How to Use Seyes or French Ruling for Handwriting

Now, I’m not quite delving into the debate about whether or not cursive writing should be taught in public school, but if you are interested in spending some time on your handwriting, French ruled paper, or Seyes ruled paper, could be something to help you out.

Calligraphers also use this paper, sometimes ignoring the “rules” for standard handwriting, but using the lines to help get a consistent size – I’ve seen calligraphers using the Pilot Parallel pens with letters up to 15 or 20 lines high.

This paper looks super complicated, but if you spend some time with it, it’s actually not too complicated at all. The paper has thick lines with three thin lines in between each. These thin lines are supposed to help you keep the size and height of your letters consistent.

Seyes Ruled Paper, French Ruled Paper Notebooks from Clairefontaine

Seyes ruled or French ruled paper is widespread in France, and actually, I think you can find it in many countries in Europe. It’s often used by students, and I think the margin on the left (nice and wide!) is for teachers’ gentle encouragement/corrections. The vertical lines help with indentations for paragraphs or tables, as these notebooks could be used for a variety of school subjects. I’ve also read that generations of French school children used J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune ink, which is kind of a romantic thought! All that moondust 🙂

We have a customer who had grown up in France who comes in specifically for this Seyes ruled paper. She said since she’s come to Canada she’s been using “regular” paper, and her handwriting has been swooping all over the place uncontrollably (this is not the case, as I’ve seen her handwriting and it is perfect…ugh! The French and their eating endless varieties of cheese and never getting fat! And their perfect handwriting!!).

How to Use Seyes Ruling, French Ruled, Handwriting Alphabet Sample

There are five rules to follow:

1. Capital letters go up to the third line.
2. Lower case “bodies” – like a, c, the circle part of d or p – go up to the first line.
3. Loopy stems go up to the third line – b, f, h, k, l.
4. Non-loopy or straight stems go up to the second line – just d and t.
5. Anything that goes below the line – f, g, j, p, q, y, z – go down two lines.

Seyes Ruled, French Ruled Notebook, Handwriting sample, How to write on Seyes paper

Really, basically everything goes up to the third line, or the first line, except d & t. If you keep that in mind, you just have to be careful about the d & t.

How to write on Seyes or French ruled paper, handwriting sample

A popular warm-up exercise for calligraphers and handwriting teachers is to try drawing circles of consistent size across a line. I think you’re supposed to go fast to really loosen up the muscles, but I don’t think I’m at that stage yet – I’m still at the concentrate-really-hard-and-don’t-mess-up-because-you’re-taking-a-picture-for-the-blog stage, but don’t be afraid to mess up!  


If you’re just starting out, it may help to take a letter that’s troubling you and write that letter over and over again. The next step might be to try connecting two letters of different heights, like a – f – a – f – a – f to practise getting from one height to the the next. 


It takes practice! It takes some practice and concentration to get all that muscle memory working, so take a trip to your local cafe, or sit out on the porch in this fresh spring weather! And then, send me a letter in your beautiful (or you know, “unique”) handwriting 🙂

We have two types of notebooks in this Seyes or French ruling – an A5, softcover staple and we just got in an A4 softcover spiral bound. These are made by Clairefontaine, so the paper is excellent for fountain pens – although the lines are quite close together, so I might recommend a fine or extra-fine nib if you’re specifically practising your handwriting.

Clairefontaine Seyes French Ruled Notebooks at Wonder Pens Toronto

Interesting side note! When I was in college I spent some time teaching in Madagascar, an island country off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar was previously a French colony, and like Canada, they still have much of the vestiges of French language and culture around.


When I was there, a young stationery aficionado wandering around, I discovered Seyes ruled notebooks. Having never encountered them before at that time, I stocked up on a few, and I still have one left today!

The paper quality, however, is no Clairefontaine (and that’s being generous…).

9 thoughts on “How to Use Seyes or French Ruling for Handwriting

  1. Mark

    I picked up the larger notebook today, and started in on lettering. I’d been using the KB4 notebooks, which help with vertical sizing, but these lines are even more helpful. You’re right about using a fine nib, though. I’m using an inherited Montblanc 146 with a fine nib, and to be honest, I had been ignoring it because I generally don’t like fine nibs. This book, however, has given the pen new purpose. Everything looks pretty scratchy right now, but in a few weeks I’m sure my hand will have improved with fine nibs. I’m hoping the practice with the fine nib will also help to improve my handwriting with the medium and broad nibs. Thanks for the helpful post!

    1. Wonder Pens Post author

      Thanks for reading!

      I’m glad to hear you’re finding the lines helpful! My writing has also become much more consistent now that I’ve spent some time working on it with these lines. And I’m glad to hear you’re also breaking out pens that have been taking a back seat – maybe you’ll find you like the fine lines after all??

      1. markbee

        I certainly hope I’ll come around to enjoying fine nibs more. Of course, the more practice I get with F nibs, the more I’ll enjoy them. I also started to notice that I can use a fine to grade with because the paper my students use sucks up ink, and makes the fine feel more like a broad! So now I’ve got fine and medium nibs for marking, broads for my daily use, and a 1.1mm on my Edison for letter writing. Who knew I’d need (need? hehe yes, need) so many different pens and inks!

  2. CT Henricks

    “When I was in college I spent some time teaching in Madagascar, an island country off the west coast of Africa.”


    Wikipedia locates it off the southeast coast, and that is where it was when I was in grade school (am 70 now).

  3. daniel

    “Madagascar was previously a French colony, and like Canada, they still have much of the vestiges of French language and culture around.”
    That is an unfortunate turn of phrase. The language I speak, write and read every day, like a lot of people in Canada, is not a vestige of anything. It’s a living language and culture which have their own existence.

    1. Wonder Pens Post author

      Thanks for reading!

      I completely agree that Canadian culture and its languages are unique and change everyday with the people and communities that are here.

      I also agree with the fact that many Canadians speak French or English everyday, and that these two languages and cultures are in many ways very different from the original France French or British English that colonized parts of this country.

      In this way, Canadian French culture has some vestiges of France French colonialism and culture, mixed with a bit of British English culture and everything else that is here in Canada, but as you say, has its own existence.

      I think what I was trying to say is that Madagascar has adopted and adapted the French language along with and into its own Malagasy language, but still has some vestiges of French culture from colonization, for example, in using these “French-ruled” notebooks.

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