Putting pen to paper – why handwriting is good for you and why you should do it every day

Do you recall your excitement in your childhood when you switched from pencil to a pen? May be it was a ball point pen, or an ink pen, or a fountain pen, or a Gel Ink pen? Or even colored ink pens? Or for the technologically savvy folks, the excitement you had when you began using a stylus? S-Pen for Samsung Galaxy Note users? Or for the recently Apple Pencil for iPad Pro users?

Amidst the constant click of the buttons on your mobile and computer, do you recall when was the last time you actually wrote by hand?

Until a few years ago we would at least write the grocery list or the to-do list on paper, at times even scribbled notes during a meeting. But notepads and reminders on your phones have made those redundant too. Forget the stenographer who would take dictation in short hand and then reproduce it in type form, we have long forgotten the fine art of writing.

Just like “Google it”, ‘SMS’ and ‘Message’ are no longer nouns but have turned to verbs. There have been famous personalities like Steve Jobs (who took a course in calligraphy) and Meghan Markle (who made money in college through calligraphy), the art of writing in long hand is fast diminishing.

As kids, many of us would remember writing long letters to our friends and grandparents, especially during vacations. In many parts of the world, academics was largely focused on writing and a student’s handwriting determined those extra few marks for good handwriting that felt like some perk.

Putting pen to paper is a skill human beings developed that changed the course of their history and future. What started in 4000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia where tablets with written alphabets have been found, writing by hand has remained relevant for millennia till the advancement of technology in this past century.

Writing was the only medium to document things before the advent of typing and printing and largely remained so for its ease of use. Until recently when phones and computers started replacing books and notepads, writing was considered a basic skill. Now, especially after the pandemic induced online learning, children are fast losing tough with this skill. Most educational institutions opted to conduct exams through the objective type questions (multiple choice) where all you need to do is tick the one you feel is correct.

Why writing is better than typing

  • For one, when you write, your body uses more than one sense organ to complete that activity. Your brain has to coordinate with your eyes and hands as you hold the pen and write. This crucial motor skill sets the tone for long lasting memory too.
  • Good handwriting leaves a lasting impression. Recall all those great leaders whose writing in the cursive script feels like works of art even today. A simple thing as a signature leaves behind traces of your handwriting which is open for interpretation about your personality.
  • Kids who practice subjects by writing and simultaneously saying it aloud remember better because they can recall what they have written, spoken and heard.
  • A study conducted by Psychology Today speaks about writing by hand having a deeper learning experience than by typing on computer to take notes.
  • The United States has already dropped cursive writing (where one need not raise the pen from the paper till the whole word is written) because of the increasing use of taking notes on computer or tablets.
  • Writing by hand stimulates cognition by several ways. First, you see and gauge the paper, margins, lines and the space at hand. Then you feel the paper- thin paper takes more efforts to write on than thick one. Then you place the pen at a specific angle and hold it with your fingers and start moving along the paper, a different shape for every alphabet. All this takes a longer time when your attention is on the content being written, thereby staying in memory much better than typing which is just a single push on a button.
  • In an era of increased focus on slow cooking and slow fashion, why should writing by hand be relegated to the back? Writing helps relieve stress and anxiety which is not possible by the monotonous act of typing. Have you tried journaling which is gaining momentum of late as a means of stress relief and goal setting? Writing it down boosts mindfulness and reduces anxiety. It also allows you to focus on what you’re writing with its meaning.
  • Writing by hand also aids comprehension and linguistic skills. While the computer auto corrects your spelling and grammar, you need to focus on correct use of language while you write by hand. That stimulates your brain cells and helps in slowing down cognitive decline with age.
  • A person gets more creative while writing. Not just the style of writing but the whole act of underlining, alternative use of capitals and short form, using colors to highlight, leaving margins and making paragraphs inculcates a habit of being organized and making it look beautiful for the reader.
  • Learning disabilities like dyslexia can be detected through the difficulty kids face while writing. This is because as the kid struggles to associate shapes and sounds of the letters, writing , especially in cursive form, working with letters in clay form or specific hand-eye coordination exercises helps reduce the impact of dyslexia and allows the child to learn better.
  • Writing by hand, even if it’s a small thanking note, leaves a lasting personal impact. People still love to receive handwritten notes. Several CEOs and Chairmen of organizations realise the importance of handwritten notes to acknowledge good work by employees. Even a condolence message written by hand becomes all the more personal and touches the receiver than one that is typed out on a gadget. We all have that one special letter from our loved one, our friend or parent that we cherish till date, only because it portrays a part of that person’s personality through his unique handwriting.
  • Handwriting experts can tell a ton of things about your personality. The angle of each alphabet, the dots and dashes, the slant and the space between words and lines all leave strong traces of your personality. What’s more, changing the way we write has a positive impact on our personality facets also.

Just because technology has enabled faster and better recording of words does not obliterate the fine art of writing. I would any day be able to assess a person better through his handwriting than a computer generated letter or draft.

Did you notice any corrections to be made on this page? Submit your feedback here. We will take the necessary action.