The secret power of handwriting

Keyboarding has much to recommend it. But writing by hand confers unique and irreplaceable benefits for young learners - and old ones, too.

Dozens of studies through the years have tried to nail down the benefits of manual writing. While there have been many disputed findings, one conclusion has emerged clearly time and again.

And here it is: 

Writing by hand improves memory.

Writing by hand improves memory.

Writing by hand improves memory. 

If you want to remember something - or a lot of somethings - write it down. With a pen or pencil and a piece of paper - not on your Notes app or a Google doc or any other screen-based platform.

It’s the interaction between eye, brain and hand that makes the magic happen. And it’s a synergy that no amount of keyboarding can replicate.

Hand, eye and brain 

So what, exactly, is going on?

In a nutshell, writing by hand requires deeper brain processing. To start with, physically coordinating hand and eye to form letters manually makes your brain work harder than punching or tapping keys. 

At the same time, hand writing encourages you to organise information - exactly because it’s more taxing. 

Think about note-taking. Relative to writing by hand, keyboarding makes taking notes a no-brainer.  And that goes double with the ability to effortlessly cut and paste from one screen to another. 

If you want to remember something - or a lot of somethings - write it down.

Ironically, that very ease of operation is the problem. Almost inevitably, it means less mental effort expended - less motivation to sift important ideas from surrounding detail. 

The result is as depressing as it is obvious: Learners not only end up with too much information - they end up with too much unprocessed information.

Writing notes by hand - simply because it’s more effortful - reverses that process. It leads to more efficient note-taking by encouraging greater selectivity. 

The final payoff? All of that extra processing helps to engrave information in memory. It’s locked down - and in a way that keyboarding simply can’t match.

When we type, it’s almost as if our fingers are simply a conduit for the transfer of data from one platform to another. But when we write, that same data is not just being transported - it’s being processed and stored for later use and recall.   

Does all this mean keyboarding has no place in learning? Far from it. For many tasks, typing has clear advantages for our kids. But the science reminds us that it is not a substitute for handwriting. 

The fact is, the subtle variations between the two ways of encoding information can have a profound impact on how much we learn - and how much we recall.

Maybe your child doesn’t see the difference. But your child’s brain does. 


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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, Learning, handwriting, brain, memory

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