Pen and Paper vs. Computer – Which Do You Use?

There was a time when every notebook I used to buy I filled it up with words. Nothing but words. There were stories, information about sports I was interested in (at the time) and a whole lot of other idiotic stuff. Whole pages and pages were drowned in words, and I used to love my notebooks.

A year or two later however, we got a new computer. I improved my typing skills (and learned touch typing). I also learned to use programs like Microsoft Word for writing. Henceforth I was using this almost exclusively for my writing. My notebooks, which were once so full that there wasn’t even space to copy down a phone number, now were empty. What happened?

The thing that happened was that I had changed my writing medium from pen and paper to the computer.

But of them is better for your writing? Which is better – pen and paper or the computer keyboard?

Pen and paper

Of course, once upon a time this was the only option for anyone wanting to write (the computer is new, after all). But now it has its rival, a competitive rival. Has it lost its respect?

Not at all. A lot of people still write using pen and paper. They say it’s faster, and that could be for you if you don’t know how to type fast. And writing with the hand is easier as well. If you don’t know how to type properly, the fingers will first find it painful, whereas writing using the pen is conventional and doesn’t add stress. This is a point to keep in mind.

One good rule of thumb is to write shorter pieces (short stories, poems, essays etc) using pen and paper and longer pieces (novels, autobiographies, courses) on the computer.

Fact: Many poets still write on paper. The older generation still writes on paper. Paper is not a thing to be ridiculed as a medium of writing. Do your fingers get tired by typing too much? Try pen and paper instead.

The computer

The computer was preceded by the typewriter, I know. But as so few people use typewriters these days I have to chosen to compare pen and paper with computer. Let’s see its benefits and disadvantages.

It certainly has some benefits:

  • It’s faster for those who are comfortable typing (e.g. when writing a novel)
  • The finished work looks more professional due to formatting (when you use pen and paper you have to make sure that your handwriting is excellent and legible)
  • It becomes possible to share documents on the internet and collaborate
  • It becomes possible to publish it (on the Internet).

But as usual, a thing which has advantages will also have disadvantages. In this case, they are:

  • Long hours of typing is bad for our body’s health: the fingers as well as the eyes get tired
  • For those who can’t type comfortably writing on the computer is like swimming in an ocean
  • The document loses the “personal touch.” For example when you have to prepare a project for your school then printing it out of the computer is not good because it loses  your credibility (one can wonder, did he really write this?) Using pen and paper on the other hand, one doesn’t face this problem.

So as you can see there are some strong points both for and against the computer and pen and paper. Which should you use? There’s no right answer to this question. Someone may feel comfortable typing for hours and someone may shudder at the thought of it. Someone will be happy with using pen and paper and someone will be discontent. Someone likes this and someone likes that.

But you have to make your own decision for yourself. Which do you feel comfortable using? Which is better for your situation? Which is appropriate for your writing? Answer these questions and you will discover which writing medium you should use.

A side note: Which do I use? Both. For longer pieces, the computer. For academic writing and shorter pieces, the good old pen and paper. These days I might use computer more, but I like both equally. Just my opinion.

Over to you

I really wish I could setup a poll so you could vote, but it doesn’t matter; just tell what you use in the comments. Do you like the computer more? Why? Is it because of increased efficiency or is it just because of necessity? Which is more comfortable according to you? When you use one over the other, what reasons are there behind that? And the biggest: which do you use more?

And I’ll be seeing you in the comments…

Liked this post? That’s great. Why not leave a comment below so that we know what are your opinions?

Comments

  1. S.A.Monto says

    “Pen and paper vs computer”, a timely topic to discuss. Here i’ll try to put my opinion which i prefer and why? I write poems in Hindi and Urdu, sometimes short stories also. First i write on paper as it is easy,although my typing speed is far better, but still i feel writing,initially, using the conventional method is comfortable for me. While using pen and paper,we can edit the written text very easily and at any place on the entire page, with some different ink. It also gives a sense of great satisfaction seeing your own handwritten articles on the writing table.
    Of course, writing any long stories,official work,or any application, i prefer using my computers. At last i must say computer ‘s writing can be very useful,easy,colorful but it can never replace the writings using pen and paper.

