Save the written word

Not long ago handwriting was one of the only means of communication across distance.  Nowadays, more often than not, we sit staring at screens, immersed in the constant tapping of keys or glare of light from phones. As technology advances, the use of laptops, computers and smart phones is increasing; who knows how long it will be until handwriting is lost amid the storm of screens. To lose it would be to lose a practical art.
Handwriting is a skill that is taken for granted in day-to-day life: it comes so naturally to the majority of people. Jotting down a shopping list, signing a form, writing a birthday card... all possible by being able to simply join a few lines together on paper. Most people probably don’t remember much of the process of learning to form words with a pen or pencil, but it has provided us with an extremely important skill that we will use for the rest of our lives.

Encouraging sign made for children with cancer at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Pediatric, childhood, AYA.
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Writing by hand is a very successful method of maintaining a strong memory. Memory is a highly valuable faculty, supporting us throughout our lives in numerous ways. The Reticular Activating System is stimulated when writing by hand – the most important information being considered at that time is committed to memory.

When smart technology is introduced however, we adopt a robotic demeanour – small, square buttons are hit rhythmically but absent-mindedly. Rather than actually creating the letters – as we do when writing – the brain observes them, acknowledges them but doesn’t properly register or remember them. For a healthy memory, both long-term and short-term, researchers have shown that handwriting contributes far more effectively than typing.

Handwriting lends a major hand in keeping the brain healthy and active in other ways too. It develops and fine-tunes critical-thinking skills. An experiment was carried out in which conceptual questions were posed to two groups of students, one group answering on laptops, the other providing hand written answers. The results showed that the handwriting students performed much better . The development of motor skills is also improved through handwriting – the brain is trained to send messages to the hand, telling it to form letters. As a person’s handwriting progresses, these motor and critical-thinking skills also progress. There is no doubt that learning these skills early on gives a great advantage in later life.
With a large number of computer apps available nowadays, it is not surprising that they prove greatly distracting . Facebook message? Better reply, wouldn’t want to look rude! Friend’s birthday? I’ll just write a quick post. Before you realise, you’ve spent an hour flicking through your news feed or trying to level up in Minecraft. On a smart device, it’s too easy to transfer from work to games and social media. Distraction leads to poor concentration. Concentration is a major skill which allows us to work to our full potential and ability. Handwriting provides fewer distractions – just a writing implement, paper and imagination – allowing us to concentrate more on our work with our focus directed to the page in front of us. Writing is more fluent and gives a feeling of accomplishment to be proud of. Improving confidence and quality of writing will only occur when the mind is one hundred percent set to the task, with full commitment to the creative process. Short, broken bursts of typing can potentially leave us lost for ideas.

Handwriting is a beautiful, diverse art which typing can’t provide. Over the course of life, every person individually develops their own writing style: loopy, BLOCK, slanted, simple... unique to them.  Handwriting distinguishes one person from another; allowing them to show off their creativity. Everybody is an artist! It makes a piece of work more interesting to read; each letter and word has been formed - and created - by the mind itself rather than the same letter size and font repeated over and over on a screen. As well as this, handwriting carries with it a special, emotional charge – when receiving a hand written letter from a relative or friend, it brings with it a sense of love and care as you know that someone has taken time to sit down and create this work of art for you.Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that computer keyboard skills are essential in our modern world. Most employers nowadays expect their employees to be able to type confidently. Not only do these skills come in handy in the work place, but the ability to use a computer in everyday life is a big advantage, making jobs such as booking holidays and ordering clothes much quicker and easier. Technology is all around and is such a large part of our lives. However, we are balancing on a fine line. There is a risk that technology will erase the equally important skills that hand writing develops.

Certainly, the way technology is heading, the use of smart devices is going to increase – but if we don’t cherish the beauty and practicality of the written word, it will eventually become history. Handwriting helps keep our brain healthy. It is an important part of our lives that has been around for thousands of years and we can’t let it fade away now – save the written word! Rediscover the joy of writing a letter to a loved one today!

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