ANSI standard notebook size

Wondering What Size Paper Notebook You Need? Read This Before You Buy

Paper notebooks offer unparalleled freedom of expression, from journal entries to doodles, while untethering you from the tyranny of battery charge limits and available electrical outlets.

However, just as selecting the ideal laptop or tablet can involve a great deal of consideration, your quest for the perfect paper notebook can leave you puzzled over the sheer range of options on the market. One principle question looms over such details as color, style, and binding: What size notebook do you need?

Of course there’s no one “right” answer to this question, since we all have our own preferences. Even so, it pays to understand how notebook size standards work, as well as which common sizes naturally lend themselves to certain applications. Allow us to offer our professional expertise in an explanation of this surprisingly intricate subject.

It All Starts With the Paper

Paper size obviously tends to dictate the size of the notebooks that contain said paper. Unfortunately, you’ll find a bewildering number of paper standards from one country to the next, with various sizes of paper conforming to each of these standards. So with no further ado, let’s roll up our sleeves and sort through the murk.

North American Standards

Both the United States and Canada measure their paper differently than the rest of the world. In the U.S., paper sizes commonly conform to standard measures set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). That’s why you commonly see the following sizes in American stationery stores:

  • ANSI A: The standard 8.5″ x 11″ or “Letter” size so prevalent in full-sized notebooks
  • ANSI B: The 11″ x 17″ option also known as “Ledger” or “Tablet” size

ANSI C, D, and E are less common for notebooks and more usually reserved for envelopes.

While ANSI A (letter-sized) paper is the most popular in American stationery stores, the second most popular paper size is actually not an ANSI-standard size. It’s 8.5” x 14” and is commonly known as “Legal” size. 

Those cute little 3″ x 5″ or 6″ x 4″ notebooks you’ve seen on the shelves feature “Pocket size” paper. This size also doesn’t directly conform to an ANSI standard, but it closely matches the European A6 standard. (More on that later.)

You may also encounter slightly reduced versions of ANSI standards such as “Half-Letter” and “Junior Legal” sizes in certain planners and notebooks. For example, our Decomposition Books measure 9.75″ x 7.5,” a smidgen smaller than letter size. 

ISO Standards

Paper (and therefore paper notebooks) in other parts of the world usually adhere to measurements established by the International Organization for Standardization. Even here, however, you may see different countries make use of different size names and subtle variations in dimensions. You’re also more likely to see the measurements expressed in metric numbers.

The ISO standard categorizes paper sizes in A, B, and C groups. You’ll see one of these letters followed by a number; the smaller the number, the larger the paper size (which can make things even more confusing when you’re not used to this system). Each of these groups uses slightly different ratios of length of width.

Of these, the A group is by far the most common international paper standard for everyday consumer products, including notebooks. The B group sees more use in the printing industry, while the C group, like its ANSI counterpart, mostly applies to envelope sizing. The A4 size, which measures 210 x 297 mm, most closely corresponds to the American Letter size.

Other International Standards

Many countries already had their own paper size standards in place before the ISO standard came along. While most of them have embraced ISO, some have continued to offer their previous standards alongside it, resulting in many subtle size differences among available notebooks. Don’t be too surprised if you see some slightly unfamiliar-looking notebooks during a visit to Japan, Sweden, China, or Russia.

Practical Considerations for Your Note-Taking Needs

Putting the raw mathematics aside for a moment, let’s discuss how different sizes of notebooks can enhance your productivity in your everyday life. For example, when you need to jot down a quick note, you don’t necessarily want to rummage through your purse, attaché case, or backpack in search of your general-purpose notebook. Keep a pocket-sized notebook in a shirt pocket or other handy space expressly for this purpose.

Got a little more time to do a little more work? That’s when you reach for a larger notebook to take detailed notes, make plans, or get creative. Bear in mind, however, that heavier and bulkier is not necessarily better.

Resist the urge to weigh yourself down with one of those massive plastic-bound notebooks sold at the local office store. Our Decomposition notebooks combine lightweight format with a sensible 80-sheet, 160-page layout, built for optimal usability.

Don’t let the variety of notebook sizes steer you away from the many benefits of a paper-based productivity setup. Browse our store today for 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper notebooks and other products that will make your life easier!

We have all been told that it is better to take school notes by hand, rather than type them up. You may have been all too happy to accept this as an undeniable truth of the universe. An apple will fall when dropped, you will remember the definition of “phospholipid bilayer” when you write it out. But why? Why do you remember things better when they are written out by hand?

1.    A study about taking handwritten notes vs. typing notes found conclusively that handwritten notes are better

How? Two groups of people were asked to learn an unfamiliar alphabet. One group used pen and paper, and the other used a keyboard. According to neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay of the University of Marseille, different parts of the brain are activated when reading letters learned through handwriting than letters learned through typing.

When writing by hand, the movements are remembered in the part of the brain that records motor memory, the sensorimotor, making it easier to recall the letters learned by using the classic pen and paper method. 

As humans, we learn many things through touching things (as is evidenced by babies placing objects in their mouths so their tongue can feel it). The term ‘haptic’ describes how we interact with our world by using our fingers and hands to explore our surroundings. The sensory feeling of holding the pen or pencil and touching the paper helps immensely. When you take handwritten notes, you experience haptic learning.

2.              It takes longer to write out your notes

            From selecting which color pen to write with, to writing out each individual letter, you take more time to handwrite notes. This is good because it gives your brain more time to process and store the information. We learn by touching. We also learn better by doing. You can type out your notes day in and day out, but you’ll learn how to touch type, not the dates in your history class. When you take the time to put pen to paper, you reap the rewards of time well spent.

3.             Computers can be distracting

We have a plethora of information at our fingertips, one Google search away. And on one hand, that is incredibly useful, but it can be very distracting. One minute, you’re paying attention in class, dutifully typing away, and then you decide to do some further research. Forty minutes later you’re waist-deep in a Wikipedia article on the origin of witchcraft in Wales and the class is over. 

When you take handwritten notes, all you need is a pen or a pencil (or if you like to live large, ten different colors of pen and fifteen different highlighters) and a notebook. The only way you can get distracted is if you refer to your previous notes to figure out which shade of purple you used to highlight the titles of new sections. Maybe then you get distracted by how pretty your previous notes look, but you’re soon back to listening to your professor.

4.             Writing by hand lends itself to summarizations

            According to an article in Scientific American, taking notes by hand forces you to summarize what your teacher says. Students who take notes on their laptops tend to type what their teacher says verbatim. This means that they take a greater volume of notes, but they don’t process what they type. Conversely, students who handwrite their notes absolutely cannot copy down everything the teacher says. This causes them to process what they hear and summarize it in their notes. And as we all know, it is much easier to study with summarized notes.

5.             You build a library of awesome, interesting notebooks

            As a successful note taker, you can take pride in your steadily growing collection of notebooks. If you have even a slightly cool or nifty-looking notebook, it motivates you to take equally good looking notes (or maybe doodle a bit). If you’re inspired to start taking better notes, check out the design of the notebooks at Decomposition Book. If you’re environmentally minded, they are made out of 100% post-consumer waste!



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