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  • Susan "Zuzu" Skelly

A Tribute to Lined Paper

As the school year in our area begins, we thought it would be fun to take a break from our usual topics to pay tribute to something almost all students use – notebooks.

Imagine your school notebook. What do you see? Is it a series of vertical blue lines with a read line down the left side? Green lines going across the page? More than one horizontal line on your page?

Do you know why your notebook looks that way?

Thinking about notebooks in the US, we can thank a couple of inventions for our modern notebooks. In 1770, a machine that made lined paper was invented. And then in the early 1800s, the blue-lined paper appeared. Eventually, the red vertical margins were added. This is the kind of lined paper we see in notebooks in the US.

The blue lines are there to guide your hand straight across the page. But what about the red lines? Those tell you to not get any closer to the edge of the paper. In the past, the red lines reminded you to leave space on the edge in case any rodents – mice or rats – decided to chew on your paper. If you stay inside the red lines, rodents would need to eat about an inch of your paper before destroying any of your writing. Today, most learners and teachers use that inch around the edge as a space to make comments or write notes.

What about other countries? Notebooks tend to look different around the world. Take a look at the notebook designs below. Do you know the history of these notebooks? Let us know in the comments!


In China, kids use Tainzige ruled paper when learning to write. It has boxes for individual characters.


You get thick vertical lines that are 8mm apart, beginning 16mm from the left. Three lighter lines are 2 mm apart between each pair of heavy lines.


Genkō yōshi is used for kanji writing. It is formed vertically with individual boxes for each character.


The pages are like grids with 6, 7, 8 or 9 mm spacing. The grid lines can be gray, blue, green or purple. The vertical margin line is red or orange.

If you could, how would you design the notebook paper your country uses?

Why design it that way?

Let us know in the comments!

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