How Many Bytes are in a Page of Text?

I’ve had a few people ask me how many bytes are in a typical page of text, so I thought I’d answer it online.

The standard answer to this question is “it depends,” which is a perfectly valid answer, but isn’t very useful–it really doesn’t answer the real question that people are asking, which is, “If I have a page of text, how large is it, in bytes or kilobytes?”

A single ASCII character is 1 byte. So if you have a plain text file, the size of your file is equivalent to the number of characters, including spaces, line-breaks, tabs, and other “invisible” characters that are in your file. In a plain text file, this is easy–there is nothing going on behind the scenes to bloat your document, so you always have a pretty good idea of how large it is. When you start considering a file produced by a word processor like Microsoft Word, all that goes out the window, as discussed below.

Because of the variations in paper size, font, line-spacing, and whether the text is dialogue-containing prose, poetry, text-heavy non-fiction, and even whether one or more characters happens to play a heavy roll in your writing (an ode to the letter M, for example), it is useful to to have a basis for comparison.

The following table indicates, in bytes, the size of various files that are all “one page.” In all cases assume the page is 8.5″ x 11″ with one-inch margins, the font is 12-point Times New Roman with single line-spacing, and that any indents are 0.2″, and there is no extra space between paragraphs.

File Description File Size
The letter M, followed by a space, repeated across the whole page 3,129 bytes
The letter o, followed by a space, repeated across the whole page 4,177 bytes
The letter i, followed by a space, repeated across the whole page 5,760 bytes
An excerpt from Tom Sawyer, starting from the first word of the first chapter 3,106 bytes
A different single-page excerpt from Tom Sawyer 2,955 bytes

The difference between the pages single repeated characters is due to the variation in width of the characters, and is why I chose those letters–the wide capital M contrasted with the skinny lowercase i, and the medium o in the middle demonstrate how variable-width fonts can affect the answer to exactly how many bytes are in a page of text. Note that if you were using a fixed-width font, like Courier, the answer would always be the same for a given font-size if every single spot on the page is taken up and there are no short rows: about 3,009 at 12 points and 5,961 at 8 points.

I was going to include data on how large an equivalent MS Word file is, but because Word saves information about your edits, there is no way to accurately determine the size of a file based on the number of characters. When I simply resized the page from 8.5″ x 11″ to 5.5″ x 8.5″ and deleted all the text after the first page, my file actually got bigger than the larger page with more text on it!

I hope this information helps, if not to actually answer the question, at least to illuminate the issue a bit. :)