When shopping for reams of paper, it’s important that you choose the correct paper size. While the common legal-size paper isn’t what most people would use to print school reports and make paper airplanes. So, what are the dimensions of legal paper?
Legal paper measures 8.5 inches (216 millimeters) wide and 14 inches (356 millimeters) long. Its closest ISO 216 counterpart is A4 paper, which measures 216 millimeters (8.5 inches) wide and 297 millimeters (11.7 inches) long.
So, what exactly is a legal paper used for, and how does it differ from letter-size paper? I’ll answer these questions and more in the following sections.
What Is Legal Paper Used for?
As its name suggests, legal paper is used mainly for legal documents. That means business agreements and other official documentation will usually be printed on 8.5 × 14-inch sheets of paper.
But is this always the case? Absolutely not.
In spite of its name, there are no laws in place that dictate whether official documentation, whether it’s for tax purposes or otherwise, should be printed on legal paper. In fact, the more common paper size, which is letter paper, can and is most often used for anything from making paper airplanes to printing contractual agreements.
Size Difference Between Legal and Letter Paper
The size difference between legal and letter paper is minute. They both measure 8.5 inches (216 millimeters) wide, but where they differ in their respective lengths. Legal paper is a full 3 inches longer than letter paper (11 inches or 279 millimeters).
Something you’ll notice when trying to print a word document file is that most printers are set to print on letter-size sheets of paper by default. Again, this is because the letter-size paper is more commonly used than legal paper, though you can easily switch between the sizes and use them interchangeably.
Size Difference Between Legal and A4 Paper
First and foremost, the A4 paper is measured using the ISO 216 standard. The A-series of paper sizes is taken by dividing A0 (841 × 1,189-millimeter or 33.1 × 46.8 inches) paper into half sections, which are halved again and again until you get the A8 (52 × 75 millimeters or 2.1 × 2.9 inches). A single sheet of A0 paper is large enough to produce 16 sheets of A4 (216 × 297 millimeters or 8.5 × 11.7 inches) paper.
As you can see from the dimensions above, legal paper is about the same width as A4 paper, but it is slightly less than 3 inches longer. A4 and letter paper have more in common than A4 and legal paper, though all three sheets can, for the most part, be used interchangeably. The sheet one size larger than A4 in the A-series is A3, which is 420 × 594 millimeters (23.4 × 33.1 inches).
How Thick Is a Sheet of Legal Paper?
Looking at one of the top-selling reams of legal paper by Hammermill, a ream of legal paper measures 14 inches long, 8.5 inches wide, and 2 inches thick. A ream of paper consists of 500 sheets.
Using simple math, we can determine how thick each sheet of paper is.
- Thickness (Legal Paper) = Thickness (Ream) ÷ 500 Sheets
- Thickness (Legal Paper) = 2 inches ÷ 500 Sheets = 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters)
As you can see from my guide on standard printing paper thickness, legal paper is similar to letter-size printing paper in terms of thickness. However, like any type of paper, the thickness of a single sheet of legal paper will depend on its GSM or bond rating.
How Much Does a Sheet of Legal Paper Weigh?
Again, using Hammermill legal paper as a reference, its sheets of paper are taken from 75-GSM or 20-pound-pound sheet stocks. Sheet stocks are the sheets of paper that are cut down to size.
Legal paper is taken from 17 × 22-inch stock sheets. A single stock sheet is large enough to produce 2 sheets of legal-size paper, with 136 cubic inches (17 × 8 inches) or about 37% being shredded and reused in the paper-making process.
GSM, or grams per square meter, is easier to use as a reference for measuring the weight of a sheet of paper. So, Hammermill’s legal paper, when aligned in a perfect 1-square-meter figure, will weigh precisely 75 grams.
Or, to make matters even easier on us, we can take the weight of the ream of paper and divide it by 500. Since Hammermill legal paper weighs 6.36 pounds per ream, that means a single sheet from a 500-sheet ream is 0.012 pounds or 5.443 grams.
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