Are handwritten notes better than typed?

Handwritten notes

I like to think that I am more digital than analogue but, in recent years, I have started returning to handwritten notes as my preferred note-taking medium. I like plain text and use it for almost all my writing (at least as my “source text”). At the same time, my yellow pad and pen works so much better for me when I want to think through something or I’m in a meeting.

An article in Lifehacker titled “The Benefits of Writing by Hand Versus Typing” reminded me about this discussion about whether handwritten notes are better than doing it all digitally? I’ve read a number of articles that even go so far as to say that a stylus on a tablet still doesn’t match an ink pen on paper. Of course, now that I’ve just typed that, I can’t find the articles I read confirming that.

The Lifehacker article includes a really long infographic from the National Pen Company (so, yes, they have a preference) which is really interesting. Many people wax lyrical about various premium fountain pens. Om Malik, in particular, is a fountain pen fanatic and I like his perspective on writing with fountain pens:

On writing with fountain pens

My preferred pens tend to be off-the-shelf Pilot G–2 pens which I enjoy using. I have a couple fancier rollerball pens and they are nice to use too.

That said, I am still digital-centric so I usually capture my handwritten notes into Evernote when they are done. The thought of only working on paper with no backup or cross-platform accessibility freaks me out. Paper is great for original capture and brain noodling but that is just the beginning. It almost all becomes digital at some point or it’s subsequent value for me is limited.

Here is that infographic. Let me know what you think?

The Benefits of Handwriting vs Typing - Infographic

Image credit: Pexels

By Paul

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at Automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

5 comments

  1. Khoi Vinh’s post titled “Remembering What’s Important After Meetings” touches on a better approach to participating in meetings and highlights a pretty useful IFTTT applet to facilitate that.
    For one thing, taking copious notes in meetings isn’t always the best approach. You risk focusing too much on your notes and missing opportunities to be meaningfully participate in the meeting and just be present.
    Instead, he recommends making note of the meeting highlights afterwards:

    This advice absolved me of the pressure I previously felt to write down everything. Without that distraction, I’ve been able to generally stay more focused and absorb more of what’s said in meetings. And with fewer notes, the act of searching them later becomes much easier too.

    I tend to take a lot of notes in meetings and capture those notes into Evernote afterwards for future reference. I prefer handwritten notes because I’ve read that handwritten notes tend to be more conducive to actually absorbing what you are writing about.
    As useful as it is to have comprehensive notes of your meetings, I’ve also noticed that other meeting participants tend to find it a little frustrating sitting opposite someone who seems to be writing down everything they say instead of being part of the conversation.
    Something to think about in my next meeting.
    Image credit: Stickler Mule

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  2. Handwriting wins for me 🙂 I remember so much more when I handwrite my notes than when I type them. Also, handwriting allows for quick drawings/diagrams etc. I’m a very visual learner and appreciate the possibility of drawing quick flow-charts and similar bits of information. Typing notes is much more restrictive. At the end of the day, pen/pencil and paper are quick and highly portable. I don’t have to worry about ever running out of battery or having to find a place where to sit with my laptop. Also, when I need to retrieve notes or information, the process is much much faster and I don’t risk creating digital clutter with tons of files to scroll up&down in search for that bit of information 😉

    1. I’m pretty similar. I’ve started to prefer handwritten notes in recent years for the sorts of reasons you mention.

      That said, I feel uncomfortable leaving my notes only on paper. I scan most of my handwritten notes (at the moment, into Evernote).

      1. Yes, for me the majority of work-related material will have to be turned into digital at some point. Sometimes I type my handwritten notes, or I take scans or photographs. At a recent course, I had to produce an online portfolio. Part of it ended up being photographs of my handwritten notes 😉

        1. That works too, and with evolving OCR software (possibly handwriting dependent), handwritten notes become searchable.

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