  2. Sharar Muir says

    ” Using pen and paper on the other hand, one doesn’t face this problem.”
    total bullshit
    one can plagiarize just as easy with a pen and pencil

    • says

      Firstly, no abusive language, please. And secondly, I think you didn’t understand what I was trying to say. There is such as a thing as recognizing handwriting, from which the teacher can quickly see who wrote this. As for plagiarizing, that’s an entirely different matter. Of course one can plagiarize just as easily with pens, but I’m not talking about the writing matter, I’m talking about actual writing (not researching), or putting pen down to paper.

  3. Sorrel says

    I almost always use pen and paper to write my drafts. I just find that my inspiration comes easier if I can write wherever I like, versus being stuck at the computer. (Plus, our computer is in the living room, so it definitely takes out the privacy factor).

    I do tweak my drafts, finalize them, on the computer though. The spell check and quickness comes in handy.

  4. john says

    You wrote: “And writing with the hand is more easier as well.”

    “more easier” is extremely poor English.

    “Easier” already means “more easy”. Essentially, you’re saying “more more easy”, which is clearly wrong. Perhaps “easiest” is the word you’re looking for.

    Otherwise, it’s an excellent Blog.

    Keep up the good work.

    -john

    • amber n. says

      Ironically, I am composing a speech ‘Pencils vs. Technology,’ and ran across this blog. For one, Webster only depicts “correct speech” and personally I believe its not the readers place to correct the writer. With that being said, creativity started with a pencil and paper. I feel that although typed works look professional, a pencil and paper gives the writer the freedom and release needed that staring at a PC screen eliminates. As well as artists drawing pictures…a pencil(or pen) allows us to truely be ourselves rather than pre-determind conformity the PC suggests.

  5. Shula says

    An interesting discussion!

    Initially, I came to this page looking for a way to wean myself of the laptop for writing. I know that I have become far too dependent on it: I’m writing something longer, and the desire to just write something overtakes me several times a day – but I don’t have the laptop on me, and writing by hand simply feels weird. I know it’s probably (definitely) a matter of practice, but I’m too impatient and I want a short – cut :D

    So, to answer your question: I’m definitely more proficient when writing on the laptop, as my thought process is more naturally composed on the screen, but I wish this were not the case! I find the laptop wonderful to use when I’m at home, but I hate being this dependent. Gah!

  6. Lily says

    Okay, so I write novels.Personally, I’m having a hard time figuring out what to choose between the two. I think it looks more professional if you use a computer to write a novel, but then again, I sort of lose touch with my work when I spend my time on it too much. i recently got writer’s block because every time I want to write (or type), ideas don’t come in my head. I think i prefer using a pen and paper….but the debate in my head is,”Will it cause trouble for me later on in case I want to publish my novel?” Because my handwriting is really small! So frustrated over here…! :(

  7. Vanessa says

    Writing longhand is my preference but since publishers and the rest of the world prefers computers and keyboards there is not really a choice involved. I prefer pen and paper because the process allows you to think. Slow down. It’s more intimate and mobile. Sitting at a computer for long hours besides not being healthy, is boring. So I choose long hand to work out ideas, drafts, etc.

    The computer is for putting it all together. I will use paper and pen until they stop making them.

    • Sarah says

      I love your comment. I agree that it forces us to slow down and really let our thoughts marinate before they are put into sentences. And I love that the paper can go anywhere you go, and is not awkward like a laptop is. I, too, shall use pen and paper till they cease to exist!

  8. Anon says

    I wanted to write my stories using the keyboard as my new medium. But I realized that I’m not really comfortable writing in the computer. So, I strolled in the internet to find such discussions about pens vs. keyboards article. I did not just want to find things all about the keyboard and pens but because I’ve been wondering which is more efficient to use. Then, I stumbled into this blog which I found informative, about which is which. I’m just having a little more trouble about typing my stories to the computer for a professional-looking copy, since I’m not really good with typing.

