Writers' Treasure Creative Writing Tips Pen and Paper vs. Computer – Which Do You Use?

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?

51 thoughts on “Pen and Paper vs. Computer – Which Do You Use?”

  1. “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.

      1. I think pens and papers are near to be rare, most of people now prefer to use technological thing as tablets and computers to write all things in there minds.

    1. Hi all,
      First of all before I begin, this is an excellently written blog.
      ALSO I am part of the younger generation, whom represent and support the use of technology.

      Personally I (and the rest of us) believe that technology is far easier to use as most of us don’t really realize the beauty and practicality of pen and paper. We love collaborating with each other and creating online masterpieces, not to mention the fact that we also like social media a lot. All in all technology does have its minus’s it is more practical for us and we enjoy technology a lot more.

      1. I am from the younger generation (13) and I support pen and paper. There are studies that show you remember things better when they are HANDWRITTEN. Go Paper! So big M, you do NOT speak for all of us.

      2. Listen big M,
        Maybe you should whacth your facts, not everyone from the younger generation agrees with your absurd and arrogant comments about paper. Paper and pen are much more interesting then an old document by a computer. Next time you speak for the rest of the younger generation you should whacth your FACTS, your WORDS, and most importantly who YOU speak FOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??

  2. ” 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

    1. 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. 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. 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

    1. 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.

      1. *Truly…not truely : )
        Correcting the writer in a blog about writing is constructive criticism among like minded peers. Not meant to insult but to inform. Life is for learning and we all can learn from each other.

      2. Ah yes. Yes yes yes. I very much appreciate your comment, and all the ones who mentioned being tied up to a computer screen. I’m grateful you also mentioned visual art. There is much more ability to express in letters written directly with the hand, for example – emojis or not! And for art, that’s much multiplied. And there’s the idea of light. Sunlight! Simple and beautiful: quiet, peace, fresh air: healthy for body and mind. And the human hand, with its own stamp..

  5. 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 😀

    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!

    1. Yes, typing on a big keyboard is much faster than writing by hand. It is cumbersome to carry around, though! My dad, rest his soul, had something cashed shorthand, before even electric typewriters were en vogue and dictation was taken by pencil and pad. Shorthand. Ever hear of it?
      I’ve looked at it: it’s not simple, it has to be learned. But probably it’s not so hard and maybe that would help you! Or just develop your own personal “shorthand” and abbreviations – like is done in texting.
      I’m glad to hear when anybody writes by hand. I’m just a dinosaur, I guess.

  6. 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…! 🙁

    1. I am right with you on that one. My writing is extremely small, and most people have to wear reading glasses to read it. Also, if I would want my work to get published, I would have to type it out in a word processing software, which would most likely take ages. However, writing with pencil and paper does have its benefits, and could possibly relieve stress, and similar topics go along with digitally as well. I have so many empty notebooks, and I want to write in them, but there’s also on the computer, which I usually end up writing on.

  7. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.)

    1. 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.

  12. I’ve recently decided to put the computer down when it comes to writing. I know some people are very good at staring at a computer screen and typing but I like to write. I find myself losing myself in writing instead of staring at a computer screen. Eventually I will put it on the computer but I have to write it first because I lose all creativity when on the computer plus I’m a gamer and that adds onto the distraction. Therefore I’m going to sit down, grab a notebook and write. I will use the computer for note taking. It seems I’m good at doing that.

  13. Great post! I’m just getting started on my blog (and book hopefully). I still very much enjoy writing my notes, ideas and blurbs in a specific notebook, there is just something to paper and pen that I still absolutely love. I also find that I can add new ideas, elaborate on more topics and clean up my writing when I start to type up what I have already written down.

  14. This was very helpful because I always write on the computer due to easily accessible thesaurus and spelling/grammar checks. But I ordered a great notepad and can now write my stories without staring at a blindingly white page through Microsoft word. Great article!

