Think you don't need handwriting in the modern world? You may want to think again

Natasha Christian

Think you don’t need handwriting in a modern world? You may want to think twice about ditching the pen and paper.

An Australian brain expert has found there are plenty of reasons why the old fashioned way shouldn’t be made redundant.

Perth based Dr Jenny Brockis, Author of BrainFit and FutureBrain, believes people are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t keep up their handwriting skills.

“People have asked me if it matters if we don’t handwrite anymore,” Dr Brockis told Yahoo7.

“I was curious as to whether we were doing ourselves a disservice and found there are two camps - One says tech is the way to go, we’re adapting to it and the brain can change… The other says tech is great but there are certain aspects of the ability to hold a pen and produce writing on paper which is really important as to how well we can apply our thinking”.

Dr Brockis found handwriting, in particular cursive, enabled people to retain knowledge at a higher level.

“One study looked at how students retain information. A lot of university students go to class with a laptop and take notes using their keyboard… very few use a notebook,” she said.

“However, it was found the kids who used longhand had deeper understanding of the information and could record it to a deeper degree some time after.

While she recognised it was no longer the convenient way to go, Dr Brockis felt the act of handwriting could be used on a daily basis as a form of brain training.

“Many schools are choosing not to teach handwriting anymore or only teach students how to print because they’re now going straight to the keyboard,” she said.

Dr Brockis believes it's important for both children and adults to keep their handwriting skills up. Photo: Yahoo News

“They see it (cursive) as less relevant, I think where they are coming from is that they see it (keyboards) as being quicker and easier”.

However she said the art of holding a pen to paper had plenty of benefits from a learning perspective.

“It enables the brain to develop functional specialisation, how we integrate our understanding of the world and what we are trying to learn,” she said.

“It’s definitely shown the actual practice of holding a pen to paper helps us to learn and read more quickly, it also helps to generate ideas and express ourselves in a different way.

“Pen on to paper will lead to far more creative ideas and innovation”.

She also felt it might be linked to a person’s ability to read and spell also.

“The implication is if you learn how to write that will help you to learn how to read and then we can learn vocabulary and expand it to much larger level,” she said.

“I haven’t found definite research about the ability to spell but my intuition tells me it would affect it… computers have automatic spell checks so we don’t have to think how we are spelling a particular word… I think it would make a difference”.

Dr Brockis also felt handwriting was a way for people to stay sharp as they aged.

“It’s very good brain training,” she said.

Dr Brockis says putting pen to paper more often leads to far more creative ideas and innovation. Photo: AP

“My initial interest was to help seniors stay sharp, a lot of people fall out of the habit as they get older”.

However she did not dismiss the clear benefits in typing too.

The rise of the keyboard has meant accuracy and safety has improved in many areas.

Doctors now turn to the keyboard instead of writing prescriptions, which is easier for pharmacists to assure they’re providing the right medication.

“Keyboards are fantastic, but we want to look at how we can retain information and maintain creativity,” Dr Brockis said.

But the rise of the keyboard has also seen the demise of handwritten letters and notes.

“It’s about the personal connection… the joy of going through an old shoebox and finding old letters, you get a sense of the person,” she said.

“You don’t get the same feeling when it’s typed”.

The keyboard has also quashed the need for what was once considered of the most stressful childhood tests… the pen license.

While many would say handwriting is a ‘waste of paper’, Dr Brockis felt the cognitive benefits were worth writing a little each day.

“The ability to produce handwriting on a piece of paper will improve a child’s cognitive development which means they’re going to pick up reading quicker and generate things more quickly… this will help them to grow into more developed adults so they can function better in society,” she said.

And it’s not only kids who could benefit from putting pen to paper a bit more.
The need for handwriting could be likened to the recent popularity of the adult colouring books - as a form of stress management and creativity boosting.

Handwriting helps to improve children's cognitive development. Photo: AP photo.

“I think we could also use handwriting in a special way like this,” Dr Brockis said.

The simple act of putting a shopping list on to a note pad can help to improve memory function compared to using an electronic list.

“Use it as a form of brain training, I think we could add handwriting to an array of things,” she said.

“I think if we could still incorporate the joy of learning to write it could help us to create more and express ourselves more fluently”.

For more information about Dr. Jenny’s work in brain health and organisational health visit