Notebooks, journals, and loose sheets of paper can be bought blank, lined, dotted or gridded (also known as plain, ruled, dot grid, and squared). Some alternates such as diagonal grids are also available, plus variations within the options previously mentioned (wide-ruled or college-ruled lines, for example), but the main four paper styles/formats are the focus for today.
With multiple formats to choose from, how do you know what you’ll like? Paper format can be strongly reflective of your personality, but the first place to start is to look at the things you most often write. From there, I can better guide you to a potential ‘perfect’ notebook match.
I Make Lists
If you make lists, technically any type of paper styling will work for you but it depends on how you naturally make those lists to figure out what is best. If you tend to take a simple approach to lists—items listed all in a column that you cross off as you go—then lined is perfect for you. It will help keep your lists orderly.
If you like to (or tend to) doodle in the margins, or add in notes on the side, try blank paper. The big concern folks have with blank paper is that things can look sloppier without lines to guide you. I also think there’s something intimidating about a big blank page if you aren’t used to working with them. If you would describe yourself as creative, blank paper might be your go-to notebook type so you can really have fun with your list-making.
If you need the guidance that lines provide then lined or gridded paper will be your comfort zone. Be aware that it is possible to find some notebooks with lines on one side of the page and nothing on the other; and that might be the perfect compromise.
I Write Notes, Descriptions or Journal Entries
Lined will be your friend here. When you write blocks of text, lines are what help you keep things orderly and more importantly, aid in readability for when you go back to read what you wrote. The difficult part comes in finding the right lines. Meaning, how much spacing they have and how dark the actual line is.
You can find notebooks that have white lines, grey lines and sturdy dark black lines. You can find dotted lines and dashed lines too. If dark lines distract your eye away from what you’re writing, definitely aim for light grey lines or even reversed out white lines on grey paper. And on the flip-side, if you love structure, darker lines are ideal. The type of line you prefer is really just personal preference.
I Do a Lot of Scratch Work
If you keep multiple random pads of paper lying around, trying out just one graph notebook might be best for you going forward. If you find that you make little lists, write a few reminders, do a bit of arithmetic and doodle, you have a creative mind. The grid will help you organize your thoughts better because you will have more of a visual guideline to work with. You might start to notice yourself grouping things on a squared page rather than a blank (doodles in one corner, list in the other, notes and reminders in another, etc.).
I Doodle Constantly
As you can imagine, a blank notebook is the best option for sketching, casual doodling, and other art endeavors. The blank gives you the most space to draw with the least amount of restriction. You might find that lines or grids ‘restrict’ your doodles and drawings so just get rid of them.
I Don’t Know What I Want but I Know I Don’t Like What I Have
Try graph or dot paper. I am suggesting this because so many people never give these types of paper a try. Graph paper is typically associated with math and you can see why; the vertical and horizontal lines offer the maximum amount of ‘restriction’ on the page. But if you are coming from a lined or blank notebook camp, let this be an excuse to try something different.
Dots are great for writing out notes and descriptions because you have enough guidance to keep your text readable and without a slant. It also lets you create lists quickly and you can connect the dots to make actual check boxes. Dots also give you drawing or doodling space too but not as much ‘freedom’ as just a blank page which can scare some folks away.
I Have a Ton of Notebooks and I Use Them All
If you have a stack of notebooks, but none that are ever filled up, you might want to give one solitary dotted notebook a try. That is, if having so many unfinished notebooks bothers you. The reason you may have so many notebooks is because you are a ‘multitasker’ and none of your notebooks is a good ‘fits all’ solution. Dotted notebooks are a really good candidate for being an all-in-one solution.
Finally, no matter what camp you are in, pay attention to what and how you write. And if you’ve been writing with the same sort of notebook or paper type over the years, there might be something better out there for you.
Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.