Handwriting and the Ability to Compose Ideas

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas

Wendy Bounds discusses the fading art of handwriting, pointing out that new research shows it can benefit children’s motor skills and their ability to compose ideas and achieve goals throughout life.

The most interesting part of the article involves the ramifications of poor handwriting in test scores.

Even legible handwriting that’s messy can have its own ramifications, says Steve Graham, professor of education at Vanderbilt University. He cites several studies indicating that good handwriting can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, while bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th. “There is a reader effect that is insidious,” Dr. Graham says. “People judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting.”

As an Investigator, the reader effect may affect how judges and juries view your competence and creditability.

21st Century Hi-Tech Magic Slate

The four-ounce, $30USD,  Boogie Board runs on a watch battery and mimics the feel of putting pen to paper. To erase, simply press a button. It is a 8.75 x 5.5 inch thin plastic slate that has the same functionality as the Magic Slate (it doesn’t store what you write) except that it uses LCD technology. However, the battery that powers the Boogie Board is not replaceable. Once it’s depleted, the board is useless. According to the Boogie Board site, that’s around 50,000 erase cycles.

Please note:

I won’t tell you why I’ve been so interested in the Magic Slate, 18th Century PDA, or this gadget, but I’m sure you might be able to imagine some uses for them.

18th Century PDA

If Moleskines are a throwback to a time before PDA’s, then 18th century version of the PDA is the pocket notebook  made of sturdy brass stock with 4 old ivory pages and a pencil can be written on with pencil, smudged off with your finger, and used over and over again. It closes into a 1-1/8 inches by 4-1/2 inches by 3/16 inch thick package. It seems like an 18th century version of the Magic Slate.

Disappearing & Invisible Ink


This writes like a normal pen, but if you heat the paper the written words disappear. Putting the paper in the freezer makes the words reappear.


This pen features a special gel ink developed by real KGB scientists during the Cold War (and made in Russia), that disappears completely. Because it is a gel pen, you don’t need to press hard which prevents paper indenting.

UV Sensitive INK PEN

I guess every good spy needs to have his missives disappear, but I  need to secretly mark documents for later reference.

Pens like this have been  around for quite some time.  The Fisher Space Pen was at one time offered with UV Sensitive Ink refills. I occasionally use UV sensitive ink to mark important documents for security purposes.

Waterproof Ink

I’m old-fashioned — I write with a fountain pen. I keep paper files and notebooks. Paper and ink has endured for thousands of years. Why should I mess with something that works?

Noodler’s Ink

I have written about my quest for a waterproof fountain pen ink before. Well, I found another waterproof ink, Noodler’s Polar Blue. I found a bottle that proclaims that it is the Winter 2006 Edition and that it is made for the coldest North American, Russian, and Scandinavian winters. I guess they are saying it won’t freeze.

It survives all my tests for being waterproof. I don’t really like the pale blue colour, but it’ll do. Some of the Noodler’s ink that I have tried in the past severely clogged the pen. The Polar Blue has survived the most important test — it still writes after the pen has sat unused for a week. It also flows very freely, making my Lamy extra-fine nib pen a smooth and fast writing pen. For example the Lamy Blue-Black iron gall ink makes this pen scratchy and unpleasant to use and both the iron gall ink and the Kiwa-Guro clog the pen if it sits unused for about a week. Neither of those inks flows freely enough for me to write at full speed, whereas the Noodler’s Polar Blue does.

Waterproof Kiwa-Guro Ink

This ink is waterproof though it may not seem so at first glance.

This ink will smudge when it first encounters water, but after the surface ink that did no fully bind with the paper washes away, you are left with very black, permanent writing. How much surface ink exists seems to depend on the paper. In Molskine notebooks it smudges a lot, but unlike the Aurora and Jentle inks, the writing remains legible. It smudges less in my police notebooks.

Kiwa-Guro also makes my extra-fine nibs glide across the page as nicely as the silky Aurora ink. This ink will be another ink I will use for a decade or more.

Waterproof Fountain Pen Ink

Handwriting with a good fountain pen is my favorite form of written communication. At its best, this type of communication is both tactile and intellectual. It is more involved and personal than typing my thoughts into a computer.

Moleskine Paper & Fountain Pen Ink

A large Moleskine notebook is always at hand and so too is a Lamy 2000 fountain pen, either an extra-fine nib or the stout, reliable, medium nib. Current Moleskine notebooks are renown for paper that dislikes some fountain pen inks and the horrid recycled paper in office pads defies description. For over a decade, I relied on the silky smooth Aurora ink as it makes very fine nibs glide across the page and it doesn’t bleed through or feather on this paper. Unfortunately, the slightest dampness and Aurora ink becomes an unreadable mess.

Sailor Ink

I next discovered Sailor Jentle ink. The yellow is wonderful, but hard to read; the red-brown is a superb colour; and the black is a rich, true black. Alas, these inks are not much better than Aurora when confronted with a small drop of moisture from the bottom of a cold beer glass.

Lamy & Mont Blanc Blue-black Iron Gall Ink

Then I discovered Lamy’s blue-black iron-gall ink. It makes the extra-fine nib scratchy and unpleasant to write with, but in the medium nib it works wonderfully. It goes onto the paper as a very pale blue and darkens on contact with the air. Its colour is not uniform, slow writing is darker as there is more ink on the page. Best of all, it is waterproof. This type of ink is sometimes called registrar’s ink. It also comes in two very convenient bottles from Lamy and Mont Blanc. I think I found an ink to use for the next decade or more.

Handwriting & Knowledge Work

There is a large communication component to information and knowledge work. Proper penmanship is part of that component.

Taking time to properly document your research and analysis often entails handwritten notes. These notes are in turn used to check the correctness of the finished report. That means your notes must be complete and legible.

Good penmanship is the product of practice and concentration. It is also the product of the proper tools. A proper pen for the size of the writing and for the speed of the writing. Paper that is smooth enough for the selected writing implement. Ink that does not bleed through or feather on the page.

Your note-taking must also allow easy photocopying and scanning. I often get faxed or photocopied notes that are illegible. Correcting this is also part of penmanship in the modern age.

I often hear people complain that their handwriting is poor because they have to write fast. This is a poor excuse. If you need to write fast, then learn a simple shorthand system like Quickhand.

Cheque Washing and Pens

Handwritten documents are important to any Investigator or Researcher as they are either creating them, or reading them. Archives throughout the country are full of original handwritten documents of value to researchers.

The age of the ubiquitous ballpoint pen began in the 40’s and this has caused some problems for archivists as so many companies strove to create inexpensive ballpoint pens. The problem has become one of education. The pen may write, but the ink may fade over time, or be vulnerable to water and other solvents. UV light and poor quality paper also do a fine job of obliterating cheap ink from poor quality ballpoint pens. The forgers art of cheque-washing in the following examples illustrate what can happen to documents that encounter solvents.

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Paper Versus Binding & Ink Versus Paper

I read an article by Craig Courtice in the National Post entitled The Cult of the Moleskine and it got me a thinkin’. What makes a good notebook? Certainly not stories about famous people using it. A notebook is paper, binding, and a cover.

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How to Take Notes like Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was one of the world’s greatest note-takers. He considered his note-taking and filing system as a vital part of all his endeavours. This often lead to his victory in legal disputes and it was also the reservoir for what seemed like an amazing memory.

Famous inventor Thomas Edison is probably the most experienced note-taker in the world. His diary which is still maintained as an important part of the United States historical record contains five million (5,000,000) pages.

Edison certainly subscribed to the philosophy that if life is worth living, it is worth writing about.