Q&A: What Is Seyes Paper?

A simple explanation of how this seemingly complicated French paper ruling system is meant to work


It is a question that many, if not most people, will ask when confronted by these strange rulings – what is seyes paper? In short, Seyes paper (also known as Grands Carreaux) is a very specialised paper ruling that is found in France. It forms an integral part of how French schoolchildren are taught to write, and yet to anyone not familiar with the Seyes format it can appear quite daunting. Hopefully this short article will explain all and also show how you can use the introductory books to ease someone into learning to use Seyes paper and gain consistency with their handwriting.


Seyes paper was originally created in the late nineteenth century by Jean-Alexandre Seyès, a librarian, and his system has been adopted and stuck, so much so that the paper ruling is named after him. I can’t say for certainty that every child going through the French education system learns to write using Seyes paper but it is extremely well known and, from personal experience of the system, it does produce consistent results.

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So the obvious question is how do you use it? It’s like there is a hidden code and in a sense there is.

  • Seyes paper is made up of vertical and horizontal lines.
  • There is also a mix of bold and feint lines. Bold lines are every 8mm, feint lines every 2mm
  • Within the lines an 8mm grid is formed from the bold horizontal lines and the vertical lines
  • The pages will typically also have a margin in red

So to explain how these work, it is easier to ignore the vertical lines for the moment. Look at the horizontal lines. What you now have is a series of lines every 2mm – one bold then three feint, repeated. You treat the bold horizontal lines as your ‘writing’ line, the base line for your letters.

There are rules for which letters go where, and this is where the French system becomes harder to follow as they have a particular style of writing each letter, which I personally found quite hard. A simplified version of this might be as follows:

  • Upper case letters (A, B, C etc) start on the base line and go up to the third feint line;
  • Lower case letters (a, c, e etc) start on the base line, and go up to the first 2mm line;
  • Lower case letters with a vertical stem (b, d, f, h, k, l) are formed by taking the stem up to the third feint line;
  • Letters like an ‘i’ and ‘t’ go up to the second feint line;
  • Letters that drop below the line (g, j, p, q, y) sit on the base line and drop down two feint lines.

Introductory Seyes Books

We offer a range of notebooks and pads with Seyes rulings from Clairefontaine, the largest of French stationery manufacturers. Within their range they offer a set of six exercise books that help take someone through to the standard Seyes ruling. Learning to start writing on an 8mm grid with 2mm rulings would be almost impossible so these books are the perfect way to gradually introduce the various elements of Seyes paper in stages.

You can read more about how these books work by using our handy guide here.

  1. A small correction: the upward line of the d only goes up to the second line as it is a straight line. Same as for a t.
    All other letters with upward line, as done as a loop in French writing will go to the third line.
    And growing up in France, yes every single child learns to write on Seyes paper, which is what gives us such a distinctive way of writing.

  2. My kids will start school soon here in Monaco and already all this fuss is putting off. I come from a country with one of the best education system in the WORLD and flexibility and relaxation when teaching kids is what make us, SO unique. Then my kids were born in England and everything is so perfect there. So i find all this French uniqueness a little bit too boring and useless.

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