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To some, a blank notebook or journal page and a fancy fountain pen is an almost irresistible invitation to fill the page with flowing thoughts, creativity, and inspiration. To them, a pen and paper are magical. But to others, handwriting is an antiquated form of communication that may be irrelevant at best, and in danger of becoming a lost art.

Written communication has been around ever since humans wanted a more permanent form of communicating what was going on between their ears. It has progressed from pictographs and alphabets to handwriting and keyboards. Somewhere in between, cursive writing made an appearance to speed up the writing process and reduce wear and tear on quill pens.

Many schools today no longer teach cursive writing, and penmanship classes are being replaced by classes in keyboard efficiency. Some may look to learn the vanishing skill on YouTube. There’s no denying that keyboarding is more important than penmanship in this age of computers and smartphones. But could we lose the art and simplicity of handwriting entirely?

Handwriting benefits

There may be a generation of people growing up without a clear understanding of the real benefits that pen and paper can provide.

  • Handwriting helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Handwritten note-taking in the classroom, although slower than keyboarding, promotes more mental engagement and information processing.
  • Brain imaging studies show that the learning of cursive writing stimulates multiple areas of the brain: sensation, movement control, and thinking.
  • Handwriting provides a sense of personal style and ownership.
  • Because handwriting reflects the personal style of the writer, reading it requires more cognitive functioning, which is good for exercising your brain power.

According to a Forbes article, psychology expert and researcher Dr. Jordan Peterson says, “It appears possible that writing, which is a formalized form of thinking, helps people derive information from their experiences that help them guide their perceptions, actions, thoughts, and emotions in the present.” Perhaps this is why so many people handwrite in their journals and diaries, or write out their goals and aspirations.

Some people enjoy handwritten communication so much, they take it to a whole new level.

Calligraphy example

Handwriting as an art form

Calligraphy is more than pretty or fancy writing. It transforms handwriting into artistic expression. When people think of calligraphy, they think of diplomas and wedding invitations, but you’ll see modern calligraphy in logos, inscriptions, and fine art pieces where the letters may or may not be legible. Calligraphy instills a sense of reverence or importance to what is being communicated, and fulfills a creative need in its practitioners.

In fact, one reason why Apple typography is so alluring may be because of calligraphy. College dropout Steve Jobs audited a calligraphy course at Reed College in 1973 in which he learned about typefaces. His classwork, in turn, inspired and influenced his font design work for the Mac — type styles many users have come to know and love — and set a standard for future font design and its importance.

Although you don’t have to take a college course or invent a computer, you can still find inspiration in everyday writing. Whether journaling or making a handwritten to-do list actually helps you experience the benefits of handwriting is debatable. But if you derive pleasure from putting pen to paper, then by all means, do it! If you believe a handwritten note holds more meaning, show your appreciation. If you feel calligraphy will convey your announcement with an added flourish, hire an artist. Although digital communication is more efficient and certainly the future of communication, sometimes old-fashioned is just better — and likely why handwriting will continue in perpetuity.