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What are Text Weights and Writing Weights?

One day, I’m visiting my local paper supply house and I’m curious to see what they know about paper weights.  So I ask a question to 2 members of the staff.  What’s the difference between text weights and writing weights?  You’d think they would have the answer for this but instead, I’m getting the deer in headlights stare!  If they don’t understand, and they’re working in the paper store, then it’s about time someone like me writes about this.  So let’s get started answering the question, what are text weights and writing weights.

Paper stocks are not cover stocks

First of all, both text weights and writing weights are considered paper stocks as opposed to cover stocks.  So if you pick either of them up, they will not feel as thick as a sheet of cardstock.   Some text weights can be very thick, but no matter how thick the basis weight of a sheet of text stock is, it couldn’t be confused with a card stock.  Now here comes the technical part.

Text weights and writing weights are measured by taking 500 sheets of the “basis ream”.  The reason 500 sheets are used is that 500 is the common number of sheets in a “ream” of paper.  Basis ream refers to the common size the sheet is manufactured as, not to the finished cut sheet you buy in the store.  This is where the difference is between text weights and writing weights.   Let me explain in a little more detail.

  • Writing, Bond and Ledger papers have a basis ream that is 17” x 22”
  • Text, Book and Offset papers have a basis ream that is 25” x 38”

Now let’s discuss “equivalent weight” because this is where I feel the confusion comes from.  Equivalent weight is how you define a sheet of text weight against a sheet of writing weight papers.  Go back and look at the basis ream sizes again.  You’ll notice that text weights use a larger paper size for their basis measurement.  This is the reason why text weights can feel exactly the same as a writing weight but have a higher number printed on the package.  Here’s a list of common equivalent weights:

  • 20# bond is the same at 50# offset text, with an approximate GSM of 75
  • 24# bond/writing is the same as 60# offset text, with an approximate GSM of 90
  • 28# bond/writing is the same as 70# offset text, with an approximate GSM of 105
  • 32# bond/writing is the same as 80# offset text, with an approximate GSM of 120

You’ll notice I added the GSM weights above too.  This is the metric equivalent and is also referred to on packages of paper as g/m2 and all it means is grams per square meter.  GSM is commonly used in European countries where in the United States, we use pounds or # to express the weight of paper.  When you go to the paper store and look at prepackaged reams, you’ll most likely see all 3 units of measure now.  Being equipped with your new understanding of what are text and writing weights, you’ll be able to avoid that deer in headlight look because YOU will know what it all means.

Text Weights-Writing Weights


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