Idiom:  Leave a paper trail

Cartoon boss telling colleague who as a series of papers on the floor in a row behind him: "I told you a thousand times, never, ever leave a paper trail around here."


Look at the picture and try to guess the meaning of the idiom 'leave a paper trail.'   

(leave) a paper trail:  (to leave) a series of written documents that show what someone did or how something happened.

photo of a path


As shown in the picture, a trail is a path that's made in the ground when people walk in the forest.

It can also describe any series of marks or signs that someone leaves behind them as they go somewhere.

Since a paper trail provides proof or evidence of something, it can help or hurt someone depending on the situation.

A paper trail is a series of records that are written or can be printed on paper (such as letters, journals, diaries, receipts, financial ledgers, phone records, computer files or email).


  • My advice is to always keep a paper trail of emails and notes so you have proof that your boss keeps asking you to do personal work and errands for her.
  • My dog left a paper trail of shredded tissues proving she'd been in the bathroom again.
  • My assistant left a paper trail of emails and documents showing she spent 90 percent of her time working on her university assignments instead of doing her work.
  • The defendant was easily convicted because he left a paper trail confirming his illegal activities.
  • The transfer of so much money over the course of three years means there has to be a paper trail of their activities somewhere.
  • When we cleared out my father's office after his death we discovered a paper trail leading us to his secret life with another woman and half-siblings I never knew about.
  • Before you submit your resignation make sure you destroy any paper trail of personal documents on your computer and in your files.
  • The auditor said our former CFO left a paper trail confirming he was embezzling money from the company.
  • I'm sure they left a paper trail here but we'll have to sort through about 250 file cabinets to find it.
  • My wife tried to hide her store purchases by paying with cash but she left a paper trail of receipts and clothing tags in her desk drawer.
  • If your boss is asking you to do things against company policy leave a paper trail by confirming his instructions back to him through email.
  • My kids left a paper trail of empty candy wrappers so I knew they'd been into their Halloween candy.
  • Luckily, my attorney told me several months ago to leave a paper trail just in case they tried to fire me so I've got everything on record.
  • It's not surprising you didn't find any receipts. She's too intelligent to use a credit card and leave a paper trail.
  • Writing a check is not enough to leave a paper trail. You need to write exactly what the payment is for in the memo line.
  • Whatever you do, don't leave a paper trail.

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