I'm currently writing a security guideline for my company, and I need to make different rules for digital files and documents on paper.

I was wondering if there were any good words to mean "on paper".

Analogue is obviously not the word. Non-digital seems alright, but it somewhat give too much emphasis to digital files. It makes it seem as if digital is one thing and there's the rest, and that's not the case.

I would really appreciate it if you could find the word that would fit just right.

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    "Hard copy" is the term that I've always heard used. (And, BTW, despite common use, "analog(ue)" is not the antonym of "digital".) – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 12:53
  • @HotLicks - You're not an electrical engineer, are you? Within the field, the two are antonyms, although in certain circumstances one can speak of an analog analysis of a digital circuit, or the analog characteristics of a digital signal. But note that the exceptions imply the distinction nonetheless. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 17 '15 at 14:07
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    @WhatRoughBeast - EE and programmer who actually used analog computers back then they occupied half a room. – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 14:10
  • @HotLicks - Yours only took up half a room? You were lucky. OK, seriously, please expand on your objection. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 17 '15 at 14:16
  • @WhatRoughBeast - There was one at Wright-Pat that took up a whole room, but I never got to play with that one. (No objection, just observing that the terms are poorly understood, to the point that they are acquiring new meanings based on the misunderstandings.) – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 14:22

I would suggest either print documents

adj. Of, relating to, writing for, or constituting printed publications: a print journalist; print coverage


printed documents


3. a. To produce by means of pressed type, an electronic printer, or similar means, on a paper surface.

b. To offer in printed form; publish.

The distinction between these is fairly subtle: I would take 'print documents' to relate to documents printed by any physical method, whereas I would usually assume that 'printed documents' implied some kind of official or semi-official (e.g. company-wide) publication on paper. Essentially, a printed document is more important, or is accorded higher status, than some mere print document.

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You could make a distinction between electronic and non-electronic documents, but one document could of course exist in digital and paper form...

If you are mainly dealing with electronic documents that exist (sometimes) also in printed form, one distinction I have seen used quite a lot is hard copy and soft copy for the paper version and the electronic version, respectively.

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I would say "hard copies". #oldschoolers

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  • Not all paper document are copies. – Jim Reynolds Feb 18 '15 at 5:14
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    No, but isn't 'hard copies' the plural of 'hard copy', where 'copy' means matter/material/text? – JJAD Jul 17 '15 at 11:55

Paper documents

An online search for [security procedures "paper documents"] returns numerous examples of professional use of this phrase.

Physical documents.

Same, with this replacement.

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  • +1 this avoids the problem of documents which consist of both hand-written notes and printed material – rabbit Jul 17 '15 at 4:58

try electronic documents and paper documents

"file" has potentially confusing connotations, and may sometimes be too restricted a term; if you want to be as general as possible avoid it. For the same reason I would avoid 'digital' too; it may also be too restrictive. I think 'paper' is okay, though; what documents are not usually paper? (Well, tintypes and ambrotypes. Wait, is a video cassette a document? Yikes!)

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I suggest the words "hand drafted"

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    Please edit your answer to include an explanation why this is a good choice. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 17 '15 at 8:10

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