Friday, January 11, 2008

Change the Margins

Change the Margins is an online effort to conserve resources by encouraging people to print with narrower margins. The goal: .75″ on all sides. One study that Change the Margins cites claims that changing to .75″ margins (it's not clear from what: 1″? 1.25″?) results in a 4.75% reduction in paper use.

I like various paper-saving strategies: I routinely save a page or more on my syllabi by switching to landscape view and putting text in three columns (which not only saves paper but also makes it easy to find things). And I always like tinkering with fonts and margins to make text fit. Why have a few runover lines if you can make everything fit on one page?

If you're using Microsoft Word, changing the default margin settings is a good way to start saving paper. (No 1.25″ margins, ever!) Change the Margins explains.

comments: 4

Anonymous said...

Though I applaud the effort to save paper, the graphic designer in me worries what impact such a program would have on readability and legibility, already maligned by Microsoft Word (brilliantly skewered by Virginia Heffernan in last Sunday's New York Times). In well-set material, the length of a line is normally something like 45 to 75 characters. Anything longer and things start getting hard to read. This is why magazines and newspapers use multiple columns, which, as you suggest, might be the way to go. The 8.5 by 11 in. paper those of us in the U.S. use is really too wide for one column of text anyway. Yet many people might find something like a college paper set in two columns funny looking. Additionally, multiple columns introduce a whole host of other typographical issues: hyphenation, justification, etc. Perhaps we should simply encourage people to print on both sides of the page first?

Michael Leddy said...

I guess maybe the real value of something like Change the Margins is that it can get people thinking about their use of paper. It bugs me, for instance, to see a ten- or twelve-line meeting agenda printed on a whole page when a half-page would do. I'm not sure I can go with .75" for my students' essays — there'd be too little room for marginal comments. And if an essay is going to take two pages no matter what, 1" or 1.25" margins would look a lot better than .75".

Me, I find two-sided printing really difficult to read (though two-sided xeroxed text is fine).

If anyone missed the article Matt cited, here's a link: An Interface of One’s Own.

Thanks, Matt, for reading and commenting.


Michael, first, I genuinely like the new photo.
I'm in full accord with your sentiments about saving paper and manipulating text as needed to make it fit. I have a wintel platform (home-built) and use MS Notepad and MS Word. On both my default is .5 for all four margins. Occasionally, a specific printer will require more on the bottom margin, but most nowadays will handle .5.

What I'd really like to advocate here is using the following typeface: Arial Narrow, Bold, 11 Point. I find it is large enough, and dark enough, to be easily read; at the same time, you can pack a lot of text onto a page with this. 'nuff said, but give it a try.
Years ago, I think during the Carter Administration, when I was doing a stint of In Government Service, it was mandated that the Government, at least the Executive Branch, would use 8" by 10.5" paper and this would save untold dollars by reducing the amount of paper used by the Government.

Noble idea, it lasted maybe three years.
By the way, take a piece of legal size paper, 8.5" by 14", fold it in half, then in half again, and you end up with a piece now 3.5" wide. Which just happens to be the width of a floppy disc. Both have to do with the width of a man's pocket.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Lesle -- my daughter Rachel took the photo.

Charless from Tallahassee also mentioned the shirt pocket conncetion in a comment on an earlier post. I'm grateful for readers from whom I can learn things -- thanks for that too, Lesle.