    For me, writing with pen is more comfortable than writing in the computer. It makes me feel that it’s more of me when I write than type. But when it comes to paper works regarding school, I usually just type for a good presentation.

  9. Marie says

    I always use pen and paper, because if I write at the computer I lose my creativity, though I grew up with computers (I’m 16). I think everyone here knows what it’s like to have an idea an mind and it develops into something bigger while you are writing it; this doesn’t happen when I’m writing on the computer, so I always have to write it on the computer again, when I want to publish it.
    In my opinion it is also very important to feel connected with your work and I like my notebooks to be untidy and at some points are only readable to me, so it really belongs to me.
    To sum up, I always use pen and paper for writing, but I copy it onto the computer when I’m done, so I don’t have to worry about my handwriting and I can put it online.

  10. Chandra says

    I prefer pen and paper. I have always felt an intiment closeness to my writing, almost like mother and child. And for some insane reason I like to keep them “protected” in my spiral notebooks until I’m ready to type and polish them to “meet” another reader

  11. Ken says

    I find this comparison somewhat nostalgic…maybe even a little naive to make out right. I see this when I start looking at your negatives for typing and realize they go both ways:
    “Long hours of typing is bad for our body’s health: the fingers as well as the eyes get tired” – The same can be said for sitting and writing by hand. There is a small difference in the light and I concede that looking at a screen versus looking at paper is harder for some people. Fingers though…in typing, its up down motion which can be built up easier than swirling motions and quick lines that require more muscles in our hands and fingers to accomplish. Type one page, then write one page. The writing will hands down for any human being be more tiring on the body because the motions. I completely disagree with your point on this.
    “For those who can’t type comfortably writing on the computer is like swimming in an ocean” – For those that type mainly, writing by hand can be just as daunting. Consider the motions again…from the physical aspect, typing is much easier with similar motions that strike and release while writing is grip and motion…making it constant and more physical by nature. Add in the loss of convenient tools like spell checkers and the like, and even the mental aspect of learning key placement is less harsh then trying to learn how to not use spelling checks and a thesaurus. Using hard resources when hand writing certainly equates to more motion and searching…making the whole process longer and more tedious.
    “The document loses the “personal touch.” For example when you have to prepare a project for your school then printing it out of the computer is not good because it loses your credibility (one can wonder, did he really write this?) Using pen and paper on the other hand, one doesn’t face this problem.” – I get what you mean here. Its just not of any concern these days. In almost any school (well, college), papers are run through a plagiarism check and in almost ALL cases, handwritten papers are not even accepted.

    This comparison, its just like saying, “Should I write out the math problem and do the work on the paper, or enter the data into a calculator.” If you know how to add, then a calculator helps immensely to speed things up and let the user focus on the issues, not the medium. If you do not know how to add, using a calculator can be detrimental to some one’s understanding of arithmetic.

    So, if someone can type…typing saves time and allows more focus on the work/story/paper in any sense, even small short stories.

    Handwriting is not something to throw out though either…just like the calculator and understanding math, if you lose your computer can you still write? Understand how to write and type…that truly is the best answer. In any case you can type, do it. If typing is not an option, then write by hand. However, if the person’s preference is to write by hand…go for it. Understand though that two people thinking at the same rate cannot work at the same rate if one is typing while the other writes….its just not possible (unless the person typing is very very bad.)

    • says

      Nice detailed comment, I appreciate this more than a hastily written “Great, thanks!” even if it contains criticism. Your points are valid of course, and the conclusion of the article (note that it was written a number of years ago) does state that today, typing is more comfortable than writing, but there are specific use cases for both. For e.g. I write all articles on the keyboard of course but funnily enough all examination papers by hand (because that’s how the system works).

      You raised the point that handwritten papers are not accepted and a plagiarism check is run before submission in school – it’s interesting to know, because here in India we have exactly the opposite situation. If I submit a completely original, printed article it will be rejected on first sight, and on the other hand if somebody submits a plagiarised, handwritten article it’s sure to be accepted. It’s a cultural and technological difference.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>