throughout your life, you probably never thought much about the purpose of margin lines on your writing paper. they’re obviously there to help keep your writing neat, right? margin lines were originally added to paper not to keep your writing neat, but to protect it from rats. rats love to eat around the edges of paper, apparently. so as long as you keep your writing within the margins, all your hard work will be safe from these little fiends!

i loved to doodle in the margins of my paper when bored in class.

anyone else make use of them?



“i love the broad margin to my life. ” 

-henry thoreau



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78 responses »

  1. I remember (I think I was in kindergarten or earlier) being told, “Don’t color outside the margin. Stay inside those thick black lines.”

    I probably told my own children to do the same.

    Conform! It may be good to conform on some things to hold civilization together.
    But thank goodness for those who – for whatever reason – decided to color outside the margins. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

      • I think it can work both ways.
        I write down my first thoughts whenever I read blogs. If I ever stopped to compose an answer, I would never write a comment. So it really wasn’t about coloring in the lines at all. It was more about those who have ideas and dare to follow them.

        You see I have done it again. Made a comment that first pops in my mind. I dare to follow my typing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • There are metaphors (adults’ idea of coloring in the lines) and necessary skill development (kids’ coloring inside the lines).

          Coloring books were designed for children who are actually proud to get it right, whose little hands are not that coordinated, and who need to learn to write. It is ALL about coloring inside the lines.

          Every skill needs discipline and focus. Picasso didn’t jump immediately into his marvelous abstractions. He learned to draw first. Coloring inside the lines and learning to draw something “right” are both manual skills and learning to see what’s in front of you. I don’t think those things are unimportant. A piano player needs technique and drill. Coloring outside the lines is not freedom if a person cannot understand or see the lines.

          Liked by 1 person

      • yes, I can attest to that from teaching early childhood, and the big pics don’t help, they exhaust their hands. the idea is to have small pictures to fill in, causing them to learning to naturally keep their fingers pinched on the crayon and wrist down which helps them get ready for writing. big scribbles and outside of line projects are important as well –


  2. 1. Love this post!
    2. Somehow, WP has decided I’m not Beth-worthy and is no longer sending notifications of your posts. I’m going to have to put a daily reminder in my calendar.

    It’s a win/win. My pearls of wisdom are rodent-safe, and your pearls will again be available to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Within the margins I doodle
    Outside the margins I eat noodles
    Within the margins my writing is scrible
    Outside the margins my words are drbble
    My doodles look better than my poems
    My scribbles are old flaky pieces of chrome

    Liked by 1 person

  4. During school times I was taught to not write in the margins and I took it for granted … now that I think about it, it does not make a lot of sense. I remember we even had a teacher who obliged us to draw the red margin line also on the other side! Her explanation was that if we write until the end of the line then the notebook will get more degraded than if we keep both margins clean 😐

    Liked by 2 people

  5. In CA I had a house full of mice. They got into some of my journals — the ones made with old fashioned glue which was made from horse or rabbit skin that I had brought from China. Those glues would have been a protein source.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve been tutoring kids. Writing in straight lines, especially straight columns in arithmetic! Yikes. I’m always trying to get kids stay in the lines and margins. Margins do serve a function in bound books, but leaving something for the rats is also important.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I used to have rats for class pets. They liked to chew on things too. One time the flag somehow got draped on top of their cage, and they shredded it. I had a sixth-grader who called them our terrorist rats after that.

    I’m one of those people who like margins and lines on paper. I like there to be a space for everything.

    Liked by 2 people

    • i think it lends a sort of order to the page, though i also love unlined paper. i love your terrorist rat story, and it would be a great excuse for not turning in a paper, saying a rat ate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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