Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Handwritten Word

Is it still important to work on your penmanship?  Everything is typed nowadays.  Even the Uniform Final Examination that all aspiring Chartered Accountants across Canada must pass to receive their designation has gone digital.  You type all your case writing in MS Word on a laptop, your quantitative analysis is in Excel and your reference material is electronic and searchable.  You only get paper if your laptop goes kaput during the exam.  Gone are the days of crafting your answer on paper and triple checking all your calculations.

Before the exam went digital, many aspiring accounts failed because exam markers could not read their handwriting.  They often belly-ached how unfair that was.  I always said, "Is it?  Your ability to write clearly enough that another person can read it is a critical element to your ability to communicate."  They always replied, "When would I ever hand write anything to a client?  Everything is typed."

I just read an article summarizing the effects of handwriting on the development of different brain processes.  Using mechanized writing changes the processes used in your brain.  Handwriting may actually exercise your brain better.  The article reports on a study that indicates handwriting is more complicated than typing because it involves three brain processes:
  • Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
  • Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words.
  • Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.

I know I still hand write quite a bit at work.  I do type everything in the end, but I usually start with pencil and paper.  I seem to organize my thoughts better and also sustain a higher level of focus when I am handwriting than when I am typing.  Perhaps there is a greater perceived commitment to your words when you put pen to paper than when you are typing and, therefore, there is more thought to it and more information stored, sorted and organized in your brain before you commit to physically writing it down.  I can't explain why, but typing feels like a linear process to me while handwriting feels more fluid and artistic - the page is a blank canvas and I can start writing anywhere on it with complete freedom.

Sometimes I type my sentiments to go inside my cards, and sometimes I hand write them still.  Sometimes when I send a card, though, I also send a mini letter on a small piece of paper.  That is always handwritten because I want my recipient to "know" me.  To know that it was me, and recognizably me, who thought of them and took the time to write to them.  Handwriting is personal.  And, now, thanks to this article, it's also smart!

You can read the full article here: Why Does Writing Make us Smarter?


  1. enjoyed the artical, it is so true!!

  2. Fascinating article! I had many pen pals back in middle school, and found all the different handwriting styles so interesting. I miss getting letters through snail mail!


Thank-you for sharing your thoughts.