When Was The Last Time You Wrote?

Do you write cursively with beautifully flowing, looped letters or do you print? Actually, a more pressing question would be: Do you write at all? Can you remember the last time you put pen to paper, instead of finger to keyboard? Don’t worry, you’re not alone The statistics show that every year more and more people are rapidly forgoing penmanship altogether in favour of typing, even for small written tasks such as shopping lists or reminders on sticky notes, most of us have replaced these with apps

A recent British survey found that one-third of adults hadn't written anything by hand in the past six months I too am dangerously close to counting myself amongst their number, but I think that’s a great shame Furthermore, this trend is damaging to our intelligence as a species The humble pen, the great bastion of written communication for over five-thousand years The Sumerians created the first written communication in 3200 BC in Mesopotamia when they carved out cuneiform script into stone

The foundation of Western freedoms Magna Carta was inked into sheepskin with beautiful Latin cursive at Runneymeade in 1215 Then, in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed, written in a 17th-century script called English Roundhand Which was mostly superseded in the late nineteenth century by Spencerian script – you have seen Spencerian script if you have ever seen, what one could argue is a rather popular logo… this (coca cola) Handwriting is a deep part of our culture but today there is a concerted yet contentious effort by schools worldwide to move children away from the pen and in front of computer screens or in front of tablets, tapping away like lemmings The logic being that these devices are what they will be using in the workplace anyway, so why get them accustomed to an antiquated writing system that may be of little to no use in their career? I’ll tell you why

Have you ever been amongst a large crowd of people talking at once, perhaps in a busy restaurant or at a dinner party? Maybe you are thoroughly engaged in a conversation with somebody yourself When, all of a sudden, from the noisy static of the crowd your brain picks out a single word or sentence and you hear it as clear as day, even from the other side of the room It could be your name or a bit of gossip about somebody you know What just happened was your brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) activated At all times there are literally millions of bits of data in your surroundings, noises, smells, sights, and physical sensations

This is far too much for your brain to comprehend Multiple tests over the years have shown that the brain is only capable of focusing on a maximum of four different things at once, and even that is optimistic Most of the time we focus on one to two things simultaneously So how does our brain decide from which of the potentially millions of possible things to focus on are worth our current time and attention? It employs a conductor Sitting at the central base of the brain, the brain’s doorway to sensory inputs, it acts as a filter

All the information around us is constantly knocking on the door of our brain for further processing, it is the job of the RAS to decide what to let in When we put pen to paper the RAS is activated Because writing requires fine motor control and the majority of our focus our RAS can’t help but prioritise whatever we are currently writing about as the most important processing job for our brain Conversely, when text is typed every keystroke is exactly the same, there is no difference in motor control between pressing the G key to the A key Once proficient our brains can type almost autonomously, without much thought, and so the RAS can filter out much of the information we are taking in whilst typing, a luxury it doesn’t have whilst writing

A 2010 study confirmed this with children When they were asked to write words such as ‘spaceship’ by hand the areas of the brain associated with learning lit up When they typed the same words, their brain activity was a lot quieter, as though someone had turned off the lights Put yourself in the hypothetical scenario of viewing a University lecture and you must take notes so you can learn vital knowledge for an upcoming exam You have a choice of either using a laptop or a simple notepad and pen to record your notes – which would you choose? If you chose the laptop then you are likely to do much worse on the exam

As researchers, Pam Mueller from Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer from California University found out in a 2014 study A group of students were asked to watch five TED talks in a lecture hall and take notes on them Half of the students were given laptops with no internet connection, to prevent online distractions and the other half were given only a pen and paper After a 30 minute break, the participants were asked a series of questions that required knowledge from the TED talks to answer The students who took longhand notes performed significantly better at answering the questions than the laptop note takers

Mueller and Oppenheimer think this is because when we type notes we usually copy whatever the lecturer is saying verbatim without attempting to summarise it However, because handwriting is too slow to write every single word being spoken we are forced to summarise the lecture’s main points In doing so the brain spends much longer processing the information it is taking in, Mueller and Oppenheimer refer to this process as ‘encoding’ Conversely, when we type the lecture notes word-for-word we are using the laptop as external storage for our brain Sure, we are hearing and recording every word with keystrokes, but because this semi-automatic process requires little thought or contemplation our brain is not actually processing (encoding) the information, it is merely entering our ears and passing straight through our brain into our fingers

When notes are handwritten, because we must think about the meaning of what is being said and summarise it in a very short amount of time, a significantly higher amount of neural processing or ‘encoding’ is required And so, even though we are taking far fewer notes, overall we remember the notes we have written far, far better, than when typed Furthermore, you are more likely to understand the meaning behind those notes afterwards, instead of staring blankly at the five-thousand word document on your computer screen and wanting to hammer your head into the keyboard as you suddenly realise that you have absolutely no idea what any of it means Interestingly, they repeated the study once more, but this time allowed both groups to re-read and study their notes for some time after the lectures It would make sense that if the laptop notetakers could revise their word-for-word notes they would then be able to remember more – but astonishingly this made little difference on their learning – the longhand notetakers still did much better

It seems that the encoding process the longhand notetakers did when first hearing the information was invaluable for their retention and understanding But to me, there is one overwhelming reason we should fight to keep handwriting alive Because it can be absolutely beautiful Calligraphy is an art form and all those who practice it desire to reach such a level of mastery that they are invited to an exclusive society with a really cool and memorable name, the ‘International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting’ – it may not have a pretty name, but my god does it have a pretty logo IAMPETH, as it is commonly shortened to are an international organisation responsible for choosing master penmen

A master penman is a calligrapher who has reached a distinguished level of mastery in calligraphic arts There are many stages to qualify as a master penman, but the final is they must rather aptly, create their own certificate There are currently only twelve master penmen in the world and they create beautiful works of art like these Technology is amazing and if we all abandoned it for the pen then the modern world would grind to a halt But I think it’s really important that the art form of writing by hand is kept alive as we rush ceaselessly into a technological future

IAMPETH is certainly grasping to keep the art of penmanship and all its history and culture alive, but twelve master penman can only do so much If we all try to take a moment every now and then to simply pen a letter to a friend or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try your hand at calligraphy then, collectively, we can preserve the very thing that built our world I believe that the best way to get started with calligraphy is by joining Skillshare Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of classes in writing, art and calligraphy Premium Membership gives you unlimited access to high-quality classes on must-know topics, so you can improve your skills, unlock new opportunities, and do the work you love

Compared to the competition Skillshare is really affordable: an annual subscription is less than $10 a month Since Skillshare is sponsoring this video, the first 500 people to use the promo link in the description will get their first 2 months free to try it out, risk-free Thank you for watching And thanks again to Skillshare for sponsoring this video, be sure to click the link in the description if you want to start your journey to becoming a master penman

About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

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