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4 Benefits of Writing By Hand for National Handwriting Day

By Chris Gayomali

Today is National Handwriting Day! Although we don't write like we used to, here are four ways handwriting is still helpful.

1. It's better for learning

One of the most effective ways to study and retain new information is to rewrite your notes by hand. That's because putting ink to paper stimulates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, or the RAS. According to Lifehacker, "The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you're actively focusing on that moment — something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront." One study from 2010 found that the brain areas associated with learning "lit up" much more when kids were asked to write words like "spaceship" by hand versus just studying the word closely. 

2. It makes you a better writer

Many famous authors opt for the meticulousness of writing by hand over the utility of a typewriter or computer. In a 1995 interview with the Paris Review, writer Susan Sontag said that she penned her first drafts the analog way before typing them up for editing later. "I write with a felt-tip pen, or sometimes a pencil, on yellow or white legal pads, that fetish of American writers," she said. "I like the slowness of writing by hand." Novelist Truman Capote insisted on a similar process, although his involved lying down with a coffee and cigarette nearby. "No, I don't use a typewriter," he said in an interview. "Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand." A 2009 study from the University of Washington seems to support Sontag, Capote, and many other writers' preference for writing by hand: Elementary school students who wrote essays with a pen not only wrote more than their keyboard-tapping peers, but they also wrote faster and in more complete sentences.  

3. It will prevent you from being distracted

The computer in front of you is a time-sucking portal to puppy videos and ex-boyfriend/girlfriend stalking. That's why self-imposed lockout programs like Facebook Limiter and Minutes Please exist in the first place. Of course, the internet isn't all bad. In 2012, neuroscientists even suggested that taking five-minute breaks to browse Tumblr or BuzzFeed could make you a more productive worker. On the other hand, when you're all GIF'd-out and it's time to work on that dissertation, there's something to be said for the elegant simplicity of having only a pen and paper in front of you... especially since that paper probably isn't plugged into the distraction-laden internet. Try writing with laser-like focus for short 20-minute stretches at a time.

4. It keeps your brain sharp as you get older

Writing longhand is a workout. No, not necessarily for your wrist, but for your brain. According to The Wall Street Journal, some physicians claim that the act of writing — which engages your motor-skills, memory, and more — is good cognitive exercise for baby boomers who want to keep their minds sharp as they age. And if you're looking to pick up a new skill, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that adults had an easier time recognizing new characters — like Chinese, math symbols, or music notes — that were written by hand over characters generated by a computer.

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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Notebook Enthusiast
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Science says it's easier to organize and remember information when you write it down. Help everyone on your list stay on track with these charming notebooks that are great for artists, writers, planners, and dreamers.

1. POKETO CONCEPT PLANNER; $34


Poketo

Your loved ones could tap reminders into their phones, but this glam pink planner makes keeping appointments much more fun. The 252-page, open-dated book includes space to scribble goals for the week, month, and year as well as calendar sheets for scheduling activities. The binding lies flat while open and the 8-by-5-inch fabric-textured cover gives your giftee's plans a fashionable finish.

Find It: Poketo

2. RITE IN THE RAIN ALL-WEATHER TOP-SPIRAL NOTEBOOK; $7


Rite in the Rain

It looks like a regular notepad, but Rite in the Rain's 4-by-6-inch gridded sheets are completely waterproof, able to withstand the wetness of a rainforest, a summer downpour, or being dropped in the mud. Use any pen or pencil for smudgeproof writing that will stay legible no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.

Find It: Amazon

3. MOLESKINE SMART WRITING SET; $199


Moleskine

If your favorite notebook enthusiast draws or writes in this Moleskine paper tablet with the included Pen+ smart pen, their creation will appear in digital form on your phone or iPad via a companion app. Encoded technology allows the pen to capture each stroke and smoothly transfer freehand doodlings from page to screen. From there, the user can edit, add text, share ideas and more.

Find It: Moleskine

4. MIDORI GRID NOTEBOOK; $10


Amazon

You'll notice Midori notebooks are missing something: a cover. That’s entirely on purpose. These minimalist Japanese notebooks allow users to focus on the joy of writing through their gentle gridlines, thread-stitch binding, lay-flat design, and colored string on the spine that indicates the notebook's page style.

Find It: Amazon

5. PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS OBSERVER'S NOTEBOOK: ASTRONOMY; $19


Princeton Architectural Press

If the 2017 total solar eclipse sparked a new love of astronomy in someone you know, give this handsome 7-by-9-inch hardcover notebook, so they can record night sky observations. The ruled pages are paired with information about stars, planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies, plus gorgeous color images from the Hubble and ESA space telescopes.

Find It: Princeton Architectural Press

6. LEDA ART SUPPLY SKETCHBOOK; $18


Amazon

Whether your gift recipient draws in pencil, ink, pastel, charcoal, or watercolors, this softcover sketchbook is ideal for many kinds of art. The 160 pages of 7-by-10-inch archival paper are thread-bound and include an elastic band to keep the book closed. A ribbon bookmark adds a classy finishing touch.

Find It: Amazon

7. PILOT FRIXION CLICKER RETRACTABLE ERASABLE GEL PENS; $11


Pilot

The perfect pen for The New York Times Sunday crossword, Pilot's long-lasting Frixion gel pens write incredibly smoothly in a variety of ink colors and erase completely with the attached eraser, without damaging the writing surface beneath. The 0.7-millimeter fine point gives penmanship an elegant flourish. When you're finished writing, the nib clicks back into the pen shaft.

Find It: Amazon

8. TRAVELER'S COMPANY BROWN LEATHER NOTEBOOK; $32


Amazon

Indulge your loved one's inner Hiram Bingham or Nellie Bly with this classic traveler's notebook. Encased in a hand-made chocolate leather cover is a sheaf of blank Midori paper (refills are available); the book includes a ribbon bookmark and a band for keeping the cover closed when not in use. At roughly 8.5 inches by 5 inches, the notebook is sized for stuffing into a safari jacket.

Find It: Amazon

9. PRESENT AND CORRECT CORNER RING BOUND NOTEBOOK; $7-$18


Present and Correct

A cool twist on your typical spiral-bound notebook, this pad by British company Present and Correct hinges at the corner with a chic brass coil. The 50-page book comes in small (2.75 inches by 4.75 inches) and large (5.8 inches by 8.3 inches) and three variations: black cover/blank sheets, green cover/ruled sheets, and gray cover/dotted sheets.

Find It: Present And Correct

10. MOLESKINE LIMITED EDITION MINIONS NOTEBOOK; $24


Moleskine

Kevin, Stuart, and Bob blurt out silly sayings and cavort inside the covers of this limited edition Minions notebook from Moleskine. The hardback notebook includes 70 ivory lined pages and a bookmark, plus Minions stickers and extra goodies printed on the inside of the paperband.

Find It: Moleskine

11. PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS POCKET DEPARTMENT NOTEBOOKS; $20


Princeton Architectural Press

Inspired by 1950s stationery, the Pocket Department notebooks recall old-school composition books with a modern splash of color. This pack includes each of four different styles—backpack, messenger bag, shirt pocket, and back pocket sizes—containing 64 lined pages apiece. The set comes wrapped in a reusable interoffice-style envelope with a string closure, suitable for your office's secret Santa rounds.

Find It: Princeton Architectural Press

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Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters
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According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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