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Accounting Paper and Report Cover Sizes - Why the Difference?

Our accounting paper supplies, notepads and report covers come in both 8.5 x 11 and 8.5 x 14 inch paper sizes.

Standardized paper sizes came about by chance, rather than as a global planned process.

In the 14th century in Bologna, Italy, a marble tablet inscribed with the outlines of four sizes of paper (labeled small, medium, large and extra large) was placed in public view to serve as a guide for the paper sizes manufactured in that region of Italy. This is known to be the first time that paper sizes were standardized.

Centuries later, in 1786, a German physics professor noted the advantages of paper sizes having a height-to-width ratio of the square root of two. This preserved the aspect ration when cutting a page in two. It became the basic for the metric-based ISO paper size system used by most of the industrialized nations today. And over the next few years, France and other nations adopted these ISO paper sizes.

The United States and Canada are the only modern countries in which the ISO standard paper sizes are not widely used.

How the US and Canada adopted the different standard paper sizes from the rest of the world is a bit obscure and came about from several factors.

In 1921 the Permanent Conference on Printing and the US Secretary of Commerce, former President Hoover, made the attempt to establish 8 x 10.5" as the US standard. At the same time, another committee known as the Committee on the Simplification of Paper Sizes recommended 6 completely different paper sizes. Our now common 8.5 x 14" paper size was one of these 6 recommendations.

However, in 1980, the Reagan administration declared that the official paper format for US government letterhead and correspondence would be 8.5 x 11" and it appears that the 8.5 x 14" size from the Committee's recommendation had stuck as the second most commonly preferred size. The latter became to be known as "legal" size paper and the 8.5 x 11" known as "letter" size paper.

It is interesting that there was no effort or research to prove that this was the optimal size for paper for use in letter writing or legal documentations. The sizes were chosen basically to reduce the haphazard variety of paper sizes in use.

As such, our accounting forms, pads of paper, report covers and ledgers can be ordered in either 8.5 x 11" or 8.5 x 14".