Via The Passive Voice blog:

Bring Back Handwriting: It’s Good for Your Brain

“The primary advantage of longhand notes was that it slowed people down…people who took longhand notes could not write fast enough to take verbatim notes — instead they were forced to rephrase the content in their own words,” Oppenheimer says. “To do that, people had to think deeply about the material and actually understand the arguments. This helped them learn the material better.”

Sure, that’s plausible.

Slowing down and writing by hand may come with other advantages. Oppenheimer says that because typing is fast, it tends to cause people to employ a less diverse group of words.  Writing longhand allows people more time to come up with the most appropriate word, which may facilitate better self-expression.  …

Wait, wait, no longer on board here.

Finally, there’s a mountain of research that suggests online forms of communication are more toxic than offline dialogue. …

Okay, now you’re changing the subject completely.

All right, The Passive Guy comments:

PG believes that whatever areas of his brain that would otherwise be devoted to handwriting have been hijacked by keyboarding. … He doesn’t believe that handwriting holds a special place in his brain any more. Your experience may vary, but PG has typed so many more words than he has handwritten during his life, he thinks his handwriting brain has either gone completely dormant or been occupied by his typing brain.

Yep, that’s me.

Adding to that: a tendon issue means that it’s uncomfortable for me to write longhand. If I were forced to write a lot, the tendon issue would get worse and I’d wind up actually in pain. Typing is painless, as long as I restrict the use of my right thumb (these days, I hit the space bar with my left thumb).

I get that this is perhaps not a common problem, and yet it leaves me with a firm NO THANKS response to people who try to argue that handwriting is special.

Also, I have to admit to a private little chuckle at the idea that typing fast causes people to “employ a less diverse group of words.” Yeah, show me the data on that one, please. I’m betting that people who employ a large vocabulary when they handwrite stuff do not employ a less large vocabulary when they type. I could be persuaded otherwise, but I’d have to look over the methodology of that study before I took it seriously.

As far as I’m concerned, handwriting is for short notes you include with a sympathy card, and not much else. I don’t even handwrite Christmas letters because, again, tendon issue, ow, those are long letters, so definitely typed.

How about you all? Do you handwrite anything much these days?

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7 thoughts on “Handwriting”

  1. Not quite the same thing, but back when the Teen was much younger and we were struggling with handwriting, I found lots of articles about how for children (at least) learning the skill aids in lots of useful skill development from neurological to motor skills.

  2. My recipe cards and notes are handwritten. I also tend to free write and take notes by hand, but that may be because my computer is currently inconvenient for that purpose.

    Even when I was in college taking notes on my laptop, they were longhand and never verbatim, so that first point doesn’t hold for me. Whatever way you take notes, it’s pretty impossible to get every word down unless you have really good shorthand; and who does that?

  3. My daughters literally do not know how to write cursive. Apparently they are taught just enough to write out their names. My younger daughter was debating changing her signature when she went to college and one of the key issues in keeping it simple (first letter, scrawl) is that she didn’t know how to write some of the other letters and didn’t want to learn. That doesn’t bother me, but I was surprised by it. These days it’s hard to see why anyone needs to know cursive unless you’re translating archaic documents (and I’m using archaic here in a somewhat ironic sense). Heck, when I handwrite something myself I generally use block printing unless I’m in a real hurry, in which case it’s a barely legible mix of cursive and block.

  4. I keep my planner longhand, in cursive. But my son with dysgraphia will try to come up with the briefest, most compact way to say anything he has to hand write, because it’s just so torturous for him. You’d never know he has a really good vocabulary if you never saw his typed work, or heard him talk.

  5. “First letter, scrawl” is an exact description of my signature. Well, my first name is more legible. My last name is literally a cursive N followed by a lumpy line. The dot indicates that there might be an “i” somewhere toward the end, but that’s it.

    I do handwrite recipe cards, but I print. If I write a note to someone, or comments on a student’s paper, it’s in somewhat cursive-y printing.

  6. I too have a son with dysgraphia. I’m so grateful he was born in a generation where he can use a keyboard. Even so, he’d love to be able to scribble notes and to be able to draw, to have a way to get all the amazing things in his head on paper to share with the world.

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