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Should We Still Write Things By Hand?

Pretty much. The benefits are difficult to pass up.

There are only a handful of people left now who literally pen things. JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series on napkins, is one of them. Writing things by hand seems very out of place especially because of today’s technology.

Some people encourage writing by hand because that will send one’s creative juices flowing, leads to better critical thinking, and improves reading and writing skills. But these benefits aren’t real. Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University who looked at the effect of writing by hand on pre-literate brains, argues: “How are you defining creativity?” which also asks how one can measure it, and compare it from one person to another.

It’s easy to see how writing rather than typing can help children read. It trains them to recognize the letters quicker and easier when they’re the ones producing every shape on paper. That’s about it; nothing that immediately causes or relates to critical thinking or being able to articulate oneself better. So what’s the use of writing by hand for someone literate and who’s been typing several times a day for work and one’s leisure time?

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1. You learn better.

When people write by hand, they have the tendency to summarize (in their own words) what they’re taking note of than to write it verbatim. This shows that they are already processing information which is easily understood and remembered than someone else’s words that haven’t been, in a way, interpreted yet.

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Those who are so used to typing notes end up putting in everything word for word, even when they’re told not to. Typing was found to have something to do with mindless processing.

2. It lets you remember how to spell words.

You can lazily press a bunch of keys without minding if you’re hitting the right letters, and autocorrect will still show the word you were intending to type. Many have become reliant on it, so once it’s deactivated or once you have to write on paper, you misspell words (and embarrass yourself). Knowing how to spell is actually a skill that’s dying out. (Since when was it good to lose a skill anyway?)

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3. It helps you remember things easier.

What’s great about writing things by hand is that you’re also making use of paper. It’s a three-dimensional act that lends to your graphic preferences. You can write in very tiny letters or you can write in big ones or a mix of both on a page. You can write anywhere you want, and in whatever orientation you feel like. You can fold the pages, glue something to it, cut it, and so on. And all this helps your memory because when you try to recall things, their location (“on the left or right side of the page”), how you felt when you put them down, and even when you put them down will help you a lot. You don’t get any of that on a Word document.

4. You have a tangible record of things you can easily access.

This boils down to practicality in a given situation. Computers can slow down or crash, and you can lose your files, or worse, you can get hacked. If you’re keeping track of your expenses, it’s much easier to write them down in a notebook or planner. You can do it at any time of the day without trouble: You don’t need to switch anything on and wait for programs to load; you don’t need WiFi or any cloud service either. And you can go back to these hard copies as long as you remember where you keep them.

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5. It shows thoughtfulness.

Face it: No one likes to receive a card or love letter that’s typewritten. Sure, everyone misses these letter exchanges or correspondence, but that doesn’t mean they have to be in cold-hearted type or print. Their being handwritten is a huge part of the charm. It evokes warmth; you know someone made the effort to sit down and express himself, and made the effort to write as legibly as he can—you can just see it in the strokes. What more, there’s the effort to choose his words before putting them down. Or to get a new card or stationery just for you when he’s not pleased with the first draft.

It doesn’t show efficiency; it can even seem a bit lavish—and that’s the point when you want to talk and show tenderness.

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