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How I take notes these days

Is handwriting still important?

Swirling, sweeping cursive. There’s nothing like drawing a good ballpoint across a beautiful note card, watching the lines flow and give life to ideas. But did you know that lots of schools aren’t even teaching handwriting anymore?

I’m picturing a world with no more jotted notes or scribbled thoughts on napkins… and as much as I love my devices, it makes me kind of sad. I remember testing pen after pen at the local art store, trying to create a prettier C or a bigger, fancier A. And I probably spent hours studying my guy pen pals’ handwriting to figure out what they were really thinking when they signed “Your friend.” But now, with Common Core curriculum, cursive has become optional, and many schools are opting out in favor of keyboarding. Don’t get me wrong, keyboarding is essential in today’s world. But if we lose handwriting, I think we’ll lose a lot: the artistry of writing, the beauty of creating words on a page, the meditative experience of forming letters. And according to recent studies, there’s even more to it than that.

Putting ideas on paper

If you’ve ever felt like you get more ideas when you write in a notebook than when you type on a computer, you won’t be surprised by this: researchers found that second, fourth and sixth graders wrote faster and had more ideas when they jotted by hand. That could be because, as it turns out, handwriting turns on different parts of the brain than typing does (and script and printing each activate unique parts of our gray matter). Some more benefits: handwriting hones certain motor skills that keyboarding can’t, and many of us do better at remembering what we hear when we take notes in longhand. Scientists have even found that that writing in script might help to treat dyslexia. And whether they’re right (write?) or wrong, people do judge us by our handwriting. It turns out that kids with better penmanship get higher grades, and grown-ups who complete job apps with neat writing are likelier to land a position.

Digital diary

Opting to hand-write more doesn’t have to mean giving up on gadgets. Microsoft’s Surface Pro’s included stylus (below) is a good example of tech that’s made to feel like a “real” pen: it’s been thoughtfully sized and weighted so that when you scribble, you feel like you’re using your favorite ballpoint… not like you’re operating a tech tool. The clickable top button is a nice touch too— reminds me of my favorite retractable pen (click-click!).


Use that with Microsoft’s OneNote and your Surface magically transforms into a pad of paper and a pen-at-the-ready to take note.

The Jot Mini by Adonit is another intriguing stylus. For about $20, the Mini looks and feels like a fine-point pen—with a transparent disc at the tip. The see-through disc gives the pen the required diameter of electrical contact it needs to work with your screen, without the fat rubber nibs you’ll find on other styli.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.52.46 AM

If you’d rather write on real paper, your notes can still go digital with Evernote Notebooks by Moleskine. Jot in the notebook, snap a picture through Evernote’s app, and your notes will become searchable—yep, the app can even search for words in your handwriting. Well, assuming you have half-decent penmanship…

evernote moleskine

The Write Stuff

Though handwriting teaching apps are available, most of them offer only letter-tracing, which isn’t shown to have the same beneficial effects as writing freehand. To inspire more handwriting in your little one, Dover’s I Can Write has some tracing but also freehand and coloring practice to inspire creative thinking.

What I do these days

public supply

I still prefer paper when it comes to note-taking. I usually scan my notes later, and try to write legibly enough (ugh!) so that the apps I store the notes in can “read” them (so I can find them later).  My latest notebooks of choice come from Public Supply (above), who donate a percentage of every notebook sale to a school in need of creative arts support.  Also on my list for maximum creative inspiration (yes, you can get that from a notebook!) are the amazing collection from Plumb, who collaborate with artists on notebooks for the creative set.

Do you think we should stop teaching handwriting? Jot your answer in the comments!

Photo credit: Public Supply

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