How to specify paper size

An online article inspired me to ask this question to site visitors: how do you specify paper size? Suppose something needs to be printed on 200 x 250 mm sheets. Is the first number the height or is it the width?

Apparently there is some confusion over the order in which the dimensions are specified and of course that can lead to costly mistakes. The article meanwhile seems to have vanished off the net so I cannot link to it anymore. It claimed that in graphic arts the width is always the first number and that the confusing arises because people who don’t work in the industry often assume the first number refers to the height.

The poll ran from 2013 to December 2014 so a lot of people participated. Here are the results:

How to specify a paper size?

  • width x height (65%, 1,073 Votes)
  • height x width (30%, 492 Votes)
  • no idea (5%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,656

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Much to my embarrassment, I must admit that I put the height first in my overview on frequently used paper sizes. I promise to fix that some day!