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If you put a paper on a not-so-smooth table, it is hard for you to write on it.

In that case, you might want to put the paper on something that is a bit soft and smooth like a book or a a bunch of papers.

Is it natural to say "prop the paper up against the book to write more easily"?

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No.

Prop the paper up against the book is perfectly good, but it means something different. I am currently writing some music, so when I play through, I have the printed pages on the music stand on the piano, but because they are loose pages, they bend and fall over, so I prop them up against a book, so they stay nearly vertical.

What you want to do is to lean the paper on a book, or have a book to lean on.

(Edited after a comment from the OP. For some reason I had not thought of "lean on", which is the most fitting phrase, at least to my ears).

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  • Can we also say "lean the paper against the book"?
    – Tom
    Feb 9, 2021 at 17:25
  • No, lean against would imply that the paper was raised, not flat on the book. But lean on is actually the most familiar expression for this, and I will amend my answer.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 9, 2021 at 17:55
  • Brits would probably say 'rest the paper on a book'. Feb 9, 2021 at 19:50
  • I'm British, and I prefer "lean on".
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:04

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