I need an all-encompassing term that covers all kinds of written documents, except electronic ones: printed (on a printing press or the result of a computer printout) as well as hand-written documents.

I've used various alternatives in the past, documents in writing, documents on paper, documents in paper form(at), but none of them are really satisfactory. When it's obvious that hand-written documents can be omitted, I've usually used the term printed documents.

Edited to add: The context involves official documents and specifically the introduction of legally binding electronic documents. However, at times these need to be differentiated from hand-written documents from before the invention of the typewriter.

  • 2
    How will you be using this term? Can you get away with describing how the document must be submitted instead?
    – Jim
    May 9 '13 at 4:43
  • 1
    As Jim said, I think we really need to understand what the intended usage is. What is the context? Without that, the term for written documents would be "written documents." You see? From your question, there isn't enough information to understand why you need a different term. What's wrong with "written documents?" Explain further, and we might be able to help more. May 9 '13 at 5:00

Paper document.

If it's not electronic, it's likely that it has been printed. On paper. Hence we have electronic files and paper files. The latter are for the paper documents, which are a pain in the patoot for electronic document management systems, but I digress.

  • Paper document sounds good to me. Thanks. I'll mark this question as answered.
    – MSoi
    May 18 '13 at 6:14

physical document

Physical document is the term generally used to refer to a non-electronic entity in document management systems. It serves well as a generic expression/ hypernym for printed pages, hand-written notes, microfische, perhaps even palm-leaf manuscripts and copper-plate inscriptions of old.

[emphasis mine:]

document capture involves scanning a physical document and saving it as a digital image. [document capture]

See also:

Many applications incorporate a physical document preparation activity, with operators involved in removing physical objects, smoothing creased or crumpled paper, and stacking paper in specific physical arrangements prior to scanning. [Intr Elec Doc Mgmt Sys]


It also means that available document-oriented information over the Internet is based on physical document features that reflect an underlying hidden logical structure stored in database schemas. [Web Document Analysis]

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