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The Role Handwriting Plays in Improving Your Memory

The Role Handwriting Plays in Improving Your Memory

It can be argued, perhaps, that we can better translate our true thoughts onto a page than through audible interactions. Writing allows you to filter out unnecessary filler and choose words that paint a picture. When job searching, it’s often the words on a resume that endear a potential employer to us. In fact, 82% of employers look for strong written communication skills.

When you choose to look deeper into things, though, how you put those words down can go even further toward increasing your productivity and your skills as a whole. Writing by hand can make you smarter in many different ways. One of these, as it has been oft-proposed, is the impact it has on your memory.

Consider the signals that our hands send to our brain. If we were to touch a hot stove, the action causes sirens to go off in our brain and we quickly pull our hand away. This action carried out by our hand has now stored information in our mind—stoves are hot. When we type, we develop muscle memory, and we generally don’t have to look at our keyboard to put the words onto a screen. How much does this actually contribute to our retention of information, though? No matter what key we click, our hands create the same motion.

With handwriting, however, variety comes into play. Each letter has a unique shape, so we adjust the movements of our writing instrument accordingly. Writing with the same instrument, such as a titanium pencil, sends more recognizable signals to our brain than if we typed it out via a keyboard. This alteration in method impacts how we process information.

When we type, we put information onto a document and save it for later. All we need to focus on is translating information into a different location to review later. Longhand requires more steps in the documentation process. We have less time to get things down, so our brain must filter through information and select the most important aspects of the information we’ve been giving. This gives our brain a better opportunity to store new knowledge.

Jared Hovarth, a professor at the University of Melbourne, expanded upon this idea in an interview he gave to Huffington Post. Hovarth speaks about the difference in retention he notices in students that handwrite their notes as opposed to those who type them. Speaking on the latter, he says, “The idea being, while they were typing, they weren’t really connecting to or processing the information, but were more focused on getting everything down.”

Longform takes more time, yes, but what’s the harm in putting a few extra moments toward something that matters? Writing by hand causes you to slow down and appreciate the knowledge that you’ve been given. You’re immortalizing words onto a page, not putting pixels onto a screen. We can only imagine how the first man to ever use a quill felt. To submerge the tip of his instrument into ink, to smell the power of it, and to visualize the echoes of his mind become physical matter. Your handwriting is far more unique that a font. Use it to help you progress. Utilize it to help you remember.