How to Easily Improve Your Handwriting Speed

Picture of a pen resting on a notebook.

 

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. These benefits include:

  • Increased automaticity, which lessens the burden on working memory. This means that you don’t have to actively concentrate on the act of writing itself, and you can instead focus on thinking about what to write.
  • Improved performance on various academic tasks, and especially those that relate to composition and literacy.
  • Increased overlap between mental generation of output and text production. This means that you can write immediately as you form your thoughts, without suffering from a delay which might hinder your thought process.

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 your writing speed. Therefore, 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 commonly-used dynamic tripod grip.

 

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:

  • Pen thickness: pick 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.
  • Use a good-quality 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.

 

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.

 

Use a Shorthand Writing System

 

A sample text written in Gregg shorthand

 

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.

 

Examples of frequently-used words written in Pitman shorthand

 

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.

 


Use Color Coding Techniques to Learn Vocabulary More Effectively

Color-coded words in various languages.

 

Expanding your vocabulary is an important but difficult aspect of learning a new language. One way to make it easier is through the use of color coding. This article gives you a brief explanation of why color coding is effective, and shows you how to implement it in your learning.

 

Why use color coding

In general, color-coded material is a more effective study aid than black-and-white material, because it helps learners process new information. Specifically, in the case of learning a foreign language, studies found that color coding new vocabulary words helps people learn those words better. While there are several possible theories which can be used to explain the cognitive mechanisms behind this improvement, the overall agreement is that color coding aids memorization, a fact which language learners can take advantage of.

 

How to use color coding techniques effectively

One of the main reasons why color coding techniques are so useful is that they are easy to implement in a similar way regardless of which vocabulary-learning strategy you use. There are two main things you need to consider:

  1. How to categorize the words. Essentially, according to which criteria you color the different words. Common options are grammatical gender (e.g. masculine/feminine) or part of speech (e.g. noun/verb). In languages with tonality (such as Mandarin Chinese), you can also color syllables according to their tone.
  2. Which coloring scheme to use. This is subjective, so use whichever coloring scheme makes sense for you. If possible, use colors that you would intuitively associate with the categories in some way. For example, if you color code words based on their grammatical gender, you might want to color feminine words in pink, and masculine words in blue.

 

Examples for color coding

Keep in mind that this is just a small sample of the various ways in which you can implement color coding.

 

Color coded words in French, based on grammatical gender (blue for masculine, pink for feminine).

L’enseignant fâché cuisinait dans la vieille camionnette.

The angry teacher cooked in the old van.

 

Color coded words in Spanish, based on part of speech (green for nouns, orange for adjectives, blue for verbs, and light blue for adverbs.

La madre rubia finalmente consiguió sus naves.

The blonde mother finally got her ships.

 

Color coded characters in Mandarin Chinese, based on tonality.

媽     1st tone = red

麻     2nd tone = orange

馬     3rd tone = green

罵     4th tone = blue

吗     neutral tone = black

 

Summary and Conclusions

  • Color-coding new vocabulary words makes it easier to learn them, by aiding the memorization process.
  • You can color words according to categories such as grammatical gender (e.g. masculine/feminine) or part of speech (e.g. noun/verb).
  • In some languages, you can also color other linguistic particles. For example, in Mandarin you could color syllables according to their tone.
  • Use intuitive color schemes where possible, meaning that you associate the colors with the categories that they signify.

 


How Self-Distancing Can Help You Make More Rational Decisions

Picture of LeBron James throwing a basketball.

 

“One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

-LeBron James, legendary basketball player, when interviewed about his decision to leave his old marketing agency.

It’s hard to set your emotions aside when faced with difficult decisions. Often, these emotions cause us to make the wrong choice, in many areas of life: from our relationships, to our finances, to our habits, and so on. The problem is that setting these emotions aside is easier said than done. However, one way to at least reduce the impact of these emotions, is through a relatively simple shift in our perception.

 

How it works

The method described here is based on a study which examined people’s self-talk mechanism: that inner monologue that we all have when we think. The researchers’ starting point was that using your own name or the second person pronoun (you) when thinking about yourself during introspection, promotes emotional self-distancing. This concept is consistent with the construal level theory, which suggests that creating psychological distance in one domain (e.g. linguistically), promotes psychological distance in other domains (e.g. decision making).

The researchers asked participants to recall two personal experiences: one which was anger-related, and one which was anxiety-related. There were two groups of participants:

  • Participants in the first group were instructed to think about themselves in the first person. For example, they would ask themselves “Why did I feel this way?”
  • Participants in the second group were instructed to think about themselves using second person pronouns, or using their own name. For example, they would ask themselves “Why did you feel this way?” or “Why did John feel this way?”

The researchers measured participants’ self-distance during their recollection of their past experiences. What they found was that the simple change in perception allowed participants to increase their emotional self distance when considering these events.

 

A graph which shows how a variation in linguistic perception impacts psychological self-distance. When thinking of events which are anger-related or anxiety-related, using non-first-person pronouns increases self distance compared to using first-person pronouns.

 

This improvement is so important, because increasing emotional distance has been shown to improve individual decision making ability. One study, for example, showed that increasing self-distance reduces decision biases, under a variety of experimental conditions. Another study found that psychological distance improves decision making during information overload. Furthermore, the scientists who conducted the current study, also published the results of several other experiments in the same paper. These experiments showed that self distance helped participants cope better with socially distressful situations; this was true even for individuals who are inherently prone to social anxiety.

 

Summary and Conclusions

  • Avoid using first-person-pronouns (“I”) during introspection and decision making.
  • Instead, use second person pronouns (“you”) or your own name, in order to create psychological self-distance.
  • This self-distance improves your ability to set aside your emotions, and enables you to think more rationally, and to make better decisions.
  • The same technique can also help you reduce social anxiety when thinking about stressful situations.