Chad K. Park's Blog

21, December 2011

Writing versus typing

Filed under: Uncategorized — chadkpark @ 12:52 am

Something I read while perusing the internet – and land sakes, it piqued my interest.  Partly this is because I am an aficionado of the old ways.  Partly this is because I love my fountain pens (as woefully cheap and overused they are).

The gist of the article is that kids (and adults) learn better when they are writing.  The peer reviewed article that’s mentioned looks at kids and their native language and also provides some hypothesis of what might be going on in their noggins.  The article linked to above has some info on how adults learning other languages (with other character sets) learn faster when they take their notes by hand rather than typing funny characters on their keyboard.

However it seems fishy.  What’s the difference between typing and writing?  Could all those years of coloring and scribbling done something to prep the brain for using that tool?  Should we be comparing them to students who don’t get crayons but get a computer keyboard instead?  What about kids who get a tablet or iPad?  (Sorry Mac people.  I haven’t become one of you (yet) so I don’t know if there is handwriting recognition for these gizmos, but damn it would be cool).

But there’s a quote at the end that seems to answer this.

“A keyboard doesn’t allow a child to have the same opportunity to engage the hand while forming letters—on a keyboard a letter is selected by pressing a key and is not formed,” she adds. “Brain imaging studies with adults have shown an advantage for forming letters over selecting or viewing letters. We need more research to figure out how forming letters by a pen and selecting them by pressing a key may engage our thinking brains differently.”

Below is a link to the original paper:

Well, damn.

It also interests me because I think another connection exists between writing and learning.  If you already know so much about your research, you should be achingly eloquent about it.  There are many scientists who exhibit this quality.  Read Zinsser’s “Writing to Learn” to find a great listing and example.



  1. I agree with you. But I am beginning to think that there might be a difference between writing with a pen vs. writing with a fountain pen. I know I write better (and more) with a good working fountain pen than I ever did with just a regular pen.

    Comment by Honey Cheeks MacIntosh — 22, December 2011 @ 3:28 am

    • The biggest difference is between typing and writing for me. I sort of put the quality of the pen and the paper and all the other accessories as part of the environment. However, I agree with you – the pen is easily the biggest part. I remember when I first realized I had a penchant for pens (and mechanical pencils). It was in a drafting class and got worse in engineering. Then I found out the daughter feels the same way about pens. The fountain pens were just a matter of time.

      Comment by chadkpark — 22, December 2011 @ 9:54 am

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