Yesterday, someone slipped this sloppily handwritten scrap of paper under my door.

which (without the adverbs and fancy adjectives) essentially conveys this idea:

Someone gave me a handwritten paper.

But you don't have (see below), do you?

[...] a written paper.

A safe alternative:

Someone gave me a piece of paper on which there was handwriting.

which is too long and bland for my purpose.

Can there be a "handwritten paper"? If not, how should I rephrase my sentence?

  • What kind of paper was being given to you? Jul 16, 2017 at 14:42
  • 4
    handwritten paper is less nonsensical than typewritten manuscript.
    – TimR
    Jul 16, 2017 at 14:50
  • 3
    A handwritten paper is one with writing on it. No different than a painted fence.
    – TimR
    Jul 16, 2017 at 14:51
  • 7
    Note that "handwritten paper" is not a simplification of "handwritten scrap of paper" because these sentences refer to different meanings of the word paper
    – bikeman868
    Jul 16, 2017 at 16:32
  • 3
    Saw this in hot questions and assumed it was academia, because "paper" implies academic paper
    – Melkor
    Jul 17, 2017 at 6:02

3 Answers 3


Actually "handwritten paper" is fine, although in this case "paper" does not mean the physical material but rather a school essay or other written assignment. See definition 4 or 7 here. Example:

She handed in her paper late, but her teacher still gave her an A.

However it's not a phrase you hear much these days. See this Ngram as an example -- note the sharp decline since 2000. Students are more often required to submit electronic or printed documents (though I'm sure there are good reasons why a teacher might require a handwritten paper now and then.)

Of course, that's not your question. The reason I mention the other definition is because when you say:

Someone put a handwritten paper under my door"

The listener will assume you mean a school paper, written by hand. If you want to be clear that you're talking about a note, then that's what you should say:

Someone put this handwritten note under my door.

The listener will assume the note is written on paper unless otherwise specified:

Someone put this note, written in magic marker on the back of a cardboard pizza box, under my door.

Although a "note" implies there was a message on the paper intended for someone. If instead there was just some random writing that happened to be on a piece of paper:

Someone put this paper under my door, on which they'd handwritten something, but I have no idea what it says or who it's for.

  • 12
    Yes, when I read "Can there be a “handwritten paper”?" in the list of hot network questions, I thought it was a question from academia.stackexchange.com about whether it could be acceptable to publish a handwritten scientific paper.
    – Paul
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:53
  • +1 for "note" and the explanation about a school paper.
    – TecBrat
    Jul 17, 2017 at 13:48

This question manufactures a problem where none exists.

The only issue one might have with "a handwritten paper" is with a paper, which, in the sense of "a sheet of paper, a document", is something of an archaism nowadays, appearing only in legal contexts, which tend to be linguistically formulaic and conservative:

The prosecutor asked the witness if he knew that to be true from something he had been told, or from a written paper he had seen.

These days, we say "a piece of paper" or "a note" when our meaning is "sheet or piece of paper" (as distinct from "an essay").

She gave me a handwritten piece of paper.

She gave me a handwritten note.

The adjective handwritten means "having handwriting on it; produced by the act of writing with a handheld implement such as a pen or pencil."


In the first sentence, both "handwritten" and "of paper" apply to the word "scrap," not to each other.

If you were to say, "someone gave me a scrap of paper," I would have no trouble at all comprehending it.

If you were to say, "someone gave me a handwritten scrap," I would think it sounded a touch strange, since scrap is ambiguous. Does scrap here refer to the quality of what was written on (crumpled paper, perhaps), or does it mean you were only given part of a document?

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