Advertising
Advertising

Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age

Handwriting: A Skill For A Digital Age
Handwritten

    It seems like those of us who spend most of our day at a computer are slowly losing those handwriting skills our elementary school teachers spent years drilling into us. More than anything else, it’s a matter of disuse: many people hardly ever write anything out by hand and, if they do, it’s a quick note meant only to last until the next time they’re at a computer.

    But good handwriting is a skill worth honing, especially in a digital age, and for plenty more than writing your aging grandmother — although I’m sure she appreciates legible writing.

    Advertising

    Bad Handwriting Kills

    In any given year, approximately 7,000 people die because a pharmacist couldn’t read a prescription. And while prescription pads will likely become electronic in the future, there will always be professions that rely on hastily jotted notes. Not all of these jobs will go electronic any time soon. Consider construction sites: not practical places for most electronic devices. But if you wander around a building site before anyone gets around to painting, you’ll see pencil marks on most of the lumber. Measurements, locations and quantities are all written on the wall, and while an illegible note might not kill anyone, there’s a high likelihood it could cost a contractor some money.

    Good Handwriting Saves Lives

    There are several diseases and conditions that can affect the brain and, in turn, the motor skills required for writing notes by hand. Neurologists can often tell a great deal about what is happening inside someone’s skull by looking at samples of their handwriting — especially if they have past samples. For instance, you can follow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in a patient very clearly through writing samples — handwriting can show the affects of the disease even in very early stages.

    Advertising

    Different neurological disorders manifest themselves in different ways, especially on paper. Some can cause an overall decay in handwriting skills, while others can cause a patient to drop letters or words. There are, of course, a wide variety of psychologists who use graphology (handwriting analysis) for the purpose of understanding a person’s mindset as well. However, there is far more controversy about graphology than the simple observances made for the purpose of diagnosing neurological problems.

    Handwriting as Learning Mechanism

    Handwriting notes is a technique recommended by many educators as an excellent way to cement ideas in your mind. But handwritten notes work best if you can go back and look them over — and can tell just what they say. Pen and paper also offer a flexibility for diagramming that just isn’t available in word processing software. You can draw arrows quickly and create mind maps that aren’t restricted by a programmer that you’ve never met. You can even tear up paper (or use smaller pieces) and shift them around.

    Advertising

    Writing out papers or notes by hand can also help provide a certain amount of focus that is difficult — if not impossible — with a computer. I know I have trouble focusing on a writing project when I want to check my email, read a few blogs or generally distract myself with the internet. To keep myself on track, I’ve had to pick up a pad of paper and go somewhere without a computer. Some days, it’s the only way I can stay focused.

    Preparing for Emergencies

    What if your power goes out? Your Blackberry runs out of juice? You’re stranded away from a printer? There are times that legible handwriting is absolutely crucial. Whether the power is on or off, odds are you have work that must get done. You may have to write out a document by hand and FedEx it to a client, or you may be writing in order to type it up later. You may even have to scribble down the phone number of a tow truck. No matter which, the effort is worthless if no one can read it afterwards. It’s practically a version of Murphy’s Law: if you write down something important, it’s bound to be illegible.

    Advertising

    And there are jobs that may take you away from your computer — hard to believe, but true. If you’re interested in philanthropic work that will take you deep into a third world country, it’s in your best interest to have good handwriting. Even if you have access to email at all hours of the day, the people you might work with probably won’t.

    Handwriting is a Digital Age Skill

    Handwriting is an important skill — equally important to that ability to type 75 words per minute that you listed on your resume. You may not need to spend hours a day on perfecting your letters, but writing often enough to maintain a legible hand is worth your time. If nothing else, writing a long letter or outlining your next project can give your mouse hand a rest and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome a little while longer. Writing uses far different muscles in your hands than typing and can break up a series of repetitive actions: consider handwriting a stretching exercise.

    And you don’t need to go to the extreme of calligraphy. All you need is a legible style of writing: writing as if you left your mental caps lock on can be a quick way to write an easy-to-read note. A suggestion to keep in mind, though, is that writing in capital letter or in print usually takes longer than cursive. If you’re going to work towards legible handwriting, cursive letters may be the most productive in the long run.

    More by this author

    50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time 8 Replacements for Google Notebook 5 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos 7 Tools to Find Someone Online 19 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out

    Trending in Communication

    1 40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place 2 6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak 3 How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic 4 How to Stop Living on Autopilot with Antonio Neves 5 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

    Advertising

    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

    Advertising

    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

    Advertising

    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

    Read Next