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Handwriting vs. Typing: What Are the Benefits of Writing by Hand?

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

Many of us left handwriting behind the day we finished school and stopped taking longhand notes as students. While using a personal computer or tablet is the preferred method of writing for most professional writers, many novelists choose to handwrite at different creative stages of the creative writing process. If you’re getting started writing a novel, it’s worth considering whether working longhand or on a computer is more conducive to your creative process.



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4 Benefits of Writing by Hand

Taking notes longhand has definite benefits, and it can be worthwhile for young writers to work with pen and paper, especially in the early stages of a project. Jotting thoughts down on a pad or in a journal can help you overcome writer’s block and develop a more tactile relationship with your story ideas. Some of the benefits of handwriting include:

  1. Writing by hand is useful for visual learners. Writing longhand notes gives you the graphic freedom to easily sketch an infographic, word web, or another non-traditional layout to put your thoughts down and visualize connections.
  2. Writing by hand boosts the learning process. Psychological science research conducted by researcher Daniel Oppenheimer at the University of California shows that handwritten notes help with memory and recall. Oppenheimer’s study shows that areas of the brain associated with recall and comprehension are more engaged when students write notes with a pen and paper.
  3. Writing by hand can be artful. Many people choose handwritten notes over computer notes simply because they prefer the aesthetic. If you have good penmanship or are skilled at cursive and calligraphy, handwriting notes can give you an outlet to practice a hobby while also working on a creative endeavor. All you need are a simple writing implement and a piece of paper, but many people also choose to work with fancy paper and a fountain pen.
  4. Writing by hand helps you avoid distractions. Technology can be an incredibly time-consuming and distracting part of our lives as writers. Writing fiction requires focus, and shutting out distractions is an obstacle for many professional writers. Writing longhand away from your smartphone, tablet, or computer can help you focus on actual writing with pen and paper instead of with a keyboard or stylus.

5 Benefits of Typing

Typing on a word processor is a part of the writing process for most professional writers. If you go to a coffee shop in Los Angeles or New York, chances are you will see many more people writing on computers than writing longhand. Laptops are advantageous for taking verbatim notes from an outside source and also provide ease and speed when writing your own words. Some of the main advantages of typing your novel or other written work include:

  • Typing provides ease and speed. Working on a laptop is great if you are pressed for time or need to work on a complex task. Computers are almost a necessity if you are transcribing something word-for-word, and they are also very helpful in the editing process. Self-editing is much easier and cleaner on a word processor, and rough drafts are easily edited on a laptop.
  • Typing helps you avoid hand cramps. Though carpal tunnel and posture issues do come up for people who rely on typing, many people find that writing longhand is a much more physically demanding process. A hand cramp can slow down your writing process and is a common issue that comes up for writers who work mostly with pen and paper.
  • Typing is better for work that requires formatting. If you’re working on an assignment with a word count or that requires specific margins and layout, a computer allows you to keep track of these things very easily.
  • Typing is good for research and multi-tasking. Depending on where you are in your note-taking process, you might need to multi-task and research as you write notes. If this is your first time attempting a new type of writing, or if you’re working on your first novel, research will most likely take a fair amount of time. Typing notes on a computer allows you to have a research window pulled up on a web browser right next to the document you are using to type notes.
  • Typing enables you to easily back up your work. If handled right, writing on a computer can offer a more secure place to store your first draft or second draft than writing longhand. Working on a word processor gives you a very easy way to save and backup your work—especially if you store your files on backup drives or the cloud. Though working longhand on a first draft might suit your creative style, it also leaves you much more susceptible to losing your work.
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