Version 7.3

The perfect angle to staple paper

by Simon Cox
Simon Cox, Author


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.

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

The best angle to staple paper is 67.5 degrees. This allows the pages to be flipped without causing too much distrusption to the desk around where you are reading the document. Stapling paper together helps keep the order of the pages and makes it easier to file away.

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

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

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

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

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