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Format your PDF docs as 5X7 landscape for on-screen reading, not as letter-sized paper

Attention law firms and others who publish on-line PDF documents: Stop formatting your PDFs as though people were going to print them out on 8.5X11 letter-sized paper. Here’s what you should be doing [EDIT: See the alternative suggestion below, which I like even better]:

  • Paper size should be 5 X 7; you might have to create a custom size for this, but that’s easy enough to do.
  • Use landscape mode, with the long edge horizontal (like a business-letter envelope), not the traditional portrait mode.
  • Use big 20-point type for body copy, and 22-, 24- and 26-point type for headings, not the usual 11- or 12-point type for printing on paper.
  • Margins can stay at the traditional 1 inch all the way around.

Most readers will find this format vastly easier to read on-screen than the traditional letter-sized-paper format that law firms all seem to use.

[EDIT: Another good choice is to stick with the traditional 8.5×11 portrait format, but use the big 20-point type; that way, readers can use the Adobe Reader two-up page display to see two nicely-sized pages on the screen at once.]

If a reader absolutely must print out the PDF, the free Acrobat Reader software has a Page Scaling feature (on the Print dialog box) that allows printing multiple pages on a single sheet of paper; it’s the same concept as printing out deposition transcripts in miniscript format. You can print four totally-legible pages to a sheet when formatted as described above.

(I know all this because for the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a book about nondisclosure agreements, which I plan to publish on-line in an e-book PDF format.)

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