The Value of Learning to Write by Hand

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) say that both children and adults learn more and remember things more efficiently when writing by hand rather than a keyboard. The study’s author believes all modern children should receive at least some instruction in handwriting.

The brain activity of 12 young adults and 12 children was assessed on two occasions — once while writing in a notebook, and again while typing on a keyboard.

The results were quite clear. Both adolescent and adult brains are much more active while writing in comparison to typing.

“The use of pen and paper gives the brain more ‘hooks’ to hang your memories on. Writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of the brain. A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen on paper, seeing the letters you write and hearing the sound you make while writing. These sense experiences create contact between different parts of the brain and open the brain up for learning. We both learn better and remember better,” Professor Audrey van der Meer explained in a media release.

Professor van der Meer says it is essential to a child’s development to both write and draw from an early age, especially within an educational environment.

“Learning to write by hand is a bit slower process, but it’s important for children to go through the tiring phase of learning to write by hand. The intricate hand movements and the shaping of letters are beneficial in several ways. If you use a keyboard, you use the same movement for each letter. Writing by hand requires control of your fine motor skills and senses. It’s important to put the brain in a learning state as often as possible. I would use a keyboard to write an essay, but I’d take notes by hand during a lecture,” van der Meer contends.

The timing of reading the results of the research study discussed below coincided with discovering these useless signatures:

Jack Lew, Treasury of the Secretary
Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury

I’ve never been a fan of such signatures; in fact, I’ve written about this before – it was one of my very first posts.

I’ll never understand the point of just scribbling your signature. Perhaps these people need to go back to the Palmer method of instruction (shown at top of post). Not only would it result in better penmanship, but it may also trigger some beneficial brain activity…


40 thoughts on “The Value of Learning to Write by Hand

  1. I’ve heard the comment that when handwriting becomes a lost art for the younger people, the older generation will have a powerful way to secretly communicate… though I’m not sure what we will be plotting that we will need to do that…

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  2. I agree that writing helps better with memory retention. Good to know that there is an actual study to this rather than just my hunch. I found that writing, rather than typing, helps me remember things better. When I need to figure things out, I like to scribble it on paper than type it out on a computer screen.

    My handwriting is terrible, though… hahahaha!

    Regarding those signatures, I can sort of get how the signature of Tim Geithner was formed – I can see a T, m and G in cursive. Jack Lew’s is a mystery that I fail to understand.

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    1. I feel the same way; there is something about writing that makes me feel more connected to what my thoughts are. And yes, with some signatures you can catch a glimpse of what some of the letters might be…

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  3. As a fan of fountain pens, I too took to the easy, flowing hand of Palmer’s Business Method. But I’ve since fell in love with thick nibs, and all those accurate swirls and bends have gone out the window.

    I’m also a fan of pen-palling, though the pandemic has done a number on my postal service and I’ve since fell out of practice.

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    1. I’ve gotten away from most writing by hand, so many times my signature is the only time I get to practice. Sorry to hear about your pen pals…


      1. I did it for many years, and I think it was a useful part of the day. I spent the last several years of teaching in third grade, which is often the place it is introduced.

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  4. I know that I personally learn so much better when doing this, and I teach children from the youngest age, to ‘write’ their words, beginning as scribbles and dictation, and apparently reverting to scribbles for some as adults )

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  5. I would certainly agree with the comments that taut handwriting as a method of greater retention. I learned an old trick long ago. If I am given some information that I want to remember, I write it down. It has nothing to do with keeping the paper it is written on. The act of writing itself seems to create a connection in my brain where I can go back to remembering what I wrote rather than just something I heard. Great post! As for signatures, I don’t know how to help there. I do know that if I sign my name over and over for a period of time, it starts to lose its definition. That is why I assume no one can read a doctor’s prescription or notes.

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  6. An interesting piece of research, Jim. I hadn’t really thought about this before but it makes sense. As I’ve grown older I rely much more on keyboards – I can remember very little that I’ve actually written by hand since I retired and didn’t need to take notes etc for work. My handwriting was bad anyway, now it’s appalling, so I think these guys have a point!

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  7. “The study’s author believes all modern children should receive at least some instruction in handwriting.” Are people seriously considering no handwriting instruction? The study’s conclusions seem logical. I wonder if there would be any variations in the conclusions depending on language and type of handwriting.


  8. Typing is definitely convenient, but I’ve found that I’m a lot lazier with my writing when I’m typing. I have forgotten how to spell words because auto correct just fixes it. I don’t actually organize my thoughts before I start typing because I can jump to whatever area I want. Plus I just have a tendency to accidentally leave out words because my brain thought it but I never wrote it lol

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