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Why handwriting is still relevant in the 21st century

Updated: Mar 8, 2021


It’s no surprise that as technology has become increasingly integrated into our daily lives the traditional act of writing with a pen has been somewhat forgotten. The ease of word processing documents, as well as the development of applications that allow us to sync our notes across multiple devices, has made the purpose of handwriting almost redundant.


However, the act of writing should not be forgotten and aside from its charm for certain tasks it still has much more utility than it is often given credit for. In many ways, handwriting is still less restrictive than its digital counterpart and has many advantages both functionally and creatively. Additionally, there is another important point that handwriting still forms a unique part of our culture and identity that we should not forego so easily. It is with this in mind that we decided to look at the place of handwriting in the digital age, with the hope of sparking a discussion about its importance during this time:



The Educational Benefit

Handwriting still forms an integral part of our education system due to the fact that the majority of our examinations are still handwritten. Therefore, it still serves as a very functional skill and students who are not able to write legibly and articulately place themselves at a severe disadvantage to those who can. This means that despite the incorporation of technology such as iPads into the classroom, focus should still be placed on students’ ability to write without the help of technology.


Handwriting Has Many Cognitive Benefits

Writing notes by hand has many cognitive benefits. Handwriting reinforces our reading and language processing skills. Writing by hand allows time to slow down the thought process enabling the writer to think about the words, how they are spelt and the structure of the writing; all making the writer more adept at the language they are using. Handwriting can also improve our memory. Whilst it has been argued that typing notes at the time may allow us to focus more on what we are actually listening to, research has found that writing creates unique pathways in the brain causing those who wrote their notes by hand to remember the content more than those who typed them.


Handwriting Has Many Benefits for Creative Writing

The physical act of writing can also have other benefits in particular with creative writing. Patrick McClean wrote a wonderful article in which he defended his love of longhand, despite the obvious advantages of technology. McClean argued that writing with pen and paper helps to rid you of the distractions of the digital world. He said that when typing there can be a tendency to edit as you go along rather than letting your ideas flow. This can be counterproductive for the creative process. With a blank piece of paper you tend to just write, get your ideas onto paper and leave the editing process until later.


Handwriting Is Less Restrictive

On the other hand, pen and paper can allow you to think more freely when doing things such as brainstorming. You have a blank page, a pen, and no restrictions as to where you can write, allowing you to link things together, circle important points and add side notes wherever makes sense. Many will argue that this can now be done on a computer, but as mentioned before the distractions introduced with a computer or tablet can often interrupt your creative flow.


It Forms Part of Our Culture

Finally there is another, but no less important, point that writing forms a unique and irreplaceable part of our culture. This is particularly the case for written languages made up of characters such as Mandarin but also for letters in English. Handwriting styles are unique to the individual and something which simply cannot be replicated with a keyboard.

“The ability to write is traditionally closely linked with the ability to read in the development of literacy in children, the one fostering the other. (There have been insufficient children who have learned to write using only a keyboard to disprove this interrelation). In primary schools in this country much of the writing performed in class is written with a pen or pencil and the assessment of a child's ability is largely through the medium of writing. In secondary and further education some examinations are still written by hand. To be unable to write legibly and quickly is therefore a disadvantage that limits a child's educational progress as well as having a negative effect on self-esteem.”