Importance of handwriting

By Jeff Bagdigian

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Does anyone miss the good old days in grade school when a teacher would hand you a sheet of paper with outrageously large lines on it, and then demand that you write the letter ‘A’ fifty times? No? Neither do I, but I am grateful that my handwriting and penmanship had so much time and attention devoted to it. Writing and practicing my Abc’s was invaluable to me as a young kid, and I sincerely believe that I am all the better as a result of that tutelage. Thus, I am saddened by the ever dwindling attention classrooms, as well as the greater population, are giving the skill.

Courtesy J Wynia/Flickr

Courtesy J Wynia/Flickr

Do not misunderstand, I am very aware of the importance of building skills with typing and computers too. I mean, if we never covered the whole computer thing in school, I would undoubtedly find writing this article to be far more challenging, seeing as I would have no idea how to interact with that strange boxlike apparatus taking up space on my desk. Thankfully, this is not the case; I know how to turn the computer on and off, and with some guidance, I can usually open the word processor. I have a roommate for all other obstacles this machine may provide. But I digress.

Handwriting is a skill that is still advantageous. Let’s consider how handwriting affects spelling. Texting, spell-check, and l337 (a.k.a. leetspeak) are taking their toll on spelling. My spelling has most definitely suffered as a result of their influence and its deteriorating effects. The only method I find that works to alleviate the dreadful spelling brought on by social media is to handwrite words that I’ve misspelled. It takes very little effort, handwriting the word three or four times, and I can guarantee you won’t misspell the word again. Spell-check is fine when there is a computer in front of you, but not all writing involves computers.

The computer is a fantastic tool and asset, but when it comes to writing (or reading for that matter), the computer can easily hinder any and all progress. How can this be, you ask? The Internet. I love my web browser’s ability to open new tabs in the same window; I can be on Facebook, watching Netflix and playing Defend Your Castle all in the same window, but what of my paper? And what do I have to show for the seven hours I spent in the library? I have my name in the upper left corner of the screen and an oppressively empty Word document. Yes, the computer is an invaluable tool, but with all good things there comes a price.
Handwriting something, however, does not have the same risk posed by computers. You really can’t access Google or any of your social networking sites if all you have in front of you is a notebook and pencil. Most if not all of my class papers begin their lives in my notebook, as general notes and later as outlines. I confess that I seldom write full-length pieces by hand, but I do all of the brainstorming and list all of my quotes and other relevant information by hand in a notebook. The essay is outlined, I have a thesis, and I have my quotes, all before I touch a keyboard, and when I do, I’ll just be adding the minor details of the paper. All the heavy lifting of the paper has been completed ahead of time. This process may be tedious, but it does highlight how useful writing by hand can be. Many of you probably remember, at one point or another, a teacher or professor speaking about how taking notes by hand helps in comprehending and remembering class material. The blog “The Hot Word” stated in a June 5 post called “Will handwriting survive in the digital era? Learn the provocative results of a new study” that research has shown that writing by hand, be it in symbols, as in math and science classes, or as letters, increases an individual’s capacity to remember what it was he or she has written. Writing with a pencil and paper is undoubtedly beneficial for anyone, student or otherwise, who wishes to remember information. So why not handwrite more?

Fundamentally, good handwriting results in good communication, and communication, despite advances in technology and an ever-changing world, is essential. Whatever your occupation, you can benefit. So why not give yourself every advantage, and spend more time handwriting? You have nothing to lose.

Jeffrey Bagdigian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]