Have pen and paper gone the way of the rotary telephone or that monstrous tome of numbers we call the phone directory — also known as a booster seat? Do kids even use penmanship skills any more, beyond signing their name or faking a note from their parents? Do schools still teach cursive handwriting?
Although you will never pry the keyboards and screens from many people’s hands, handwriting is still the preferred method of expression for a large number of diehards — and even some new converts. As it turns out, putting pen to paper has some distinct advantages for the writer. But are these benefits enough to make emailers and instant messengers ditch the efficiency and convenience of their digital screens?
Why is handwriting even a thing anymore?
Those who’ve grown up holding a keyboard since before they learned to tie their own shoes have become accustomed to instant communication with classmates across the classroom or strangers on the other side of the country. They are used to the speed of tapping out an essay or book report, doing a quick spellcheck, and hitting Send. They can type detailed lecture notes quickly. And those who have to read these digital messages or electronic pages probably appreciate the clear, crisp letters rather than deciphering unique scribbles that often bear no resemblance to the letters they are supposed to depict.
However, many people still use pen and paper — and not just because they like the feel and flow. There are some practical and useful reasons that make handwriting a better choice in some situations.
The praises of pen and paper
Judging by all the journals, planners, and diaries available at local bookstores or on Amazon, it’s clear that many people are still fans of old-fashioned pen and paper. Even the recent adult coloring book craze is related to the idea that people like the feel of a free-flowing tool in their hands.
People enjoy the personal connection of putting pen to paper. The simple activity of writing by hand actually inspires creativity and encourages an unrestricted flow of thought. To people who prefer pen and paper, a blank page is a gift to be enjoyed and a pen is a wand with which to pour their message onto the page.
But the reasons for using pen and paper stretch much further than simple “feel good” reasons. Research has shown that although laptops are quick and efficient for taking class notes, taking notes by hand helps comprehension and retention. If you take the time to write something down, your mind attaches a sense of importance to the information and you pay more attention.
Although handwriting has advantages in some situations, using a computer is better in others. For example, you can easily search for information while using a computer — and if people will be reading your writing, they will appreciate the spellchecking and legibility that a keyboard provides.
This is why most people end up using both traditional and modern means of written communication: Pen and paper nurture your creative side, whereas a keyboard is more efficient in professional situations or when efficiency and legibility are important. So write on — however you choose.