  15. I still prefer the good old type-writer. Agreed, it doesn’t have the technical prowess of a computer, nor the original flow of a guided pen, but it does stand its ground in terms of emotional content. I believe the mechanical sound, the deep alphabetical impressions made on the paper, the use of all your fingers as compared to the pen; the need to be careful while u strike; all of these addup to assist those creative juices within the brain to flow, in-return helping you achieve that beautiful write up…. so back to the point, online work– the computer
    examinations– The pen and hobby/creative writing its the Type writer.

  16. Great post! I’m just getting started on my blog (and book hopefully). I still very much enjoy writing my notes, ideas and blurbs in a specific notebook, there is just something to paper and pen that I still absolutely love. I also find that I can add new ideas, elaborate on more topics and clean up my writing when I start to type up what I have already written down.

  17. Clifford Stoll mathematician, helped develop the original internet, and has a PhD in Astronomy once said in a public talk at the Commonwealth Club of California said(not verbatim) : I use computer, type writer, and pen and pad. When i use a word document on the pc i type lots and lots of words(and I have to do a lot of editing and revising). When I use a type writer my writing has to be “tight and crisp”, clear and concise. When I use pencil or pen and pad it is best for expressing myself in writing, its best to write to friends, and pen and pencil for me(stoll) is best for writing stories real or fiction…..

    some of Stoll’s books

    Clifford Stoll (1989). The Cuckoo’s Egg. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-370-31433-6.
    Clifford Stoll (1995). Silicon Snake Oil — Second thoughts on the information highway. ISBN 0-330-34442-0.
    Clifford Stoll (2000). High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian.

  18. I think one should use whatever is more natural and keep in mind we are writing not talking. What does writing mean? Please don’t try to answer this question.

    Pen on paper gives you inspiration. You are closer to what you write. Any artificial medium takes away your personality, your inspiration, you are not you.

    You have to use whatever is more natural.

    Of course, some of the new generation folks, don’t know how to write at hand very well and writing at hand is not second nature. Then use whatever is easier.

    Let’s look at talking. It’s easy because was learned it early on and became natural to all of us.
    If handwriting was the first way one learned writing and became natural, done without thinking nor effort, then pen on paper is best. if typing is effortless and natural and first habit learned, before writing with a pen, then yep use the pc.

    I personally wrote on pc and found even a faster I thought better way; dictation. However typing was unnatural, talking was unnatural, very different from writing language.
    I went back to use pen on paper and suddenly I gained inspiration, I write slower than on pc, but have time to think, it’s the way I learned writing when I was little.

    Look at what you produce. make some tests. You will see that writing on paper, typing, dictating, each produces a different language. Yep, so you choose whichever you can do better. Try them all and compare the results. Try them all and see whichever you like physically. What your body likes. Are you comfortable sitting in front of the pc, fine, are you comfortable talking on a microphone? Is there the same quality on the microphone?
    Do you like notebooks and the calligraphy?

    About speed, I personally found there is not much difference between the ways you throw words in a document, pen, typing or dictation. Yep, don’t get me wrong. When you have something to say, all are fast, when you have nothing to say, what does it matter?

    It’s an open question and I don’t think there is a one answer to it. Do some tests to see what’s best for you.
    Thinking about this over and over again, I think having something to say makes you comfortable in whoever medium.

    Having nothing to say will oscilate you between the ways you write. Not because pen is better that typing or dictation, just because you don’t write every day and you have not much to say. Write every day a lot and how you do it won’t matter much. Just do it.
    So my conclusion is that writers write, non-writers discuss how to write.

    All the best and apologies if I said something wrong.

