A lot has been studied and written about handwriting. Is it relevant in our digital world? Should we bother teaching it in school? What are the cognitive differences between typing and writing things by hand?
Nothing against digital forms of writing which are obviously useful and necessary. And typing, of course. But here are three things about handwriting, which seems to need defending from time to time.
Handwriting necessarily includes a level of personality that’s difficult to achieve on a digital platform. There’s connection to the person who’s hand touched the page and formed the letters.
The photo above is of my husband’s grandmother’s diaries. One of the journals is a Letts of London, a company which still makes beautiful and high-quality notebooks.
These handwritten diaries are such a personal and beautiful legacy of family history.
The following is very science-y. Summarized as handwriting being vital in establishing pathways in the brain, and being important for spatial and planning development, and memory.
Handwriting is a unimanual and idiosyncratic visuomotor activity that involves recalling spelling from memory and translating thought into an autonomous graphic mark by gripping a writing tool and moving it on a surface, that provides friction and natural sound as cognitive feedback, and where the writer must plan ahead spacial requirements, such as linearity, spacing and velocity of the text. Handwriting connects the visual with the writing surface and the premotor cortex in the brain with Broca’s expressive speech area, Exner’s graphomotor area and Wernicke’s processing of spoken words area in adults. In children, and despite their incomplete laterization until the age of ten or eleven, handwriting activates an adult-like pathway when they see the letters or words that they have produced by hand and allows them to memorise them better.“Is Handwriting relevant in the digital era?”
Is that too strong a word?
Writing is really a way of thinking – not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.Toni Morrison
I love this quote. I find a lot more freedom in taking pen to paper. Having a whole page to work with, rather than sequential characters in s prescribed row. Something about seeing my words on a screen makes me want to spend more time re-arranging and editing and correcting and re-formatting … rather than thinking and getting my ideas down.
P.S. I’m considering ordering a Letts of London notebook, just for the sake of nostalgia.