Which is better: pencil or keyboard? Canadian journalist Clive Thompson offers a well-researched take on a common debate.

Clive Thompson on the power of the pencil (and the keyboard)

Clive's talk is from 2014 but I've just come across it. For me, the points that stood out were:

  • Handwriting is best for taking notes – in a lecture, for example – if you want to remember what you're listening to.
  • Handwriting also works well for thinking through ideas, such as organising a talk or presentation.
  • Doodling pictures alongside your handwritten notes helps you retain information.
  • Typing quickly is best for getting your ideas down before they escape from your mind.
  • Typing helps the iterative process of writing – getting an idea down quickly and then going back to tweak and refine it.

His conclusion is that both handwriting and typing have their place – depending, broadly speaking, on whether you're trying to absorb knowledge or share it.

I don't know about you but I've moved away from making notes by hand. When I'm talking to someone on the phone (which works through my laptop) I often have to look at documents that are on the computer, and it's just more efficient to type notes on there too. 

But maybe I should take Clive's advice and reach for a pencil when I've got some really hard thinking to do. 

From notebook

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