In these days of emails and text messaging, handwritten correspondence has almost disappeared.
Yet some stalwarts still advocate handwriting as a valuable tool for business communications. Most business professionals of a certain age still use handwritten notes for personal correspondence.
Not long ago, handwriting was one of the most popular means of communication. My mother demanded handwritten thank-you notes for presents she gave; maybe your mother did, too.
Nowadays, little is handwritten except perhaps a few items for a grocery list or a Post-it Note. Many young professionals don’t remember handwriting classes. Because millennials started typing so young, their handwriting is often illegible. (My mother’s was exquisite; she taught the Palmer method to second graders.)
“By letting it go to the wayside, we lose something—something very important,” says Laura Petrolino, chief client officer at Arment Dietrich. “Handwriting helps us develop the skills essential for all communication. Without it, our brains don’t create some of the processes which help us be good communicators, and all parts of communication suffer.”
Yes, a lot of handwriting can cramp your hand, but that’s only because we’re not used to it. Our handwriting muscles have atrophied.
Research indicates that handwriting develops children’s fine and visual motor skills, along with other abilities crucial for learning. Many studies show that students who spend time working on handwriting skills display a better ability to produce clear, coherent communication and have better focus and thought organization.
Communication experts say handwriting offers these benefits for adults:
- Creativity. When typing, writers tend to edit as they write rather than let ideas flow. That hinders creativity. Pen and paper can allow you to think more freely when brainstorming. You have no restrictions on where you can write, allowing you to link things together, circle important points and add side notes. By its nature, handwriting is more labor-intensive. That requires us to slow down and connect the mind with the hand, one word at a time.
- Concentration. Writing by hand frees you from distractions inherent in digital devices. No room is left for multitasking. The act of connecting pen or pencil to paper sharpens concentration. To write thoughtfully and coherently, we must focus on the present moment and contemplate—without side conversations or other to-do list items taking priority—the thoughts we’re aiming to coherently convey to the person on the receiving end of the letter,” writes Huffington Post editor Alena Hall.
- Mental well-being. Writing by hand improves mental well-being: It makes you feel better. Research has linked expressive writing to a better mood, reduced stress and improved overall sense of well-being. That’s why journals are a powerful tool for therapists.
- Improved relationships. Receiving a handwritten message makes people feel special. When you’re trying to create a personal connection with a customer, influencer, business partner or employee, a handwritten note makes a world of difference. They also last in a way that digital messages cannot. Some people keep folders for written letters and postcards they wish to preserve.
“Whether you’re sharing an offer, announcing a new service, or thanking customers for their support, few communications are as engaging and powerful as the handwritten note,” says David Kindervater at Simply Written.
Organizations have reported improved results from handwritten notes. For example, Donors Choose, a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects, found that first-time donors who received a handwritten thank-you note were 38% more likely to make another donation, Kindervater says.
A handwritten card from Lands’ End made her feel special, even though she realized the note was probably part of its customer service process, writes blogger Melissa Carney.
“Hey, businesses—while online marketing, cool social media initiatives and iPhone (and Droid) apps are cool ways to build relationships with your customers, sometimes all you need is a little handwritten note to make a difference,” Carney says.
If someone has done something special for you or your organization, acknowledge it with a handwritten note. At the very least, add a handwritten note to your typed correspondence.
A version of this post first ran on the Glean.info blog.