Q&A: What different diary formats are available?


If you are looking for a paper diary then it might seem daunting when faced with such choice but this short guide should help with explaining diary formats. And yes, despite the prevalence of online diaries and calendars there is still a big demand for a traditional paper diary. After all, a paper diary is there no matter what wi-fi is available, it’s simple to use and easy to flick from date to date. Just the mere addition of a pen & ink or even just a pencil and it works. Like it has always done, tried and trusted down the years.

As for deciding which of the available diary formats are right for you, the choice is actually quite simple. It essentially breaks down into one question – are you a daily or weekly person? And after that you choose your size and the rest is more cosmetic – choosing colour and cover.

The First Big Question - Calendar Year or Academic Diary?

This won’t affect the format but you might be unsure on what the difference is. Quite simply, most diaries cover a year from January to December with maybe the odd week either end to see you from year to year. These are calendar year diaries.

An academic diary is aimed at people involved in studying – teachers and students – because their year is based more around a mid-year to mid-year schedule. These diaries will start sometime around July and run to the following year. Oddly many of these run for 18-months but we have yet to understand the significance of this so please don’t ask!

The Second Big Question - Daily or Weekly Diary Formats?

So the really big question is whether you would want a daily or weekly diary format. And that may actually come down to the type of person you are. First, a quick explanation of what they are.

Daily Diary

Quite simply it means that each page in the diary is devoted to a single day.

Weekly Diary

This means that the week is spread out before you across the two pages when the diary is open. There are variations on this theme, such as two weeks over the spread, or different ways to show the week, but it’s all the same principal – a week at a glance.

What Type Of Person Are You?

You may find it easier to decide which is right for you by knowing whether you need to see slightly further ahead or not. Yes most diaries will have a monthly or yearly planner section, but the big difference is that a daily diary will only give you two days at a time to view, and will never break up your time into nice weekly sections. Some people like this, some can’t cope and need to see the week from Monday to Sunday.

See more on diary formats below.

The Last Big Question - What About Diary Size?

Once you have decided on being a daily or weekly diary person, the next decision is the size. This can be broken down into three main size types – pocket/mini, mid-size and large/desk. Which of these diary formats will work for you will depend on how you intend you use your diary – on the move or on the desk?


These really are for those who want to make minimal notes and just have something small on them to carry round. You can even go down to micro-diary size if space is at a premium.


A good all rounder, large enough to write more than just the odd word, but small enough to carry round.


So called because that is where they usually live. On your desk. Generally seen as too big to carry round, a desk diary will likely be left on your desk, or similar, where you make appointments in it.

What Else Do I Need To Know About Diaries?

Once you have decided on a diary style and size, you may have the decision made for you, but assuming there is more than one diary to choose from, you may then need to consider the following.

Daily Diaries

There really isn’t much variation between daily diaries. They will devote the whole page to a day, probably with appointment times to help plan your day. Some might have space for notes as well.

Weekly Diaries

The big choice here is whether to go vertical or horizontal. Oh dear, another choice. So what is the difference between a vertical diary and a horizontal diary?

Vertical Weekly Diaries

The vertical format is laid out across the page, Monday to Sunday, and each day will have a vertical column usually with timed appointments. Ideal if what you want is a rigid schedule of events.

Horizontal Weekly Diaries

The horizontal format has sections for each day, but without the timed appointments. They suit someone who wants to write something for each day but is less worried about their day being a series of events such as meetings. Less rigid, more relaxed.

Weekly Diary/Notebooks

A variation on this theme, and the most popular of diary formats is the diary/notebook. It is also known as a weekly notebook. It will have a horizontal style diary for the week on the left-hand page, and the facing page will be devoted to notes (usually a lined page). For many this is perfect as it gives them enough space for the diary whilst also allowing for free-format notes each week.

For some pople this is also enough to double up as their notebook, but you are limited to a page per week for notes.

Two-Week Diaries

A real planner diary, with a full fortnight of days across the two-page spread giving you the most of a longer-term view.

Monthly Diaries

Now we’re getting serious with our long-term view – a series of monthly planners. Really these are notebooks with a series of spreads that let you plan out each month. This kind of diary format serves someone who sees the big picture, not the daily detail!

Undated Diaries

Unlike most other diaries, an undated diary follow one of the diary formats above, but without a pre-printed date. It means you can pick up and drop off keeping your diary without feeling like you have to complete each and every page. It does mean that you have to add the dates yourself though – some love this, some don’t.

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  1. This was great info! Do you know of any daily diaries that don’t squeeze the weekend in to a single page? In our industry, Saturday and Sunday are our busiest days!

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