The Best Notebook for Notetaking

I love notebooks.

Whenever I browse a bookstore, office supplies or even a dollar store, I cannot help but gravitate towards where notebooks are. Smyth-sewn, spiral; softbound, leatherbound, hardbound—I flip through the pages and run my fingers over the paper, feeling its smoothness and its weight. Will my pen bleed through? Will the paper survive the pressure of my handwriting, supposedly an indication of my forceful personality? I also look at the guides: are the edges perforated, are the lines subtle or obvious, will my variety of handwriting fit in the spaces?

If the paper passes my standards and if it has a pretty cover or has another feature I think is rare, then I buy it. No questions asked.

I don’t write in it, usually. I just stick it in one of my drawers at home or put it up on the shelves, alongside my collection of notebooks.


Sometimes, I flip open to the first leaf and start writing with good intentions. Turn it into a journal or fill it with lecture notes from either classes or books. Even with the array of digital formats available for quicker access, I find that when I study, the old-fashioned way of poring over textbooks and jotting down key points are more effective.

But the lines in standard notebooks throw me off often when I reread my notes, and I hesitate to scribble or draw helpful diagrams and simplified sketches that might disrespect the lines.


Enter the dot-grid notebooks, which I have stumbled across from browsing the Internet. In theory they sounded perfect for me. Instead of rigid lines that constrain or blank pages that offer no guidance, the dot-grid notebooks offer a flexible alternative with its dots set in a grid pattern usually 5 mm by 5mm. It encourages all kinds of things written: both long, flowing text and images.

I couldn’t find one that I liked, however. Moleskine and Lechtturm are very expensive for school notebooks. Other brands have had critical reviews on the quality of the paper and the subtlety of the dot-grids.

Then I found the dot-pad notebook from Rhodia. The Rhodia dot-pad is in a steno format and comes in different sizes, from notebooks as small as 3 3/8 x 4 3/4″ to 16 1/2 x 12 1/2″. I got something similar in size to the iPad mini at 6 x 8″. Binding is via two staples on the top edge, and the notebook is actually sturdier than that sounds. What I appreciate too is that the staples do not go through the back side! The cover can come in either orange or black and is stiff and water-resistant, with the front cover marked at the top for easy folding and flat writing. Look at how flat it lays on the desk with the cover flipped over!

There are 80 sheets in each pad, with the dot-grids spaced 5 mm in both axes. The dot-grids are a subtle lilac color, visible so that I can write neatly but not obtrusive when I re-read my notes. The paper is an impressive 80 gsm in weight, and oh, what a dream it is to write on it! I use my Pilot Acroball pens to take down notes, and my fingers glided effortlessly on the page due to its smooth texture. I have very heavy strokes, however, and when I tried writing on both sides of the page, the letters faintly showed through.

I bought the Rhodia dot-pad at retail for around US$7.50, which converts to a higher price in Canadian dollars. There are websites in Canada that sell this for a lower price and offer free shipping upon meeting a minimum purchase, but I decided to get one first to try it out. (Imagine if I had ordered 10 notebooks all at once and decided I didn’t like it!) It definitely offers excellent price for its value.

And now off I go to study and write!

Dr. Jade Marie Tomaszewski is a pathologist-in-training at McGill University, where she also did her degree in MSc Pathology. She obtained her medical degree (MD) from the University of the Philippines, after completing a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. In her (little) spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, curling up with a book and a large mug of tea, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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