Skip to main content

An old fashioned habit

I like handwriting.
I was informed by my Dad at an early age that an inability to write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide you was the sign of a Weak Mind.*
I can write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide me.
I can write in multiple sizes (1mm high is my favourite).
I struggle to write continuously in capitals when official forms require it (lower case is my natural habit).
I have nice, readable handwriting.
I write to people, because it's nice to get a letter.
I keep every letter or postcard ever sent to me.
I make interesting line images using words.
I wrote all my University notes by hand...with bonus illustrations, when I was bored.
I keep to-do lists in my handbag, and delight in carefully scoring out things when they're done.

So...writing: is fun, even though I barely do it for the bulk of my time - in my daily life, typing is King!

But I find that writing's actually the best way that I learn: the physical act of writing transfers the information that I've read or heard into my brain, and it stays there. Typing the same information means it travels from my fingers, to a document...and leaves my brain.

I think there's a few reasons for this.

I was never taught to type, or touch type. When ahh were a lad....you were either expected to go to university (and would therefore come out Fully Qualified in Excellence, and leap straight into a job where you'd have staff/minions to do typing for you...because that's what a degree means, doesn't it?), or you were going to be a secretary, therefore you did OIS (Office and Information Skills - there's a misnomer!) where you learned to type. I was in the first group: ohhh, get me, expected to go to university, likely to have minions to do my typing, woo-hoo!

In reality, what happened was - I taught myself to touch type up to a point using a programme on a BBC Micro at home while in late Primary school/early Secondary school, and it was enough to get me by, including for Computing Studies (also using a BBC Micro - damn that Other Class who got to use the brand spanking new pcs!). Then, I went to Uni....in first year, handwritten assignments were the norm....in second year, there were guidelines on spacings for word processed documents...in third year, ALL documents had to be word processed. It was a rapid switch, and not one I (or many others) was totally prepared for.

So, I'm now a reasonably fast typer...but not properly. I've learned to get along using about 8 fingers, but almost certainly not in the right way (judging from how my fingers/knuckles can hurt at the end of the day). I still need regular glances down at the keyboard, I make plenty of typos (my favourites are "nihgt" and "hte", with spacings between words being too earl yor too lat e.), and need to correct frequently. It's too late really to fix that - I'd need to unlearn how to type wrongly in order to learn to type correctly and in my job, I need to type constantly.
So, typing: I can do it, but I'm partially thinking about typing when I do it, rather than focussing on the content of what I'm typing.

Writing's different - I know the shapes of the letters so well that I don't need to think about them, and I'm pretty good on spelling so I don't really need to think about that either. So when I hand write something, particularly if it's the points being made by a speaker, I listen, distil to the core point (if needed), write that point down as a note, and remember the information. I can also go back to my notes later, and they'll really only be needed to refresh my memory, rather than have to be read and understood all over again.

People used to borrow my lecture notes at university, because they were clear, readable, and easy to understand and get the gist of the lecture. Unfortunately, this didn't always work the other way round - I had a hard time trying to make sense of some other peoples lecture notes if I missed a class! I'd also work far better by transcribing points into notes, rather than photocopying the original material when I was studying. It's just a shame that I get The Fear when in exams, and all useful information evaporates from my head!

So, I'm not being awkwardly old fashioned on purpose with my avoidance of using any technical devices to make conference or meeting notes - the iPad, iPhone tablets, smartphones etc may work well for other people, but if you see me at a conference or seminar, I'll be the one sitting there with a pad of paper and a pretty pen, quietly scribbling away.

Does anyone else have this issue with not retaining information if you type it, but being fine if you hand write it? Or are technical devices the way forward for you?




*Please note: my Dad is 72, and had his own natural lefthandedness beaten out of him by vicious teachers in a 1940s schoolroom, leaving him semi-ambidextrous. He may not be the best judge of what is an appropriate way to write.

Comments

Tina Reynolds said…
I'm just the same - I don't think properly when typing I just type. At university I handwrote all of my essays and then typed them up to be handed in. My boyfriend laughed at me but it was far quicker than staring blankly at a page!

I definitely hand wrote all lecture notes (although most people did) and still write paper notes at seminars and conferences.

Even now, though I am trying to work on the computer first rather than second, I often find it easier to think or learn by writing. Probably a minority now though...

Tina
loopylor said…
Me too, when it comes to making notes on something I have to learn or memorise then hand writing the notes helps me retain the information.

I am quite happy with typing for everything else though which is just as well as my handwriting is almost illegible, even to me ....
erin said…
I also find I retain information better when I handwrite it out rather than type it. I like the clarity and speed of typing for professional and academic work, but like you enjoy getting (and sending) letters and enjoy writing people something other than an email.
shestacksbooks said…
I am exactly the same. I also wrote everything for uni on paper and then typed it up. There is something very organic and inspiring about writing a paragraph, crossing bits out and adding notes around the page as opposed to the clinical neatness of a blank Word document. The only way that I could revise for exams would be to write down everything I needed to know, and I still find that when I am reading something educational, I have to make notes as I go in order to really absorb it. Glad it's not just me!
Megan Roberts said…
That's just like me! I really find things go in more if I write them down - I might type them up afterwards (and now blog them) as a help, but it's the writing the notes in the first place I find most helpful.

I've done some conferences where I've 'made notes' by Tweeting, or typing as I go, but it's just not the same - like you say, it goes in one ear and out through my fingertips! I pulled together all the Tweets from everyone into a nice document and had a brief look at it, but I don't really remember what was said very well.

I find I still make notes by hand in meetings or when I'm trying to think about something - it really helps me focus my mind so much better. Brainstorming on a computer just isn't the same!

Oh, and I have exactly the same problem with early and late spaces, too - I'm doing those constantly!

Popular posts from this blog

Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!
The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions: The physical layou…

Learning from the experts

One regular occurrence, no matter what the age of your collection, is finding a book in need of some sort of repair. Whether it's become overheated and dried out, with random pages falling out, or if it's "shelled itself", with the whole cover block detaching from the pages, there's always a book that needs some attention. My problem is that I'm not skilled enough in this area to know what sort of repairs are possible, and where the line is between me being able to do some basic repairs, and when a book needs to be sent off to the book binders for some expert attention. 
Luckily, the binders we usually use, Downie Allison Downie, run a variety of classes on all elements of book making and repair. My colleague and I were able to go along to one of these classes recently, carrying a few sad examples each of books in need of repair. The way we spilt the carrying weight, I had the hardbacks with me, and my colleague had paperbacks in various states of dirtiness …

Impressive shelving technique

I have a new role model: the shelving technique demonstrated between 12 and 18 seconds by the librarian in this Lucozade video is something to aspire to! :D