If you keep a journal or a hand-written to-do list, you probably appreciate the tactile pleasures and slower pace of writing by hand. Although it may seem quaint in a world full of digital devices and voice-to-text apps, handwriting is an important skill that can help sharpen your brain, slow the frenetic pace of your thoughts, and improve your memory. National Handwriting Day is observed on January 23, the birthday of John Hancock — the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence. His autograph became so famous that we now commonly use ‘John Hancock’ as another term for ‘signature.’
History of National Handwriting Day
Writing, the element that separates prehistory from history, is a key skill that elevates human civilization and allows us to communicate and trade on a large scale. Writing not only lets us record our thoughts and feelings but, more crucially, for the development of early societies, it gives us a way to record transactions, count items, and pass on information to future users.
The true origins of writing are murky, but we know it arose independently in several regions of the ancient world, from Meso-America to China, India, and Mesopotamia, starting around 3400 B.C. The earliest-known writings come from present-day Iraq, pictorial signs that were later replaced with a complex system of characters based on the sounds of the Sumerian language known as cuneiform.
Writing systems differ in their construction. Some rely on pictorial symbolism, others combine characters to form new meanings, and some use grammatical structures to create full sentences and depth of meaning. Alphabet-based writing systems use symbols to represent consonants, vowels, or syllable sounds, while semanto-phonetic writing systems have symbols that represent both sounds and meanings.
Handwriting has many purposes in utility and record-keeping, correspondence, literature, and art. Calligraphy, the art of decorative lettering, elevates writing to an exquisite art form. Examples of traditional calligraphy include ancient Chinese bronze ware, Mayan hieroglyphs, Western European illuminated manuscripts, and Islamic mosque inscriptions.
Although in today’s digital world we tend to record everything on electronic devices, research shows that writing things down by hand has benefits that typing does not. Writing by hand can improve focus, reduce stress, and aid with memory. Not to mention, a handwritten note or letter carries more weight than typed or emailed correspondence. Try writing a letter, a diary entry, or a to-do list by hand and notice the difference for yourself!
National Handwriting Day timeline
The oldest written records, clay tablets carved with cuneiform symbols, appear in ancient Sumeria.
The Greeks adopt the Phoenician alphabet, leading to the development of Greek and later Latin lettering.
Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press, revolutionizing the mass publication of writing.
The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association first starts promoting January 23 as National Handwriting Day, offering "a chance to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting."
National Handwriting Day FAQs
Do kids still learn to write in cursive?
In much of the United States and Canada, schools no longer require that students learn to write in cursive.
Is handwriting analysis a real thing?
Handwriting analysis, or graphology, is generally considered a pseudoscience. Although it can provide some clues in certain situations, like identifying forgeries, there is no proven link between handwriting styles and personality traits or psychological states.
How can I improve my handwriting?
Like any other skill, good handwriting just takes practice. If you want some examples, you can find worksheets online, or just use some lined paper to practice your own unique style.
National Handwriting Day Activities
Practice your calligraphy
Have you ever tried to create calligraphy art, or even used a fountain pen? Look up an online tutorial or sign up for a calligraphy class to try your hand at this relaxing and beautiful hobby.
Write a letter to a friend or relative
Communication happens lightning fast nowadays. Take a few minutes to write a handwritten note to a friend or family member. Send it to them the old-fashioned way.
Start a journal
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can have tremendously positive effects on your mood and mental health. Try starting a daily handwritten journal to record your experiences, aspirations, and the everyday happenings that inspire you.
5 Noteworthy Facts About Handwriting
Handwritten notes are more effective
People who write notes by hand tend to be more selective in what they write down, focusing on the most important concepts and organizing their notes more effectively.
Handwriting keeps the mind sharp
Writing by hand engages motor skills and various parts of the brain and memory. Doctors recommend taking up a hobby that involves handwriting to keep the mind sharp.
Handwriting reduces linked distractions
When you write by hand away from the computer, you’re less likely to get distracted by social media, email, or the internet.
Handwriting is therapeutic
The mere act of writing by hand can have a calming, therapeutic effect. Additionally, writing down thoughts and feelings can liberate a chaotic mind and help reduce anxiety and stress.
Writing it down can help you get it done
Studies show that those who write down their goals, especially by hand, are more likely to achieve them. Writing things down can help you clarify your goals and hold yourself accountable.
Why We Love National Handwriting Day
Handwriting rewires our brain
Handwriting forces our brain to slow down to the pace of our pen, letting us take more time with our thoughts and reduce anxiety and overthinking.
Handwriting can be a work of art
A beautiful piece of calligraphy can be a lovely decoration. Try it yourself, or purchase a piece from a local calligraphy artist.
It’s good for our memory
Studies show that students who write notes by hand tend to remember and understand concepts better than students who type notes.
National Handwriting Day dates