Benefits of Analog: Why Pen and Paper Use Remains Relevant

The Toronto-affiliate of the CBC News (Ontario, Canada) noted in an opinion article published earlier this past month (Aug. 2018) that "when it comes to journaling or letter-writing, sometimes smartphones just don't cut it..."

The article made note of some concrete examples of things that paper can do that digital, at least as it exists to us today, also can do as effectively but not "in the same way". One example mentioned is sending a birthday greeting. Another is making a list. But there is "something missing" as the newspaper puts it, that is keeping both of these, in a significant majority of individuals, destined for application to paper. The CBC News noted that tangibility of a greeting, a note, or even a list can be important. 

Toronto: Canadian Pulp City?
At least in the city of Toronto there is currently at least a "microeconomic resurgence" of P&W Paper (despite its softening but still downward national trends in both the U.S. and Canada). The CBC News told the story of Jon Chan who runs the store Wonder Pens in Toronto.

"Emails get lost, you're going to leave them in your inbox, but letters you'll put in a box. And you'll refer to them and they'll be really special memories you'll always have," Chan told the newspaper. "Handwriting makes you slow down to think about what you're actually writing," he added.

The family-owned business focuses on selling high quality fountain pens, stationery, ink and journals. It also sets customers up with pen pals once a year and hosts letter-writing events.

Chan said that in the last five years of business, he's seen an increase in the number of people writing their thoughts down.

"There are many methods out there," he said.

And while many people visit his shop looking for guidance as they embrace journaling for the first time, he thinks pen and paper will continue to be relevant in our technology driven society.

"I think it's really important that we still keep pen and paper. I don't think there's anything right now that's replaced it."

'People love receiving the written word'
Susan Mentis with the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto told the paper there are many different types of courses out there for lettering art.

"We teach italic handwriting, we teach copperplate handwriting, we have workshops on book making and decorating paper, which translates to how you can write on and make journals," Mentis said.

Susan Mentis has been working with the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto and added that they've been teaching courses in lettering for 45 years in Ontario.  Mentis observes that beautiful lettering is all over our city — such as on chalkboards at businesses — and it's a creative outlet that brings joy to others.

"People love receiving written word. That's why we have so many people interested in taking courses with it," she said. "They want to learn how to communicate in a way that's from the past, but is also still really current."

The Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto teaches courses on different types of lettering and journal making.
"They want to learn how to communicate in a way that's from the past, but is also still really current."

More information can be found in the CBC video presentation about Toronto's "Paper Shop Scene" .

Getting more children handwriting
Ruth Rumack of Ruth Rumack's Learning Space is passionate about keeping the written word alive among youth, specifically penmanship and cursive writing.

"We make sure that when we work one-on-one with our students, we're practising penmanship and fine motor control, because that's what's important," Rumack said.

The center aims to keep children's handwriting and penmanship skills up to par at a time when many of them are primarily typing on computers. The center teaches children Grades 3 and up. Rumack is concerned that as more technology is brought into the classroom, not enough attention is paid to handwriting.

"It's the idea of connecting letters that's beneficial to the brain. And as you're connecting letters you're able to write faster and it's more efficient." Rumack said.

She also stressed the importance of kids being able to read handwriting, so that everyone is able to interpret sentimental handwritten notes.

"All those letters from grandparents that you go through [in] the attic or a big box and you find something really meaningful from your family, we'll lose the ability to have that connection with history.
 A commenter who read the artile volunteered one of the most compelling arguments on behalf of the 'manual' (paper) vs. 'automatic' (digital) medium. 

"It is important to stay in touch with our writing skills," they said. 
"The cost of entry is much lower for a couple of journals and pens versus a laptop, tablet, or whatever gizmo the kids are using these days. The process of absorbing a new concept and translating it to paper also helps how we learn and retain information. The opportunity to be distracted is minimized when we train ourselves to focus on writing something out manually rather than defaulting to typing. There are so many benefits to this basic skill, we have to keep it alive."

Graphic and P&W Paper Has a Future
It seems paper is here to stay, as it has been for thousands of years. No longer are there the same levels of fear that P&W and graphic papers were going to recede to small-grade levels compared to levels in the past such as with newsprint grades. Indeed it may seem that new technologies (such as automated paper writing introduced this year)may still have a thing or two to directly incorporate learn about the secrets to the longevity of paper in its use as a material for press, calculation, language, and our entire expression as people.

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