Studying handwriting was long thought of as a way to delve into the psyche. In fact in 1991, 91 per cent of French companies still used graphologists to screen job applicants. They scrutinised the size, shape, spacing, angles, slopes, links, pen pressure and deviation from the norm to assess personality traits. While the science on this is sketchy, we do know that messy writing may be a sign of ADD and increasingly illegible scrawl could signal cognitive decline.
Though more than the science, it’s the romance of handwriting that we often yearn for. “I’m an actress, a writer ... a pretty good cook, and a firm believer in handwritten notes,” said Meghan Markle before marrying Prince Harry.
Handwriting is more than wellmannered, though. Research shows us that it has a positive effect on emotional health. In a 1999 study in Journal of Traumatic Stress, transcribing a stressful experience by hand had a greater positive outcome than typing it out. It seems the manual act of putting pen to paper is therapy in itself. Emoticons were invented to bring feeling into typing. When we write, however, we can use emotion to shape our lettering, express ourselves by doodling in the margins, and see the progression of our thinking as we cross out and rewrite whole sentences.
Writing by hand also lights up the brain’s learning zones more than tapping away, the same study notes. A 2014 investigation found that for learning, longhand was more effective than laptop note-taking. That’s because we can’t write fast enough to copy down verbatim, so we take the time to think, process and condense instead, learning more deeply along the way.
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