When is it Better to Write a Note Versus Type One?

Category: General Tips

Writing someone a note is more complicated than it once was. While handwriting has some undeniable benefits and will stand out in your recipient’s memory, you may find that a typed note is faster, easier, and perhaps just as meaningful as if you’d handwritten it.  So, when is it important to write a note instead of typing one?

There are numerous factors to consider to ensure your note’s sentiment has its intended impact. Let’s explore them further in the context of the technology available today. 

Benefits of handwritten notes versus typed notes

Perhaps the most obvious benefit to a handwritten note is that it feels more personal than a typed version. Your note’s recipient can see finer personal details like the quality of your penmanship, the color ink you chose, and even small mistakes in your handwriting or spelling.

People prefer this personal touch because it’s a closer substitute for your physical presence than a text, email, or even a phone call. Writing a note brings you and your recipient closer together because you reveal more of yourself through handwriting.

Writing a note with pen and paper, such as writing a great thank you card,  is generally better for your brain. Taking the time to sit down and handwrite your notes allows you to focus without the distraction of the internet. Writing is akin to thinking, and whoever receives your note will know that you devoted all of your attention to your handwriting and the message behind the note as you wrote it.

Research backs up the idea that handwriting helps cognitive development. Because we have a “body memory,” developmental psychologist Eduoard Gentaz tells The Guardian, physically forming letters via handwriting engages the brain more profoundly than typing.

If this devotion of time and mental effort gives you pause, especially in the context of sending bulk notes, rest assured that there are multiple ways to send several handwritten letters at once. The potentially distracting internet is also an invaluable way to automate parts of the sending process, with or without the use of common spreadsheet software.

Drawbacks of handwritten notes versus typed notes

Handwritten notes aren’t completely without drawbacks, however. For one, it will usually take you longer to handwrite a note compared to typing one. Writing a note by hand has gone out of fashion for a reason–typing a note is much more efficient.

Handwriting has become so much less common these days that handwritten and especially longhand or cursive notes may frustrate your recipients who can’t read them! For better or for worse, handwriting and cursive are less and less emphasized in schools as time goes on. Cursive has been out of fashion in American schools for almost a decade.

Young and old could struggle to read handwriting, too. Regardless of penmanship, older people may find handwriting to be a greater challenge for their far-sighted eyes. Perhaps your older addressee will grumble at the necessity of reaching for their reading glasses.

Furthermore, handwritten envelopes may cause problems with the post office if your penmanship is unclear. If you’re not sure the address will be legible to the average reader, it’s not a good idea to experiment. Your mail may never reach its intended destination if you’re not careful.

Subtle messages that a handwritten note can convey

That said, a handwritten note communicates on a more profound level than an email. Handwriting is celebrated during Universal Letter Writing Week for good reason. Letters are permanent mementos containing traces of your presence through your handwriting.

Your letter might show how you were feeling at the moment you wrote it. It might even record features of your personality if handwriting analysis is thoughtfully applied. Factors such as the direction your letters slant, the pressure you apply to your pen and pencil, and the size of your handwriting can all suggest you have certain traits.

Today’s technology has made online handwritten cards possible without erasing this extra layer of meaning. When you can choose handwritten fonts, you still retain some of that same intimate control over your written presence. Find one that looks like your own handwriting for best results, but in any case, you can see and change how the message appears.

No matter how you send your handwritten note, the fact that it is not an email will always convey the idea that you care enough to go the extra mile. It’s not every day that a person receives snail mail that isn’t a bill or an advertisement. 

How to decide whether to write or type a note for a situation

Ultimately, context will make most of this decision for you. Typed letters make sense whenever a more formal appearance is required, in the same sense as etiquette dictates that you should dress up for a wedding. For example, you should type a note when it’s written in a professional or academic context, like a cover letter or an essay.

You might also consider typing your note if poor penmanship or spelling is a major factor for you. Typing a note gives you access to built-in grammar and spellcheck in word processing programs as well as finer control over your font, font size, and overall formatting. 

On the other hand, a handwritten note can demonstrate a different level of care and attention to your message. It means something to take the time to use a less efficient communication method, and that meaning translates regardless of context most of the time. 

With the keyword being “most,” some might find the etiquette around thank-you notes, for example, to be a bit confusing. Maybe your penmanship and your spelling are average, and the context is not particularly formal or informal. You would like to demonstrate that you are grateful for whatever this person gave you or did for you, and you want to do it right. 

In such a case, writing a note by hand is probably the better option. You will communicate that you care enough to make a kind gesture, and it’s difficult to go wrong with that. When in doubt, whenever the feeling of your presence means more than your formal appearance, handwriting a note will serve you better.

A Final Word

This technological era puts handwritten letters in an odd position: they are increasingly rare because they’re slower and less convenient than digital means, yet this rarity increases their value. While context dictates whether a typed or handwritten note is appropriate, it may be well worth your time and effort to write a note by hand.


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