonsense around as if it were true, but then I found the Internet. :smack:
(OK, I’ll give the OP the benefit of the doubt and say that, from the tone, the posting might have been a joke itself. Just call me the kinder and gentler Mapcase. :dubious: )

I have nothing to add regarding the origins or rationale for the odd size, but recall an anecdote about how there was much difficulty when they changed to standard “letter” size paper as pretty much every desktop paper tray was a snug fit for “federal” size and normal paper didn’t fit.

At least this predates desktop printers and even use of photocopiers by anyone other than staff that did nothing but operate copiers.

Plus, weren’t you in the Navy? If so, you’ll perhaps note that all the CCOL* frames were 8"x10.5" - same as on CG cutters. So everytime you had to put new paper in a CCOL, you first had to cut it or fold the edges in. PITA.

*CCOL = Compartment Check Off List. Mounted to a bulkhead in every space in a ship, it contained a listing of all closures, fittings and DC gear within that space for damage control purposes, among others reasons.

Sorry, the OP asserted that this was the way things currently are and have been for about 30 years. I replied by stating that they are not currently that way and have not been in the recent past.

Leave it to the Europeans to come up with metric paper. :smiley:

I can’t comment on American paper sizes or on US gubmint paper sizes, but it seems to me that the proportions of the European A sizes referenced at the end of the article (1:1.414) approaches the Golden Mean/Golden Ratio/phi – however you want to call it. I think approximating that proportion has something to do with it, otherwise we’d be writing on square sheets.

However the thing that really bothers me, is why do computer monitors tend to be wider than tall? Most of the time I’m trying to read some kind of text and it would be nice if it fit the page.

There have been several attempts to sell monitors that either are taller than wide, or which switch from landscape to portrait. None has been very successful in the general commercial market. I guess we like looking at little mini TVs. :smiley:

No, it’s the square root of two. In order for the fold-in-half rule to work, it must be the square root of two.

All you’ve got here is that both the square root of two and the golden section are, very roughly, one and a half.

As long as they make some tiltable monitors I’ll be happy. I can’t imagine viewing the web on a standard landscape monitor. Or, rather, I can whenever I use somebody’s laptop. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Except for some spreadsheets, I never turn the monitor from its normal portrait setting to landscape, in fact. What’s wrong with the rest of you? :confused:

Yup. And leave Americans to fight with several almost identical, but not quite compatible paper sizes :stuck_out_tongue:

The idea with the square 2 aspect ratio is that the sheet sizes progress logically: any sheet A(n) cut in half on the long edge makes two A(n+1) sheets, preserving the aspect ratio. This can be repeated as many times as desired.

This has some nice consequences: one can save paper at the copier by copying two A4 pages on one (put them side by side and zoom to 71 % (1/sqrt(2), which is what the A3->A4 button does), or fit any sheet neatly into any (smaller) C series envelope. Pretty much any size down to A6 fits into a standard two-ring binder (larger sizes can be folded). The Germans even make A6 size toilet paper, which seems to amuse some people to no end :smiley:
(…the reason: toilet paper has to be cut to some size, and cutting equipment is readily available for the standard sizes.)

These things are little everyday details that one doesn’t easily appreciate until one reads forums like this… :rolleyes:

The USA is pretty much the only country to be stuck with their indigenous paper sizes, which sometimes gets demonstrated when a printer complains “Load Letter”.

I got one just this week. Wide-screen LCD with a native resolution of 1680x1050. The display head rotates 90° to a “portrait” orientation. I expect this will become more common as video makes it’s way to the computer, particularly IP video & IPTV. People will want to watch movies in their “letterbox” aspect ratio just as they were filmed.

A0 has an area of one square metre.