Version 7.1

The perfect angle to staple paper

by Simon Cox



The perfect angle to staple paper

On July 2nd 2004 I posted a small article about stapling sheets of paper together. We all have these small thoughts but don't usually say them out loud - this time I did.

I asked myself what is the best angle to staple sheets of paper at?

This sim­ple arti­cle on how to sta­ple papers togeth­er was picked up by Metafil­ter and traf­fic went mad for a few weeks. Read­ers want­ed more info and sug­ges­tions were that a the­sis should be writ­ten, so I expand­ed it and I even had to change the orig­i­nal graph­ics as some­one, quite right­ly point­ed out that one was tech­ni­cal­ly incor­rect. I was still get­ting search­es through to the new web­site for this arti­cle sev­er­al years lat­er so decid­ed to repub­lish it. Here is the article:

I have just sta­pled four sheets of paper togeth­er in a rou­tine that I do sev­er­al times a day and yet it only just occurred to me that there may be a per­fect angle at which to sta­ple the paper togeth­er for ease of read­ing. For exam­ple, if I were to sta­ple the paper at the clas­sic 45 degrees would it inter­fere with my desk space more than a 90-degree fixing?

Stapling a stack of papers at the perfect angle
The best angle to sta­ple paper being demon­strat­ed on a print out of the Per­fect Angle to sta­ple paper

First­ly I checked my process to ensure I could repeat the paper sta­pling test accu­rate­ly each time.

Process — how to sta­ple paper:

  1. Sort your paper, A4 or US Let­ter, into the order you need the pages.
  2. Check the size of sta­ples you are plan­ning to use are suf­fi­cient for the num­ber of pages you want to sta­ple together.
  3. Ensure the edges of the paper stack are aligned by pick­ing up and hold­ing loose­ly while tap­ping the edge of the stack on your desk or tabletop.
  4. Check the top and sides of the stack you wish to sta­ple and if there are any errant sheets of paper then tap in with a finger.
  5. Choose your sta­pler, hand sta­pler for a few sheets, heavy-duty sta­pler for 8 to 20 sheets or elec­tric sta­pler if avail­able on a photocopier.
  6. Offer paper stack up to your stapler.
  7. Twist paper to the angle you require — see the guide below.
  8. Firm­ly press the sta­pler to insert the sta­ple through your paper.
  9. Enjoy your new­ly sta­pled and secure stack of paper.

Test­ing the best angle to sta­ple paper

So I set out and did some test­ing to see what the best angle for sta­pling paper could be used at and what advan­tages each had. I have only includ­ed the suc­cess­ful angles, in between angles were round­ed out to the final ones. You can see from the results what happened:

0 degrees sta­pled paper

Stapled paper at 0 degrees angle
Sta­pled paper at 0 degrees angle

At 0 degrees the paper is thrown out to the side mak­ing it quite unwieldy and eas­i­ly prone to unwant­ed move­ment if you are read­ing. Not rec­om­mend­ed unless you have a shal­low space at your desk.

22.5 degrees sta­pled paper

Stapled paper at 22.5 degrees angle
Sta­pled paper at 22.5 degrees angle

Our pho­to­copi­er has auto­mat­ic sta­pling and uses a 22.5-degree fas­ten­ing and you would think that a large com­pa­ny would have test­ed this aspect a lot but it seems not, as I find this angle quite uncom­fort­able to use. Dis­ap­point­ing and cer­tain­ly for me not the best way to sta­ple paper!

45 degrees sta­pled paper

Stapled paper at 45 degrees angle
Sta­pled paper at 45 degrees angle

At the clas­sic 45 degrees, all seems well but undue strain is put on the paper espe­cial­ly as you get to the back pages of a large doc­u­ment. The lift­ed pages wave about a bit because the paper does not know to flop up your desk to the side.

67.5 degrees sta­pled paper

stapled paper at 67.5 degrees angle
sta­pled paper at 67.5 degrees angle

A slight twist on the clas­sic 45 degrees fix­ing. This has a lit­tle more flair as it starts to adhere to some of the Gold­en Mean rules. My per­son­al pref­er­ence and the one I think Da Vin­ci would have gone for (and he may have done — if only the Vat­i­can would allow us to see the books.). Sim­i­lar to the 0-degree option but this time goes for­ward rather than out to the side. Same prob­lems but could be use­ful if you need to con­cen­trate on the doc­u­ment as it stops you get­ting to your key­board. Peo­ple with atten­tion defi­cien­cy should choose this.

The next ques­tion to arise is do left-hand­ed peo­ple sta­ple to the left or right of the document?

Do left-hand­ed peo­ple sta­ple to the left or right?

I have no idea but if you hor­i­zon­tal­ly flipped the above angles, 0, -22.5, -45 and -67.5 degrees, then left-hand­ed peo­ple should have the same, but mir­rored, expe­ri­ence as right-hand­ed peo­ple. If you did not flip them but used the same angle top right then you might get into some difficulty.

Lat­er on, I will be exam­in­ing what is the best angle to use if you intend to fold the page behind, such as if you are read­ing doc­u­ments while on the train, and a lot of peo­ple do for I have read many inter­est­ing inter­nal emails over peo­ple shoulders.

If you know of any aca­d­e­m­ic ref­er­ences to this thorny prob­lem please leave a com­ment with a link to them.

Oth­er paper sta­pling techniques

It is pos­si­ble to sta­ple paper togeth­er with­out a tra­di­tion­al office sta­pler. I have seen tech­niques mak­ing tears in the paper and fold­ing. There are paper fas­ten­ers that punch holes in the paper but I have nev­er used one that keeps the paper togeth­er longer than 30 sec­onds. You could also use a nail gun to sta­ple your paper but to be frank that’s a bit overkill and wire sta­ples are a cheap, eco­nom­ic way and also reusable as long as you don’t extract the sta­ples with pliers! 


Sur­rey Uni­ver­si­ty Print­er user guide includ­ing how to sta­ple paper

How to sta­ple paper when using MS Word from War­wick University


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