6 reasons why handwriting is still important

For many of us, handwriting is a lost art. Our generation has been raised on the keyboard and we’ve been taught writing with pen and paper is a thing of the past. But, there are many benefits to handwriting you might not be aware of.


1. Handwriting is Important for Learning

Unknown to many, our brains respond differently when we write something by hand as opposed to typing it on a keyboard or by touching a screen. Studies show that writing improves memory and that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

A lot of people think that handwriting is obsolete. But it’s not. If you want to learn something, then you have to write it down. The process of handwriting helps you understand and retain what you’ve learned.

“Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” said Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo and corresponding author of the research recently published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.


2. Handwriting can be quicker and more efficient

Contrary to the popular belief that digital tools increase efficiency, studies have shown those who used paper to take notes complete it about 25% faster than those who used digital tablets or smartphones. For example,  the Wall Street Journal reported a few studies done on students who took handwritten, instead of typed, notes in class. Those who typed out their notes took down more words-per-minute and had better recall of the material immediately after the lecture. Students who wrote their notes by hand- despite taking fewer notes – had better recall up to a week later and “had a better grip on concepts presented in class”.

In addition, the traditional pen and paper is also easy to grab and is not dependent on any electronic device making it an ideal tool to jot some notes or thoughts down.


 3. Handwriting is best for children

“High school students’ brains are still developing and are so much more sensitive than adult brains,” said Sakai.

Professor Audrey van der Meer at Norwegian University of Science and Technology believes that national guidelines should be put into place to ensure that children receive at least a minimum of handwriting training.

The results showed that the brain in both young adults and children is much more active when writing by hand than when typing on a keyboard.

“The use of pen and paper gives the brain more ‘hooks’ to hang your memories on. Writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of the brain. A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing. These sense experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning. We both learn better and remember better,” says Van der Meer.

“Learning to write by hand is a bit slower process, but it’s important for children to go through the tiring phase of learning to write by hand. The intricate hand movements and the shaping of letters are beneficial in several ways. If you use a keyboard, you use the same movement for each letter. Writing by hand requires control of your fine motor skills and senses. It’s important to put the brain in a learning state as often as possible. I would use a keyboard to write an essay, but I’d take notes by hand during a lecture,” says Van der Meer.

“The brain has evolved over thousands of years. It has evolved to be able to take action and navigate appropriate behaviour. In order for the brain to develop in the best possible way, we need to use it for what it’s best at. We need to live an authentic life. We have to use all our senses, be outside, experience all kinds of weather and meet other people. If we don’t challenge our brain, it can’t reach its full potential. And that can impact school performance,” says Van der Meer.


3. Handwriting allows you to express your individuality

Handwriting is a very personal thing. Each individual possesses their own unique handwriting which is distinctive and shows who you are and how you think. This is lost with typing as letters typed are all uniform.

Thus handwriting allows people to explore their creativity. There are a number of reasons to believe that handwriting could have an important effect on your creative thoughts. For example, many people use handwriting as a form of meditation, an activity that uniquely affects the brain and has been used to come up with creative ideas for centuries.

Many famous authors, for example, wrote out their novels like Stephen King, John Steinbeck, and J.K. Rowling. This common trait can not simply be a fluke, rather it seems like there might be something useful to learn…



4. Handwriting improves reading and spelling

Handwriting is a multisensory activity. As you form each letter, your hand shares information with language processing areas in your brain. As your eyes track what you’re writing, you engage these areas. The same goes if you say letter sounds and words when you write.

Research shows there’s something special about language development and the act of handwriting. In studies, kids who practice handwriting do better at reading and spelling. The reason? Some experts believe that forming letters by hand while learning sounds activates reading circuits in the brain that promote literacy. Writing joined-up also encourages your brain to remember the spelling of a word, allowing your brain to identify the word’s spelling as a whole rather than focusing on the individual letters.

Keyboarding on a computer, by contrast, hasn’t been shown to improve reading. Yes, keyboarding can be a lifeline and a relief for kids with writing issues. It allows them to express themselves and have more success in school. But it’s not a substitute for handwriting instruction and practice, especially in the early grades.



5. Writing is good for mental health

Written language is a further evolution of the highly complex human capability for spoken language that probably goes back at least 250,000 years, to the time when our distant ancestors were just beginning to make tools. Because it is both neurological and psychological, handwriting is a window into the complex interplay of brain and mind.

This amazing fact is the reason why writing is good for our mental health – writing, particularly writing joined up, allows us to express ourselves freely as if yourself and the pen are one entity. This is why therapists ask you to handwrite your thoughts in a journal. Writing can help you slow down and fully engage in your thoughts.


6. Stronger Conceptual Understanding

Handwriting forces your brain to mentally engage with the information, improving both literacy and reading comprehension. On the other hand, typing encourages verbatim notes without giving much thought to the information. This mindless transcription can lead to a lack of meaningful understanding and application of the information, although you may be able to type more words quickly.


In conclusion, writing by hand is important for children’s development in reading, spelling, writing, creativity and mental health. Have you been encouraging your child to write by hand?