Learn to staple smarter - the CIA way

A 1963 Agency memo outlines the proper way to stick sheets of paper together

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Beryl Lipton

Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a stack of paper you need to keep together temporarily, and a hole punch just won’t cut it. Where do you apply the staple, and at what angle? What angle? Oh, look, while you were hesitating, a breeze just blew the whole thing to the floor. Time to brush up on your CIA guide to stapling, rookie.

Now, there are three things you need to keep in mind before you play the castanets of eternity.

1. Paper clips are not to be trusted

Paper clips. The Devil’s Pretzel. Though not without their uses, that maze of hate is a bendable betrayal waiting to happen. Get what you need, and then get out of there.

2. There are two right stapling techniques - and an infinite number of wrong ones

Alright, you’ve checked and double-checked that these sheets belong together. Now it’s go-time.

If you’re planning on removing the staple later, then just place one at the upper left-hand corner in a diagonal angle resembling a backslash. If you’re wondering what “bend dexter” means, that’s actually a reference to Medieval heraldry - its mirror image would be the “bend sinister.” If you’re wondering what Medieval heraldry has to do with office work, then we recommend you invest in a solid pair of earplugs - it’s hard to concentrate with the sound of Umberto Eco spinning in his grave.

If you’re planning on something a bit more permanent, then it’s the same location, except the staple should be straight across. Or, as its known in Medieval heraldry, “straight across.”

3. When you borrow office supplies, you’re really stealing from yourself

The Borrowers isn’t just a beloved British children’s book with a surprisingly solid live-action film adaption - it’s a line that separates the people who are here to do a job from the people that are here to do not as good of a job. The bend dexters from the bend sinisters. Do the right thing - get your own damn staple remover.

Read the full memo is embedded below - if you know what’s good for you(r paperwork).


Image via Twentieth Century Fox Film