Why Is There a Line Down the Middle of a Steno Pad Book?

Updated on June 29, 2016

Ever noticed there is a line that runs down the middle of a steno pad book? It actually has a very real purpose that most people do not know about or use anymore. Every time I see someone using a steno pad at work, they are jotting down notes and pay no attention to that line in the center.

I suspect that using a steno pad for its real purpose is a lost art. I'll try to explain why that line is there.

Why There's a Line

Steno pads were originally used for stenography, or shorthand. Stenography is a method of taking of very fast notes. These notes, in written form, are called shorthand. The main purpose is to take down what someone is saying word for word. Secretaries and news reporters, before voice recorders, had to use shorthand.

Sentences in shorthand are much shorter because the words are made up of short symbols and short abbreviations. The page of a steno notebook is divided in half to help the note-taker to move quickly. If you write using the whole line, from far left to the far right side of the page, it takes considerably more time—twice the time, in fact—than it takes to bring your pen back from the middle line to the left (or from the far right to the middle line). The middle line helps to keep your hand from "traveling" unnecessarily across the page.

You can also squeeze in more phrases and sentences in the distance between the left side and the middle line in shortand than in longhand/cursive.

Have You Ever Used A Stenopad for Shorthand?

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What Are Shorthand and Stenography?

Examples of Gregg shorthand notation.
Examples of Gregg shorthand notation. | Source

Shorthand is basically very abbreviated words. For example, in Gregg shorthand the word "please" is simply written as "pl". More common words are written in quick stroke symbols. For example "shall," "which," "it," "at," and "the" are all written in forward slashes "/" of varying lengths and curves. The purpose is to speed up writing so you can keep up with the speaker verbatim. Someone proficient in shorthand can keep up because the length of the words are so much shorter.

Try it yourself. Turn on the television, grab a piece of paper, and write down everything you hear during a commercial, word for word. By the end of the commercial your hand will be really tired and you probably won't have kept up with the actors.

Since you are likely not proficient in shorthand, let's just pretend you are. For every word they say, just write down the first letter. Better yet, just make this slash mark, /, for each small (is, a, the, etc.) word. I know, that isn't exactly shorthand, but you'll see that it is way easier to keep up. Shorthand language is more complicated than that to memorize, but once you know it you could write down a long, ranting run of words in about as long as it took the speaker to say them, or close to it.

Now draw a line down the middle of a page and try writing down everything said in a commercial again. This time, use your new "system" of slashes and first letters and only write in half the page. See how much faster that is?


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    • profile image


      19 months ago

      I like steno pads because you can flip the pages easily, unlike a legal pad, and the wires are at the top so they don't get in the way of your hand. I feel like the line down the center helps me utilize more of the page for notes. I use one side, then the other rather than scrawling largely across the whole sheet. But when I'm in a hurry, I can ignore the line if I want to. Nice to hear what their original purpose was.

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      I teach my students to do math problems in a steno pad so they can solve them on one side and record the warrant for each step on the other. Very effective!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      for me the line is a linear for shorthand and translation

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I like Steno pads simply for the size and portability for work in the field. I keep several in the office and car and use them daily. I always wondered what their original purpose was though. Thank for the article.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I use them in a way similar to Cornell Notes, if you've ever heard of those. True Cornell notes split the page into three sections, a narrow (about 1/4 of 1/3 of the page) vertical rectangle on the left, and a horizontal one at the bottom (about 1/8 of the page) and the rest is the big rectangle on the right where the majority of the notes go. It is a great way to keep up in meetings and lectures and stay organized. The general topic or special term or phrase to remember goes on the left, then the accompanying notes to expand on that phrase/topic/term/date etc. goes on the right. This fills the top two sections. The third section at the bottom is a very brief summary of the page which helps when you're reviewing notes and trying to find notes on a specific topic. I use the Steno Books like a pre set-up Cornell Notes page. I put general topics on the left, and expand on them on the right. I draw a line across the bottom to leave room for a summary or meeting date or people in attendance.

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

      Joel Diffendarfer 

      5 years ago from Jonesville

      I use the center line while working on article and idea drafts. I write on the left and draw illustrations on the right. I always keep several of these pads around in different places including my car. When a new idea or concept begins building I will start a new pad. Great article. Thanks!

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Ha! Thanks KenDeanAgudo ! Appreciate you stopping by. I agree. I usually avoid that centerline on the stenographers pad.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 

      6 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Now i know the reason behind that center line! haha

      I often ignore. It's like a column in writing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very interesting, i think ill go buy a steno pad

    • TurtleDog profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks LiveLoveLaugh5! I appreciate you stopping by!

    • livelovelaugh5 profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting to know. Thanks for sharing!


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