What’s the difference between a diary and a journal?

Journal or diary

Diaries and journals are often confused with each other, the words used interchangeably, however there are some big differences between the two, and both can serve very different purposes. In this blog post we take a closer look at both books, and help you decide which is best for your requirements.

What is a diary?

A diary is a book that is used to record events as they happen, or to plan for future events. For example, you might use it to note down important dates throughout the year to stay organised, or you might use it to note down your thoughts on a daily basis.

If you need to track data in a disciplined manner — for example: exercise, food intake, water intake, weight, mood, or symptoms — then a diary is ideal with its structured layout. You can even buy tiny planner stickers, making tracking data in your diary super simple and fun, too!

Diaries come in a variety of layouts, including one day per page, one week per page, and one week per double page spread. If you have more to write each day, a day per page layout would be beneficial, but if you want a smaller and more concise diary, then try a week per page type. Of course, diaries also come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, which is another factor to consider when choosing one. If you are going to carry your diary around with you, remember to check it fits in your regular bag before you purchase!

a woman using her diary

“What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the contemporary who reads it and invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it.”

– Walter Scott

What is a journal?

A journal can have a variety of uses but is often used for the purpose of exploring ideas. Unlike a diary, a journal is unstructured when you buy it, and then you can add in any structure you would like. However, journals are often used for creative purposes and are ideal for jotting down notes on travel, ideas, thoughts, dreams, goals, and so on. For this reason, structure can be too stifling.

Find out how to keep a bullet journal and how to keep a travel journal in these blog posts.

Journals also lend themselves well to lists — a bucket list, a gratitude list, anything at all you’d like to note down. Another use is creative writing. Do you have a story inside you? Get writing in your journal!

woman using her journal

“Every great thinker keeps a journal, you know.”

– Trenton Lee Stewart

Diary vs. journal

So, which should you buy — a diary or a journal? For structured writing and organisation, choose a diary. For more freedom, opt for a journal.

Whichever you use, get that pen out and enjoy!

As a long-term stationery lover, I adore working for The Pen Company. My childhood saw me carrying around a little red briefcase covered in stickers and full of pens, paper and other such goodies; my adulthood sees me doing pretty much exactly the same!