3 Reasons to Practice Handwriting as an Adult

As a kid, you might remember sitting down with a notebook to practice handwriting — working on perfecting the curves and lines of each letter on repeat. Fast-forward to today, and your penmanship is likely rarely put to use.

While your days of sitting down with a notebook to practice cursive are long past, you might be surprised to learn that there are many benefits to gain from taking up handwriting. Here are three reasons why you should pick up the pen and improve on this skill.

Helps you retain information

A 2020 study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that both 12-year-olds and young adults learn more efficiently and retain information better when writing by hand versus typing on a keyboard. This is because the “use of pen and paper gives the brain more 'hooks' to hang your memories on,” says senior author of the study, Audrey van der Meer, in a news release.

Melissa Lloyd, founder of Halifax, N.S.-based Doodle Breaks — a 15-minute or one hour mindful guided Doodling session for team meetings and corporate events — agrees that one of the biggest benefits of putting pen to paper, whether that’s doodling or writing, is the ability to connect with what you’re learning. A great way to take in this benefit at work is writing meeting notes by hand, rather than typing them. “It helps people engage in new ways,” says Lloyd.

Improves reading and spelling abilities

Recent research from John Hopkins University suggests that practicing handwriting can reinforce adults’ literacy-related skills like spelling and reading. In the study, 42 non-Arabic-speaking adults were divided into three groups — hand-writers, typers and video watchers — to learn the Arabic alphabet. Those in the handwriting group, who used pen and paper, gained some proficiency just after two sessions.

"When you write by hand you don’t have technology to aid you in spelling,” says Toronto-based illustrator and calligrapher Michele Nidenoff, who teaches both calligraphy and handwriting classes. Handwriting can force us to slow down and concentrate on the shapes of letters, she says. That mindfulness and practice of motor skills translates to learning.

Boosts creativity

Putting pen to paper can give your brain the space it needs to activate creativity, says Lloyd. It’s one of the main reasons why taking doodle breaks at work can help with innovative thinking. The same concept applies to handwriting. “Not only can penmanship be a method of expressing our emotions and recording our thoughts and feelings, but along the way you are training your brain to do something in a different way,” she says. “Building these new neuropathways can help us stay creative.” Nidenoff adds that handwriting can also be a way to express one’s individuality. “Handwriting is distinctive to a person,” she says. “When we are younger, we learn to write like our teachers, but the older we get, the more our writing becomes our own.”

How to improve handwriting

Working on your penmanship doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are Nidenoff’s best tips:

Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to use handwriting practice sheets for adults. “A lot of people will mix up printing and cursive. These books help by taking you through each letter step-by-step — from what direction to start in to how it can flow to other letters.” Tracing over letters in these books can also help you develop muscle memory.

Tip #2: Use phrases to practice handwriting. Whether it’s a pangram (a sentence or verse that contains all letters of the alphabet), or your favourite quote, each one will help you develop your penmanship. You can also create word lists: choose a letter, such as A, and create a list of words that begin with that letter. Have fun with it and create themed lists — animals, countries, cities, friends, you name it! Want to take it a step further? Take the opportunity to write a note or letter to a friend or relative.

Tip #3: Learn how to properly hold a pencil or pen. “Use a tripod grip between your thumb and forefinger, and lean on the paper with the heal of your hand,” says Nidenoff. “The way you hold your writing utensil is important because it prevents your fingers from getting cramped.”

Tip #4: Buy yourself some nice paper and some proper writing utensils. For beginners, Nidenoff recommends using an HB pencil with a good eraser. If you’d rather use a pen, test out different brands and choose the one you’re most comfortable with, she says. Try out the pen bar at your local Staples store to play around with a few options before purchasing.

A word of advice

Like learning any new skill, there will always be frustrating moments at first, but to that Nidenoff says “Take the time to practice 10 to 15 minutes a day. The more you practice, the easier it will get and become muscle memory, making it enjoyable.”

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By Staples Canada

March 03, 2022