Letter Paper Size

letter paper size

Letter paper, legal paper, tabloid—these are all paper sizes that you should be familiar with, especially if you plan on printing a document in the near future. However, since letter paper is the most commonly used size, this is where you should focus most of your attention.

A sheet of letter paper measure 8.5 inches (216 millimeters) wide and 11 inches (279 millimeters) long.

So, what exactly is letter paper used for and how does it compare to other sheet sizes? I’ll address these questions and more down below.

What Is Letter Paper?

Letter paper is a sheet of paper that measures 8.5 inches wide and 11 inches long. It doesn’t belong to ISO 216, which uses A, B, and C-series. Instead, letter paper belongs to a totally different group of paper sizing standards called inch-based loose sizes.

In general, there are only 3 countries that use this paper standard—the US, Canada, and the Philippines. Other paper sizes following this system include but are not limited to legal, tabloid, ledger, memo, junior legal, and 5 × 7.

Comparing Letter Paper to Other Paper Sizes

So, it’s clear what letter paper dimensions are, but how does it compare to other paper sizes?

Inch-Based Loose Sizes

Paper Size Paper Dimension Dimension Difference Surface Area Difference
Ledger 17 × 11 in. -8.5 × 0 in. 50%
Tabloid Extra 12 × 11 in. -3.5 × -7 in. 43%
European EDP 12 × 14 in. -3.5 × -3 in. 56%
Tabloid 11 × 17 in. -2.5 × -6 in. 50%
11 × 15 11 × 15 in. -2.5 × -4 in. 57%
Fanfold 11 × 14.9 in. -2.5 × -3.9 in. 57%
EDP 11 × 14 in. -2.5 × -3 in. 61%
Ledger 11 × 12 11 × 12 in. -2.5 × -1 in. 71%
Ledger 10 × 14 10 × 14 in. -1.5 × 3 in. 67%
Ledger 10 × 13 10 × 13 in. -1.5 × -2 in. 72%
Ledger 10 × 11 10 × 11 in. -1.5 × 0 in. 85%
Legal Extra 9.5 × 15 in. -1 × -4 in. 66%
Letter Extra 9.5 × 12 in. -1 × 1 in. 82%
Letter Tab 9 × 11 in. -0.5 × 0 in. 94%
Legal 8.5 × 14 in. 0 × -3 in. 79%
Foolscap Folio 8.5 × 13.4 in. 0 × -2.4 in. 82%
Memo 5.5 × 8.5 in. 3 × 2.5 in. 200%
Junior Legal 5 × 8 in. 3.5 × 3 in. 234%
5 × 7 5 × 7 in. 3.5 × 4 in. 267%

Notes: In comparison to letter paper (8.5 × 11 inches)

A-Series

A Series

Paper Size Paper Dimension Dimension Difference Surface Area Difference
A0 33.1 × 46.8 in. -24.6 × -35.8 in. 6%
A1 23.4 × 33.1 in. -14.9 × -22.1 in. 12%
A2 16.5 ×23.4 in. -8 × -12.4 in. 24%
A3 11.75 × 16.5 in. -3.25 × -5.5 in. 48%
A4 8.25 × 11.75 in. 0.25 × -0.75 in. 96%
A5 5.9 × 8.25 in. 2.6 × 2.75 in. 192%
A6 4.1 × 5.9 in. 4.4 × 5.1 in. 387%
A7 2.9 × 4.1 in. 5.6 × 6.9 in. 786%
A8 2.1 × 2.9 in. 6.4 × 8.1 in. 1,535%

Notes: In comparison to letter paper (8.5 × 11 inches)

As you can see from the comparison above, A4 paper (216 × 297 millimeters or 8.5 × 11.75 inches) is the closest A-series counterpart to letter-size paper.

What Is Letter Paper Used for?

Letter paper is the most commonly used type of paper size in North America. You can use letter paper for virtually anything, from printing official documents, including contractual agreements, to printing school reports.

So, if you can use letter paper for official business, then what purpose does legal paper have? To be frank, you can use them interchangeably, and it won’t matter at all. Since there’s no law that dictates whether a binding agreement must be printed on a specific sheet of paper, you can use legal, letter, tabloid, ledger, and even 5 × 7 sheets of paper for official and legal documentation.

Why Is Letter the Standard Size?

The big question is, why is letter paper the standard paper size? Why didn’t legal paper size (8.5 × 14 inches) become to go-to paper standard size for documentation?

The simple answer is that letter paper, being shorter than legal paper, was easier to use for logistics reasons. Because it’s 3 inches shorter, companies could pack more paper onto shelves and drawers. The longer sheets were reserved for wordy documents and contracts, but even then, you can use letter-size paper in place of legal paper.

BaronCooke

Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of measuringknowhow.com

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