Notes and paper
Notes and paper
I always take notes. I find however I spread my notes across too many pieces of paper. Often a piece of scrap A4 is used for diagrams/sketches of software architecture. Other times it’s Post-it Note as they were closest to hand. However I eventually end up with lots of notes spread everywhere. I realised a while back that I need to consolidate all my notes into one book. Then I always have all my notes with me.
First rule was no Post-it Notes.
Second rule was always have my notebook on the desk when I arrive at work so it’s to hand. This prevents me reaching for Post-it Notes.
I recently got back into mechanical pencils. I was buying and testing all types however I found out what Adam Savages favourite mechanical pencil is. It’s the cheap disposable PaperMate 0.7 mm Non-Stop. This was revolutionary and once I got my hand on one I soon fell in love.
The rubber is a key part to a pencils usefulness over pens, any pencil without an attached rubber is useless to me. I tend to make a lot of mistakes in written writing where my brain is working faster than my hands. A writing implement which is erasable allows my notes to be edited and maintained like electronically typed notes on a computer.
Coincidentally I recently also started reading Adam Savages new book “Every Tool’s A Hammer: Life Is What You Make It”. In the book he details his note taking techniques. I was again instantly understanding and wanting to try it for my self. I have used several note taking methods previously. Mostly lined paper with ticks at the end of lines I have completed.
The technique Adam showed allowed for even more information to be displayed. That is partially complete tasks. Previously I would note a tilde ~ to show partially complete items.
I wasn’t strict enough on myself with notes but I was working towards improving them already. Adams book confirmed my suspicion that note taking should be taken very seriously and thus the rabbit hole begins.
I noticed this new note taking system would work well with squared paper. I see Adam using plain and square paper in his examples. I was pondering which paper is the most universal. That way I was sure to only need one notebook. The paper needs to work for strongly typed notes (spaced nicely to the page), loosely typed notes (annotations), not to scale diagrams, to scale diagrams and drawings.
I did a bit of research on the different paper types. I started with my own notebooks. I noticed some interesting things. Lined paper isn’t always the same line spacing. Rite in the rain have a special “universal” format which I cannot find anyone else doing. It’s lined with dotted less visible grid. The grid avoids visual overload but its there when required. Click for for example
USA notebooks use inches for spacing. UK was mm spacing. Germany has a standard of 6mm line spacing.
In the USA they seem to have “College Paper” and “High School Paper”. I know we do something similar in the UK and my Lithuanian friend confirmed they also do this. Basically in schools they start with paper which has a large line spacing. When the child gets older they get paper with standard line spacing. It makes it easier for them until they have improved their hand writing. There are also various special paper types which aid hand writing.
Hardback notebooks are better in general because I carry them around in my 5.11 backpack. This prevents damage and it makes the book much easier to read and write on because it remains rigid.
Square paper spacing varies. 5 mm² seems to be the most common. 10 mm² is around for school use.
The paper shouldn’t bleed when using felt or fountain pens.
Digital notes are useful but not practical for diagrams or annotation unless using a very expensive tablet with a proper digitizer. I do however type documentation up in Markdown and use draw.io for finalised architecture diagrams.
“Lined Paper” is also known as “Ruled Paper”.
“Squared Paper” is also known as “Grid Paper”.
Engineering paper is basically fancy graph paper. There are several types of graph paper which vary in the amount of quadrants.
Below is a table of various notebooks I have and their line spacing. All besides the “Rite in the Rain” and “Lemome” are from the UK to my knowledge.
|Name||Pattern||Size||Metric spacing||Imperial spacing|
|nu: era||lined||A5||8 mm||5/16 in|
|nu: craze||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Amazon basics||squared||A5||5 mm²||3/16 in²|
|Rite in the Rain 935||universal||3x5 in||6.35 mm||1/4 in|
|Unknown brand orange||lined||A6||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Office depot||lined||A5||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Office depot||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Lyreco refill pad||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Unknown brand refill pad||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Hamelin Paperbrands||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Pukka Pads Jotta||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Pukka Pads Jotta||lined||A5||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Lemome Thick Classic||lined||A5||7 mm||9/32 in|
|Unknown circa 1988||lined/graph||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Staples Manuscript||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|The Consortium||squared||A5||5 mm²||3/16 in²|
|The Consortium||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Oxford||squared||A5||5 mm²||3/16 in²|
|John Dickinson||squared||A5||5 mm²||3/16 in²|
|Hamelin Paperbrands||squared||A5||5 mm²||3/16 in²|
|Hamelin Paperbrands||lined||A5||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Hamelin Paperbrands||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
|Rhino||squared||A5||7 mm²||9/32 n²|
|Rhino||lined||A4||8 mm||5/16 in|
I also saw on Amazon that Cambridge, Oxford Campus and Oxford Black n’ Red notebooks use 8 mm line spacing.
Oddly enough there isn’t currently a United Kingdom subheading on the Wikipedia ruled paper page for line spacing. I have since updated the Wikipedia page.
For school books ruling see: rhinostationery.com/page-ruling-guides
- Markus Kuhn ISO paper again the best online reference material is a university with plain old HTML probably written using notepad or vim. Simple and includes clear information without clutter. Bring back the old web!
- Finding the best notebook as much as I don’t want to reference this I think it’s worth including it.
- Reddit thread on line spacing of notebooks
- How to use engineering paper
- Reed Stiles - Be Efficient: Best Engineering Paper Notebook Review
- Reed Stiles - Introduction 2.0 - Engineer Bullet Journal
- Tops Engineering Computation Pad
- LEUCHTTURM1917 344782 (A5), 249 numbered pages, ruled, anthracite German 6 mm line spacing
- LEUCHTTURM1917 344783 (A5), 249 numbered pages, squared, anthracite 5 mm square
- AmazonBasics Classic Notebook, Plain 240 pages, Large basically A5 size
- AmazonBasics Classic Notebook, Squared 240 pages, Large 5 mm square, my current notebook at time of writing.
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