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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Saving Trees

My thanks to Dan et al. for having me back on Prawfs! 

For as long as I can remember, the default page margins on a Microsoft Word document have been 1.25'' on the left and right sides.  In my 7th or 8th grade "typing" class (yes, that's what it was called), I believe we were taught that 1'' margins are standard all around.  So why the extra .5'' of wasted side space?  As you know, Microsoft Word dominates the word processor market around the world.  Sure, lots of people change the default margins.  But I'm sure lots of people just stick with the default.

Fortunately, I recently bought Office 2007, and it appears that Microsoft has switched to standard 1'' margins.  Nevertheless, a lot of trees have died in the interim.  In the days when I interviewed for management consulting jobs, I would occasionally get questions like, "How many telephone booths are there in Manhattan?" (yes, "telephone booths" is what they were called).  You were expected to make some reasonable assumptions and come up with an answer.  In that line, how many extra trees has Microsoft killed by setting 1.25'' side margins instead of 1'' side margins.  To get you started, you might use the assumption here that a 60 foot pine tree makes very roughly 80,000 sheets of paper.

P.S. Yes, I know that even 1'' margins are more than we need.  And yes, double spacing has even more blood pulp on its hands.

Posted by Adam Kolber on March 4, 2008 at 08:20 AM | Permalink


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Bruce is certainly right that, for whatever reason, courts have a lot of pulp/sap on their hands. (Our industry even has its own extra-long legal paper!)

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Mar 4, 2008 12:47:18 PM

Worse: double spacing and 14-point font, required now in many Circuits. It looks awful and wastes trees. Better would be single spacing and banning narrow typefaces like Times New Roman. E.g., your average Supreme Court brief.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Mar 4, 2008 12:16:22 PM

The 1.25" margins were an attempt to make Word's default layout more readable by decreasing the number of characters per line. The 8.5" page is not a good width for 12-point type; you either create unreadably long lines or throw out lots of usable space.

(I've yelped about this here at Prawfs before; good multi-column layouts use less paper and are more readable.)

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Mar 4, 2008 10:52:04 AM

By contrast, OpenOffice.org Writer has long used 0.8" as the default margin on all sides.

Posted by: Archit Shah | Mar 4, 2008 9:10:08 AM

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