Sunday, June 18, 2017

Write Right with carbon paper

How often do my readers use carbon paper? If you're like me, the answer is hardly ever. But this creates a problem in correspondence: will you remember what you said in your last letter? An advantage to digital correspondence is that it's usually easy to reconstruct a conversation, either by going to your Sent folder or by checking older messages that are quoted below your current one. If you're just working on paper, it's not so simple. You could always scan or photograph your letter before sending it off, and I've done so in some situations, but with personal correspondence, that feels to me like violating some sort of unspoken typospherian contract.

So when I sat down to answer some letters recently on my 1938 Continental portable, I felt the need to make a carbon copy.

I dug through my drawers and found this:

It looks like a relic of the 1930s or ’40s. The wrapper reads:

To Give Best Results
When Used Properly in a
Standard "Kant-Slip" Register


7 1/4 inch  2 ply
Dayton, Ohio
Manufacturers of

I don't even remember how or when I got this, but it's never been used. I opened it and found that the roll even has its own serial number:

Even in the absence of a "Kant-Slip" Register, the stuff works.

Now I'll know what I said in this letter, even after it's mailed off to its recipient. Ah, the wonders of modern technology!

I'll add that if you care about posterity, and posterity turns out to care about you, a carbon copy is much more durable and legible than a digital file, which can alter, degrade, or simply become unreadable with the passing of the years.

Oh, and this is a Kant-Slip (as sold on eBay a while ago).


  1. It's high time we made CCing literal again!

    1. Yes! Most people have no clue what "cc" originally stood for, I'm sure.

    2. I was one of them!

  2. Timely article! I've been thinking about using carbons with my letter writing. Now I one less excuse not to.

    It's interesting that you can still buy carbon paper new from office supply stores. I suspect the tattoo industry has kept them alive.

  3. I haven't seen a roll of carbon paper for decades. I have some sheets and I bought a few boxes of carbon sets off Ebay before leaving Florida. I'd use then whenever I wrote to my Mother so I'd have a copy. That way I would hopefully not repeat myself in a letter, and I would recall what I wrote if she ever asked about any certain thing in the letter.

  4. Appleton NCR 2-Part Carbonless, baby! I keep a pile of it pre-padded for typing. You buy the ream, unwrap it, slip the top sheet to the bottom, then pad one edge with the special glue they sell for it. once it dries, you just fan it apart and the ream breaks down into sets of 2-sheet pads, one white and one yellow. You can use them as if they were single sheets, and pull off the yellow copy for your files when you're done typing. Costs about 20 bucks a 500-sheet ream (so 250 2-part sets). ain't cheap, but it's exceedingly convenient. (:

  5. I use carbon paper for all my correspondence (and have for years), for the reason mentioned: it reminds me of what I said in a previous letter, so that I don't repeat myself. I've never seen carbon paper in a roll before; mine is simple sheets. (I will also secretly confess that I retain the copies in case I ever become famous or infamous enough one day for people to care about what I've written.)

    1. I posted this years ago on my Facebook page:

  6. Pardon the tangent: Frank Underwood uses a portable typewriter in season 5, episode 9 of House of Cards.

  7. I've actually got a video about this!

  8. Amazingly Ryman in the UK still sell typewriter carbon paper. Obviously I bought some.