If You Are Left Handed, You Need Good Paper
Before we start this "review", let's tell a story:
A child, 10 years old, loves to write. She loves the tools for writing, too. Pens, paper, notebooks, binders, all of the shiny new gadgets that don't have any real purpose. But there's one thing she has to keep in mind when she's browsing the aisles of school and office supplies at Target: she's left handed And that means smearing. And that means making sure that all of the fancy, gadgety tools she uses are not going to end up just making large smudges instead of carefully written out words.
...And Therein Lies the Problem
If you haven't been able to guess by now, that girl was me.
Which means yes, I was the dork in the school supplies section all the time drooling over the fancy pens and notebooks that were on display. The beginning of the school year was like Christmas for me since it meant choosing brand new stuff for classes. And when I was younger, not much mattered other than that all of my supplies was new and shiny. I went through a "pencil phase" where I would write only with pencils on lined paper, and that inevitably always smudged. It was never a problem.
Then things got real: 6th grade approached. And all of the sudden I was taking on a few (what some might consider) obsessive habits that included but were not limited to my pickiness in how my writings and assignments looked on paper. Being left handed had already taught me a major lesson that still resonates with me today: writing with pencils is a bad idea.
And so around that time I switched to pens, which seemed to solve my problem. For a while, at least. Until 7th grade when things really started to get intense.
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...And Finally, the Review.
By intense, I mean that I became even more obsessed with how good my notes and handwritten papers looked.
Pens were a good substitute for pencils, but paper was still an issue. It doesn't seem like it would be and maybe it's just me, but it became a huge part of my decision-making when I went out to get new supplies (and I still heavily consider it to this day).
I discovered that different papers have different qualities. Obvious, right? Except it didin't occur to me that lined paper was the same. And I found that out by having so many notebooks. The cheaper notebooks and most of the ones with the cool designs had a paper that smeared easily. Even with pen, these papers become messy and fragile.
I suppose this review is both a review and an FYI for left-handed office supply junkies.
Nevertheless, I will start by reviewing the paper used in the slightly pricier Mead 5-Star notebooks: that is, the notebooks whose covers are slightly glossy plastic (not just paper) and whose covers are also generally plain colors like black, purple, green, red, blue, etc (does anyone know what I"m talking about? I guess I'll show a picture -->)
This is the good quality stuff. Their paper is slightly thicker, and whiter (this is how you tell the difference between this paper and others; the whiteness). The blue lines are lighter on this paper as well (which I find beneficial as it allows me to focus on just the writing and not on the distracting blue lines underneath. It also is more aesthetically pleasing). This paper is great for many reasons, one of the major ones being that it holds ink much better. Not only does it feel cleaner and look cleaner, but it is cleaner. No smudges, no significant wrinkling from light handling. The thickness is nice, too. It feels sturdy and more reliable, and it's not as easy to see though to the next side. The whiteness of the paper and the lightness of guidelines means that you're focusing more on the writing and less on the background behind the writing.
Keep in mind: there will always be smudging. Depending on the pen you use, it will either be inevitable or almost completely preventable. The 5-Star Mead paper just gives the best chance that no smudging will occur. Roller gel and ballpoint pens, along with felt-tip pens work best on any kind of paper. Ink takes a few seconds to dry so don't do a smudge test right away.
There is one major drawback to these notebooks, but it's only really applicable for if you are looking into college-ruled styles: there isn't a whole lot of expressive variety in style. By that I mean that for the most part the colors are boring and uninspired. Most of the colors are a relatively deep hue, with no pattern. Wide-ruled notebooks are a little more fun (since they're geared towards a younger audience), but there could still be more out there. Unfortunately most of the unique notebooks out there do not have the same kind of paper and thus are not as nice to write on. They are still manageable, however.
The Short and Sweet
Mead 5-Star Notebooks, Overall Rating: 8/10
In terms of having something to write on that's not only smooth, but smudge-free and clean, these notebooks and their paper get the highest marks. Nothing feels messy and the paper feels incredibly high quality.
In terms of having a fun notebook, however, the covers get a docking in their rating because of their lack of inspiring front flaps. I don't like that I have to sacrifice a really beautiful or unique notebook design for better paper; it would be nice if both of them could be wrapped up in one nice package.
Some Final Words of Advice
So straying away from the review side, here are some pieces of advice if you really care that much about paper choice and note-taking quality:
1. To easily tell whether or not you have the right kind of paper (because there are other brands that have similar paper in their notebooks), compare it to another, cheaper notebook. The whiter the paper, the more likely it is that it's higher quality. Also pay attention to how prominent the blue stripes are, as sometimes that can be an indicator.
2. Choose pens smartly: ballpoint pens are best, and roller gel pens are close behind. Avoid gel pens though, or fountain-like pens. Pencils actually work pretty well on the better paper, but they do still smudge more than pens and more easily can rub away with time.
3. If you do use pencils, use a 2B (standard pencil) and avoid using anything softer (that would be 3B and above). Technically, using H's would be even better, but they get lighter the higher up you get (3H is darker on paper than 8H).
4. Make sure your pencils have good erasers. Crappy erasers are sometimes even worse on good paper as they just move the graphite around and smudge and look terrible.