College, or medium-ruled, sheets feature a smaller gap between lines than narrow-ruled papers. The college rule paper has a 9/32 rating "spacing, which allows for more lines on a page and is frequently favoured by users with small handwriting. Similarly, narrow rule paper has a 1/4 inch margin "the space between lines on a page", while standard rule paper has a 1/2 inch margin.
The term "college ruling" comes from the fact that these pages were originally made using a hand-powered rotary printing press called a "compositor's setting machine". Each line of text was set into its own separate section on the page, like columns on a newspaper, so it could be printed in black ink only where necessary, instead of covering the whole page with text. Thus, the term "black out" columns appear when there is no text within a section.
These days, computer printers can print in different widths of margins, so they can handle any size document you give them. But early printer technology could only print in four sizes: half an inch, one inch, two inches, and three inches. So if you wanted to print something other than letter size, you had to use four separate pieces of paper and glue them together later. College ruling is still used today in some office settings where manual processing is still done regularly.
The advantage of college ruling is that it can hold more text on each page.
Wide ruled paper, often known as legal ruled paper, has a greater 11/32" spacing between horizontal lines on a page. Wide-ruled paper is typically favoured by users with bigger handwriting, as well as in schools with younger students. Narrow-ruled paper is preferred by users who need to write very close together.
Ruling size affects not only how you write but also how you print. For example, printing two pages of text on one sheet of printer paper will require narrower margins if the paper is narrow-ruled. Margins are the space outside of a document that's left blank. When you print multiple pages they're printed on separate sheets of paper and then collected into a bound book or folder. Or you can merge them all onto one page by using what's called "bleed" printing. With this setting, parts of the printer head will extend past the edge of the page, allowing ink to leak onto adjacent pages. This isn't recommended for quality prints, but it can help when printing multiple copies of a document (such as when giving presentations).
When you choose to use wide-ruled paper, there are two main types: uniform and non-uniform. Uniform wide-ruled paper has identical margins on both sides; non-uniform wide-ruled paper has margins of different lengths.
Narrow-ruled paper has a 1/4 inch (8/32 inch, 6.4 mm) gap between the ruling lines and is preferred by people who have smaller handwriting or who want to fit more lines per page. Narrow-ruled paper is used for journals, notebooks, and planners that require small handwriting.
Regular-ruled paper has a 1/2 inch (12 inches, 30 cm) gap between the ruling lines and is preferred by people who want to fit more pages in their books or who need to write on both sides of the page. Regular-ruled paper is used for textbooks, reference works, and other documents where space is not a concern.
Wide-ruled paper has 3/4 inch (19 mm) or 1 inch (25.4 mm) gaps between the ruling lines and is preferred by people who need to write very large letters or who want to fit as many words on each page as possible. Wide-ruled paper is used for banners and signs because they can hold a lot of text yet remain easy to read.
Ruling: The line that separates one page from the next. Most papers have two parallel rows of holes which allow you to attach the pages together. Some papers have three parallel rows of holes (usually found in larger format books), while others have four (such as Notebook Series).
Medium-ruled (or college-ruled) paper has horizontal lines spaced 9/32 in (7.1 mm) apart, with a vertical margin drawn about 11/4 inch (32 mm) from the left-hand border of the page. It is widely used in the United States. Light-ruled paper has half as many lines to a column, and no vertical margin. It is used mainly for headings and notes.
The term "college rule" comes from the fact that these lines were first used by The College Board in their test papers which were made available to educational institutions for use with their exams. These lines served to help students identify where to place answers without confusing them with surrounding text. They are still used today in many similar examinations such as the SAT and ACT tests given to high school students applying to colleges or universities.
In Britain, India and Israel they are called "rule lines". In Japan they are referred to as "divider lines". In New Zealand they are called "boundary lines".
The word "rule" here means "line on which words are divided into columns."
In France these lines are called "traces de division", and they divide the page into 4 sections. Each section is large enough for a answer sheet so they are useful for dividing up questions within exam situations.