Handwriting is one of those skills that you generally learn as a kid, and then never try to actively improve it as you grow up. However, being able to write faster has some significant benefits, which are especially important for people who often need to write things by hand, such as university students:
- Increased automaticity, which lessens the burden on working memory (i.e. you don’t have to actively concentrate on the act of writing, and you can focus on thinking what you want to write).[1,2]
- Improved academic performance on exams.[2,3]
- Better overlap between mental generation of output and text production (i.e. you can write immediately as you form your thoughts without a delay).[4,5]
Below is a collection of tips and strategies, which can help you improve your writing speed. Some of these can be implemented immediately with no effort, while others require a bit of practice. You don’t have to do everything that’s listed here. It’s fine to pick out even a single aspect that you want to focus on; you’ll still see a significant improvement in a small amount of time, and for only a minimal amount of effort.
Fix your technique
Good technique: Use your fingers as guides, and move the pen using the forearm and shoulder muscles. This allows you to write quickly without tiring out or getting cramps.
Bad technique: “Drawing” the letters using your fingers. Moving your wrist constantly. Repeatedly picking up your hand from the paper in order to move it across as you write. These issues slow down your writing, and cause your hands to cramp and tire out.
How to get it right: In order to get a sense of which muscles you should use, try holding your arm in front of you, while writing large letters in the air. Remember these movements, and try to implement them when you write on paper.
Don’t grip too tightly
People tend to this this subconsciously, especially when they try to write fast. However, this slows you down and tires your hand. Make sure to consciously remind yourself not do this, until it becomes natural.
Hold it whichever way is convenient
Surprisingly, your grasp (the way you hold the pen in your hand) doesn’t have much of an effect on writing performance.[5,6] As long as you’re comfortable, you can just stick with whatever works for you. Also note that when writing for extended periods of time, it’s natural to sometimes vary the way you hold the pen, so this is not necessarily indicative of a problem. If you decide that you still want to focus on this, it’s generally advisable to go with the “dynamic tripod grasp”.
Maintain a Good Posture
Don’t slouch over the paper as you write. It puts unnecessary strain on your arm, and it’s bad for you anyway.
Use The Right Pen / Pencil
This one is easy to do without making any effort to change your writing technique. Things to pay attention to:
- Use a good pen that doesn’t require you to press hard on the paper. This alone can make a huge difference, and a good pen doesn’t cost more than a few dollars, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just buy one.
- Pen thickness: Use a pen that isn’t so small that you end up having to squeeze it tightly. If necessary, put a small rubber grip on it. The right size obviously depends on how big your hand is, so experiment and find out what works for you.
- Line thickness: there are advantages and disadvantages to different thicknesses (e.g. 0.5mm versus 0.9mm). Again, this is personal, so experiment and find what’s right for you.
Improve Your Writing Style
The best thing to do is to simplify the way you write the letters. This means that you should try to get rid of excessive marks and styling, as long as you can maintain legibility.
Regarding letter size: In theory, if you decrease the size of your letters, you need to move your arm less when you write, which should enable you to write faster. However, this is not necessarily true in practice, and reducing the letter size might end up slowing you down by making it more difficult for you to write. Since this is also something that varies from person to person, try to experiment and see what works for you.
Hardcore Mode: Use a Shorthand Writing System
Shorthand systems use simplified symbols and rules which take less time to write than regular orthography. The symbols can replace letters, common letter combinations, sounds, or frequently-used words. You can either learn an existing system, or develop your own. Commonly-used shorthand variants include Gregg, Pitman, and Teeline.
One of the ways to benefit from the use of shorthand without having to put a lot of effort into learning it, is to focus only on a small number of words which appear frequently in the language.
Keep in mind that the more you rely on shorthand, the more difficult it is for others to decipher your notes. This can be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective.
Summary and Conclusions
- Improving your handwriting speed can have significant benefits.
- There are a lot of things you can do in order to write faster, such as loosening your grip, writing with your arm, and maintaining a good posture.
- It’s not necessary to put a lot of effort into this. Even focusing on a single, minor adjustment can make a big difference.