Handwriting for Health

~posted by Rebecca K.

In everyday life, during meetings or class, it may seem easier and faster to type notes on your laptop. But did you know that writing by hand may be more beneficial to your brain health? This is partly because writing, as opposed to typing, forces you to slow down in order to comprehend what you’re hearing or thinking, and as a result can facilitate your retention of the material.

Page of Marcel Breur’s lecture notes for an “Analysis of Planning,” February 9, 1948. Image courtesy of Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

A 2012 University of Washington study found that young children “wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”[1] Another study in 2014 that focused on 300 university students indicated that “students who took longhand notes were better able to answer questions on the lecture than those using a laptop.”[2] The scientists found that paper note takers “rephrased information as they took notes, which required them to carry out a preliminary process of summarizing and comprehension; in contrast, those working on a keyboard tended to take a lot of notes, sometimes even making a literal transcript, but avoided what is known as ‘desirable difficulty.’”[3]

Essentially, writing by hand aids in both cognitive development and optimization. For more insights on why writing is more effective than typing, see this June 2014 Scientific American article, “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.”

For more thoughts on the importance of learning penmanship, see The Federalist article, “Ten Reasons People Still Need Cursive.” Hint: Cognitive development! Confidence! Creativity!

And on a not-so-scientific note, there is perhaps something more intimate and compelling about seeing someone’s handwriting versus their typed text. Philip Hensher authored The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting in part because he realized one day that he had no idea what a close friend’s handwriting looked like, and he felt like that such unique facet of his friend was something he should know.

So, instead of bringing a laptop to your next meeting, bring a notebook and a writing utensil you enjoy. See if you better remember and understand the material.

Want to improve with your handwriting or hone your creative lettering skills? Here are some Library books to check out:

Visit the Central Library next week to see letters come to life! On Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at noon, in celebration of the Library’s First Folio exhibition, The Juliet Project will give a live, original 30-minute performance inspired by letters that people from all over the http://www.spl.org/library-collection/first-folioworld have written to the protagonist of Shakespeare’s timeless, perpetually popular play, Romeo and Juliet. Through movement and song, the diverse cast will explore the connection that people throughout the past and present have with the Bard’s tragic heroine. See you there!

[1] Klemm, William. “Why Writing By Hand could Make You Smarter,” Memory Medic blog, Psychology Today, March 14, 2013, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter.

[2] Chemin, Anne.  “Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?” Guardian, December 16, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing.

[3] Ibid.

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