I began my training in the last days of the card catalog and the first wave of the Internet. It was still a novelty to own a computer, but I brought a word processing machine–essentially a souped-up typewriter–to my freshman dorm.

Like many of my generation, the grammar of computers has influenced how I approach writing. I look at a paragraph and wonder what I can cut and paste. I scroll down the page and add notes to myself for future sections of the paper. Of course, I also spend time changing fonts and backing up files.

Several studies have now demonstrated the benefits of writing by hand. People who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them. Students who wrote down vocabulary words were more likely to learn a foreign language. The physical act of writing seems to trigger the part of the brain that focuses attention.

When it comes to long manuscripts, I’m still more likely to use a computer, which allows for more easy editing and sharing. But for to do lists, goal setting, and memorization, writing it out has the upper hand.

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