There is no doubt that the pandemic has drastically changed how we learn and work. Education has moved primarily online. The majority of students now work solely on a computer and meetings or socializing is done in the digital world. But technology was a massive part of our lives long before the pandemic had us social distancing. Many high schools, like mine, did a lot of online projects and taught material from online courses. Taking your laptop to school became as normal as bringing a pencil to class. However, working so much with technology has created some heated arguments on whether typing is superior to writing by hand. I don’t think either option is better than the other. Instead, the trick is knowing the best times to print by hand versus type on a computer.
Lecture Notes - By Hand
Many people argue that writing lecture notes by hand is better than typing on a computer or tablet. It’s true - you retain up to 40% more information by printing the information than typing it. Remembering what your professor or teacher is teaching you is kind of important, since you know there will be a test at some point. I’ve heard the debate that many students can keep up with the teacher’s pace easier if they write notes digitally. However, with most information being accessible through the web, the subject details can likely be found online anyway. Many people take notes differently and when writing by hand, you have the option to format your work how you like. You can create subcategories, break down information using dashes, stars, circles, squares - whatever shape you want to mark important points. Written lecture notes are also more easily retrievable for most students. You can transfer them directly to your binder, rather than needing to search through files on your computer.
Assignments - Typing
When you have a deadline, it's best to make sure you’re doing the most efficient work in the shortest amount of time. This logic is why it’s probably smarter to use a computer for any significant assignment. Now, I’m not talking about the fill-in-the-blank type worksheets. I’m talking about those massive essays and reports. Most teachers want you to hand them in online anyway, so why would you retype what you’ve already written by hand? There are also lots of tools on the Internet to help with editing, which can be a huge lifesaver. For instance, Grammarly goes through your work and flags any grammatical errors and suggests how to improve your writing quality. Whether you're editing online or with a printed copy, a typed document makes it easier. Red pen marks and notes in the margins make your work a little more legible when editing typed text. Overall, typing on a computer is faster, easier to read and gives you have a better chance of catching mistakes.
Brainstorming/Making Lists - By Hand
While some people might use the Notes app on their smart phone to write a grocery list, I think most of us use sticky notes. Handwritten notes are easier to manage, since constantly reopening your phone to check the Notes app can be time consuming and annoying. When you’re brainstorming or writing a list, the ideas are spontaneous and writing them by hand helps other ideas flow easier. Basically, if you write your grocery list by hand, you're more likely to remember that you need to buy eggs. And if you love eggs, this is very important! As for brainstorming, did you know JK Rowling plotted the first Harry Potter book on a napkin while travelling on a train? Of course, this was back in 1990 when cell phones and computers weren’t as popular as they are today, but it worked. It also makes sense to write lists or brainstorm by hand on paper because your brain is likely used to doing similar activities in school.
Short Story (2-5 pages) - By Hand
This may seem surprising, but it’s considered better to write a short story by hand. Often, you write short stories for fun and have no thought of actually publishing them. Maybe this is how you got started with writing or perhaps it was just a fun hobby for a little while. Whatever the reason you start, typing a short story makes it seem like an actual job and you become less "creative." A creative person tends to pull out a pen and paper and start writing when bored. When writing a short story by hand, you can keep it as a keepsake. Then ten or twenty years down the road, you can pull it out again. It will probably be all yellowed from time passed but have an artistic feel to it. Many books have been created from old handwritten stories. Also, after using technology so much, we know that it can be unreliable at times. There’s always the chance that the file might get deleted or become damaged, and then you've lost your first short story about the barnyard animals who left the farm and went on an adventure! It makes way more sense to keep a short story that was written when you were 10 years old tucked away in your closet or somewhere safe in your basement.
Novel - Typing
Novels are much longer than short stories, so it’s way more efficient to type a book on your computer. You can get a novel finished much quicker by writing it digitally than by hand. If you’re writing for a living, you probably don’t want to wait ten years between each book. Typing means that you can edit as you go, without worrying about smudge marks from your cheap eraser. If you don’t like what you see, you can delete text and replace it with something else. Getting a friend or colleague to edit your typed work is much easier as well. We’ve all been there - someone gives us a piece of handwritten work to read and we can barely understand it. Fonts through Microsoft Word or Google Docs are generally easy to read, so you won’t have to worry about people asking what a certain word is. When editing, a red pen also shows up easier on typed text than grey pencil. The biggest and maybe the most important factor to consider is people who type on a device don’t suffer from hand cramps. Students, we’ve all been there - we scribble down four pages of lecture notes and then our hand kills! Can you imagine doing that for a 300-page novel?!
When it comes to typing or writing by hand, there’s no right or wrong answer. One is not better than the other. But there are different times when it makes sense to write by hand rather than using a computer. At the same time, certain situations call for a computer, not a pencil. It’s important to consider which tool to use in order to be the most effective and efficient at the task you are doing.
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