Image of the front cover of a Life Japan ruled notebook

Notebooks - Plain, Lined, Dot or Grid?

A new notebook presents a blank slate, a fresh canvas, the promise of endless possibilities!

Do you enjoy sketching and doodling, or maybe you prefer to write stories, to keep your notes neatly between lines or maybe you like the idea of designing your own systems to organise your time? 

The format of the notebook you choose depends on your own preferences, it is such a personal choice and many people have their must-have choice of page format.  Here are some of the advantages or limitations of the choices available:




From your school days, this is probably the first format that most people get to experience. Lines encourage logical sequencing and give clear guidance for writing in neat straight lines, often hailed as the best type of writing format since this is exactly what it was designed for.  When choosing a lined notebook, it is worth paying attention to the spacing of the lines - narrow spacing may not be comfortable for large handwriting and wide spacing may be too “empty” for smaller font size.

However the format is rigid and regular and a bit too scholarly for some. When you’re playing around with ideas, or not even sure of the relationship between them, this format can be a limitation.


Plain paper is ideal for people whose thoughts don't present themselves in straight lines and lists, it offers freedom to write, sketch and doodle as you please.  The idea of not being guided by a notebook is intriguing, a truly “blank canvas”.  Plain paper allows you to discover your creativity on your terms.
For some, however, the complete absence of any lines or guidance makes it difficult to use for writing and impossible to keep neat and straight lines!


This popular format was introduced more recently and it can provide the best of both worlds.  Usually the dot grid is pale in colour, which provides a subdued structure to the page but is not a distraction; a versatile option for writing, planning and journals. It is great for bullet points, calculations and audits. If you use it for sketching or drawing the dots appear to fade away so it doesn’t restrict.  It is an all-rounder providing more format creativity.   


There is something very reassuring about the simplicity of gridded paper.  The orderly squares provides more guidance than dot but is not as restrictive as lined. It is ideal for organising notes, columns of data, creating tables, diagrams and keeping thoughts aligned.  For creative designs that require more accuracy than drawing on plain paper, the little squares can help drawings, sketches and patterns be designed to scale. The grid becomes the ideal surface for new creations and is often favoured by designers, architects and other creatives.

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