There’s been a big push from the interpreting community to professionalize. We seem to be moving from the neutral language-elephant in the room to a value-adding aspect of what businesses, governments, and individuals do. This is all super cool, but making that shift means it’s important for interpreters to reconsider all of the tools we use in designing value, just like we’ve already done with headphones and booths. Here, we take-on one of the least celebrated – but most important – tools an interpreter uses: The Notepad.
What goes into a good notepad? It should be easy to use, look professional, and be as cost effective as possible. Most find that ‘Steno Pads’ (short for Stenographer’s Notepad) are a good option, but having a customized notepad can do so much more.
How can I make my own custom notepads?
The bits and bobs of a notepad are pretty simple. Here’s what goes into making one, along with what we recommend, should you decide to make one yourself.
Customizing your pad means thinking about even its most mundane parts. You’ll select the paper’s brightness, weight (thickness), size, color, and any pre-printed stuff like horizontal writing lines (rules) or vertical margin lines. We recommend paper that’s not too ‘bright’ to mitigate strain on the eyes. 20lb paper is pretty good to write on – it doesn’t tear or shift and can be printed on any printer. The regular size, 8.5”x11”, works fine as well, because two pad-sized pieces can be cut out of it. My personal preference is to use blank white ‘multipurpose’ paper, with a single printed line down each notepad’s page. Here’s a PDF if you’d like to check out how this looks.
The Back and Front
For backing, we recommend something thicker than the 24-point chipboard we originally purchased. This turned out to be too thin, so we’re doubling up on these sheets for now so that the pad doesn’t warp while being held. As for the front, we purchased 5.5”x8.5” postcards with custom printing on the front. These are customized with images, like the interpreter’s name and company logo.
The binding mechanism is the hinge on your notepad. There are several types, each with their own features. We chose the type called Wire-O, because pages don’t tend to get clogged up when flipped back and forth, larger sizes (9/16”) can hold up to 100 sheets of paper, and the look is refined. There are cheaper types of binding, such as spiral binding, but we find these don’t work as well. We use 3:1 pitch (that just means there are three holes per each holed inch), but 2:1 pitch might be usable as well.
Paper Trimmer Machine
This guillotine-like device trims the paper, back and front sheets to your preferred size. We chose Yescom’s 400 sheet capacity trimmer. It handles, at one time, all the pieces that go into a single notepad, and consistently cuts well.
Like Paper Trimmers, Binding Machines come in a range of prices and quality levels. We opted for the Akiles Wiremac-M Manual Wire-O® Binding Machine. The main things we considered here are the ‘pitch patterns’, from which you can choose either 3:1 or 2:1, its ability to choose which holes are punched and which aren’t, the ease-of-use of the binding device, and overall robustness.
Is it worth it?
The initial cost is pretty high. We spent about $420 for the machines, and each pad costs about $1.25 to produce. A comparable quality store-bought pad would cost about $5.50, so this means that we will break even after about 100 pads. After that, we’re saving money, and using pads that are efficient to make and use.
Best of all, our clients know that we mean it when we use the term: professional interpreter.