Plain Paper vs. Lined

July 27, 2008

My note taking involves three kinds of paper.  Plain, or blank paper, lined paper like we all used in school, and graph paper.


At home and at work I tend to reuse paper for random notes or temporary lists.  Anything the I print out single-sided gets torn into quarters and used a scrap paper.  When I stumble onto a website or snippet of information that I want to record, I'll reach for one of these quarter sheets and jot it down.  Grocery lists are the other prime user of these paper scraps.

Recently at work, all the printers capable of two-sided printing have been defaulted to that mode, so the amount of scrap paper I've had access to has dropped.  I now sometimes grab a half dozen pristine sheets of paper to use as scrap.

Having plain, unlined paper is nice.  There is no imposed structure or order on the paper to begin with.  Notes can, and are, written at angles to each other; and some pages end up with several generations of notes scattered about their edges.


Lined paper feels more formal; there is structure imposed before the first word is inked onto the page.  I prefer narrow lines to wide, and white paper to colored.  In the last year or so I have started using spiral bound stenographers pads for daily task lists or meeting notes.  Knowing just enough German to date them in German, I flip to the next empty page every morning, date the page and use it through-out the day for notes that I may want to return to later.

Lined pages tend to have less doodling than their plain cousins, but geometric doodles to appear from time to time.

Graph paper

Graph paper is special, not only is there structure, the structure runs in two directions.  Because the grid of faint blue lines lends itself so nicely to scale drawings and precision sketches, I tend to reserve any graph paper I have for those purposes.  Note taking on graph paper rarely works out well for me, as I tend to explore the geometric doodling possibilities of the page to the extent that there is no room for notes.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.