The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Wired by cursive or by typing or by keyboarding?

We all know that having to explain things in writing helps you clarify your thinking and helps you remember facts. Well at least for most of us. Good writers, that is those with good handwriting, have better grammar and better test scores or so say education researchers in a recent NYTimes article.

However, another handwriting expert, Albany -based Kate Gladstone, is quoted as saying “that while a student needs to jot down 100 legible words a minute to follow a typical lecture, someone using print can manage only 30. ‘That’s fine for class,’ she said, ‘if the class is first grade.'”

I was sent a reference to the NYTimes article (which is heavily discussed on the blog Collision Detection) by the person who has the worst handwriting, does the most compulsive note-taking, and is the single fastest typist of anyone I know.

Where does that leave the rest of us? Those of us who never managed even a C in penmanship as it was called back in the day. Those of us who were required to take typing in what was called “junior high.” Those of us who were forbidden to take any classes in creative writing or journalism until we had completed two semesters of typing. Those of us who have tried to become poets instead of novelists because we can’t imagine writing more that 5000 words on anything — and having to edit our own writing. Those of us so dyslexic that any grouping of letters seem like they might be an actual word if we could just work out the anagram in front of us.


  1. This is an interesting post and something to keep me occupied on a cold winter evening.
    Back in the dark ages when I went to college, everyone took notes by hand. Being left handed, I found that my notes were often smudged, so I would immediatly rewrite them after class, which was probably a good study habit by reinforcing what I’d just heard.
    I think taking notes by hand forced me to be more selective so I learned to pick out the main points. The designs I drew in the margins were something to behold rather like the illumination of a scribe. Did these drawings help me think about the subject at hand? I tend to think so! Now that I’ve become addicted to my computer, I find that I can barely read my handwriting anymore. I think I write better compositions using a keyboard and I love the instant editing I can do. I still doodle in the margins of anything I write which drives my co-workers crazy when I have to leave notes at work.

    I guess I’m rambling a bit, but one last note that I find interesting
    on the cognitive hand to brain idea is that one of the first things to go
    in Parkinson’s patients is the handwriting. It become smaller and
    scraggly in appearance and is illegible. Some can still use a keyboard
    but this is not an option for many with this disease. It must be so
    frustrating not to be able to use either way to express oneself. By the way, when
    typing a response, the words just disappear after about four sentences
    so I can never read what I’ve just written. No wonder you’re getting
    so good with anagrams, Paul!

  2. The NEW YORK TIMES misquoted me (it also misquoted a colleague, in some even more serious ways). One needs to write 100 legible *letters* (not words!) per minute in order to keep up with the speed required in most everyday adult handwriting tasks.

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