    Nevertheless, I like pen on paper. am addicted to it.
    Teo

  19. I have spent six years writing a historical novel which I still love creating. The more I use a laptop however, the more frustrated I become. The only thing I like is the neatness of the font. The thing I hate is placing a soulless mechanism between me and what I write. Even with new laptops and printers there is often some electronic impediment I don’t know how to fix. I think back to university days when I hand wrote sixty- page essays and two theses on different coloured stacks of beautiful paper – white for draft one, green for two, and glorious orange for the final. The departmental secretary removed errors of spacing and punctuation with an immaculate eye. In ten days the work was edited, printed and bound within the university. My computer written book however, is a model of alienation – a dilution of soul perhaps, which may have entered the blood of the writing . It is the work of a creative writer who is also a Luddite. The novel has taken four times longer than it should have, and if I write a sequel, it will be by hand. I never forget that the greatest works in human history were handwritten also. Thank you for reading, and listening between the words.

  20. I agree with you about how using pen and paper is still efficient. I also write faster than I type, and I remember things better when I write it down. I like how you said that that it’s not painful to hold a pen like it may be typing. My husband uses pens a lot in our home when he works, so we are considering quality Porsche design pens to help him write more efficiently.

  21. Someday people will harken back nostalgically to keyboard and screen the way some of us cherish the easy familiatity of pen and paper. Over the years, I have found that I can process my thoughts via either medium. Both technologies enable us to create an external portal to our thoughts, and both force us to process our thoughts. It’s a way of having a conversation, of language-fying your thoughts, of literally coming to terms with them. You can do the same thing via an engaged conversation with a trusted listener (pethaps the original technology for advancing and working through our thinking). Technology will always evolve. The basic idea will remain the same. We will always need ways to process, record and disseminate our thoughts. We will always use some combination of the familiar and the new along that spectrum.

  22. Pen and paper were once new technologies. Today’s new trends will be tomorrow’s nostalgic longing.

  23. I believe what you said was very reasonable. However, what about this?

    suppose you wrote a catchier title? I am not saying your content is not good, however what if
    you added something to maybe get people’s attention? I mean Pen and Paper vs.
    Computer – Which Do You Use? is kinda plain. You might
    look at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create article headlines to
    grab viewers to click. You might add a related video or a related pic or two to grab people excited about what you’ve written. In my opinion, it could bring your blog a little livelier.

  24. I write with both. Sometimes with just the computer but, I’ve always felt nore confident in what I write when I use pen and paper first. I like to be able to feel the words when I write them and be more connected, then I type it up.

  25. Although I write with both, I personally prefer writing with pen and paper. I don’t know why, but it helps me focus more and think of better ideas and thoughts. For any of you who are wondering, I write both Korean and English stories and I’m part of the younger generation (14 years old).

  26. perhaps i feel differently than others. honestly, it is much easier for me to write and come up with ideas at the computer because i have thoughts that run at 203mph. because of this, my writing on paper is less “myself” because of the brain to hand slowdown, but my typing is fast enough to keep up. it actually is gentler on my hands to type believe it or not because i press down very hard on the paper with my natural handwriting and it really makes it cramp after just a few paragraphs (not saying typing does NOT stress out my hands, only less). my only concern with the computer is my poor eyeballs because of the screen exposure.

  27. It’s hard to explain but my ideas flow better when writing with paper then on computer. However I transfer what I write on paper to computer. Refining and polishing it.

  28. I take notes and write out my grocery lists and weekly menu planners on paper out of convenience. As for writing short or long books, I’ll always write them on computer for more speed and as a matter of practicality, as I publish them online.

  29. I used them both as writing mediums. I find pen and paper effective as much as I want to recall things I want to imbibe. I used pen and paper to exercise my hands and other parts of the body. In a way, I improve my handwriting skill also. On the other side, I find computer feigns nervousness. When circumstance creates nerve cracking, your handwriting is not pretty good. Either, you cannot write easily or write at a low pace. When under narrow constraints of time and ideas, you run out of composure. When pen and paper go out of stock or not appealing to inspire to work, you feel lazy and passive, however, you look fidget and wanting more to carry out. Computer facilitates you keep on moving and productive.

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