Writing fluently and at an even speed, digitally and in a functional handwriting

Learning outcome: After completing this module the student should be able to write fluently and at an even speed, digitally and in a functional handwriting.

How fast can you write? And does it matter?

Usually we don’t need to write very fast. Only when we take notes during a meeting or a phone call do we need to write at talking speed. But even when we have plenty of time to write a text, like when composing a letter; an SMS; an email or a report, we need to write at least fluently enough so that we don’t lose track of our own thinking.

In today’s working life there is a lot of writing. Even in non-academic jobs we are expected to write lists, emails, reports, logs, receipts and to fill in all sorts of online forms. Practicing writing fluently by hand and keyboard is therefor worth the time.

When you are moving through the other units we advise that you come back to always practicing your handwriting and typing.

1.1 Writing by hand

Some learning scientists think that there is a connection between our handwriting and our thinking. Writing fluently by hand can be helpful in learning or being creative. It takes no electricity, has no start up time, and can be done with one hand only. So, there are many advantages to practice writing by hand.

Tips on practicing handwriting:

  • All you need is pen and paper. Sheets with lines are easiest for practice.
  • Let your elbows and wrist rest on the table.
  • You don’t need to push the pen hard to the paper. If this is a challenge to you, try practising with a felt tip pen.
  • Warm up by making a few doodles, Pay attention to a relaxed grip.
  • You can practise writing texts you know by heart, like the national anthem, a prayer or a poem.
  • Then you can try to copy lines from a book.
  • For variation, try to sometimes write slowly but beautifully.

A hot tip:

Practice taking notes from a television show, like the news or a sit com. The important thing is to practise speed and readability at the same time as your mind is occupied with the content. This doesn’t even feel like studying, because you’re doing something you enjoy and would do anyway.

1.2 Writing on a keyboard

First: You don’t need to become an expert at touch typing to be a functional writer. Most of us aren’t. But no matter if you write with ten or two fingers, regular practise is the way to success.

Tips for practicing your typing:

  • Make a habit of practising your typing whenever you are at a keyboard. Try to focus on writing fluently.
  • Don’t rush. First you want to practice your fingers always hitting the right keys. Even when you don’t look at the keyboard.
  • Take your time when typing to avoid mistakes. The speed will pick up as you progress.
  • If your practice includes copying a text, scan the text with your eyes a word or two in advance.

The most efficient way of writing on a keyboard is to use both hands and all the fingers. That makes sense; ten fingers write faster than two. This is the position of the hands on the keyboard. Can you see how the fingers have responsibility for all the keys from top to bottom in their area? The index and the pinky have the most keys. Thumbs only serve the space key.


Exercise 1:1

Open a text programme on your computer, like Notepad or Microsoft word. Make sure you sit comfortably upright with the keyboard on a table or desk in front of you. Some people prefer to have their elbows resting on the table.

Practice writing these nonsense rhymes:
Ippeti ippeti pot and pie
In the cot the babies lie
When they wake they scream aloud
Making mother very proud

Pumpkin pumpkin mean and round
Weighing kilo weighing pound
Polling rolling on the ground

Tips: Practice typing for ten minutes every day. It shouldn’t take long before you can do these rhymes quickly and without errors. Then you can find your own texts to copy. Verses might be easier, sections from novels harder.

Tips for maintaining your writing fluency:

To get in the habit of writing every day, try keeping a journal or diary. You can write on a computer or buy a pretty notebook, depending on whether you are eager to maintain typing or handwriting. You can write about everyday incidents or thoughts and feelings. Even fantasy and dreams. The important thing is to keep practising writing the letters.

1.3 Do as the pros: write only the key words

Skilled note takers have one or more tricks up their sleeve. The most important is: they don’t write everything, just the key words. A keyword is a word that carries a lot of information or meaning. Typical keywords are verbs and nouns. (If you don’t remember what verbs and nouns are, take a peek at module 4.) Other words can be left out without losing too much information, words like “like”, “and”, “that”, “for”, “on” and so on.

Imagine a message like:
“I would like the apples to be brought to the larger kitchen for washing and peeling”.
We will take away less important words like this:
I would like the apples to be brought to the larger kitchen for washing and peeling”
which then reads:
“apples brought to larger kitchen for washing and peeling”.
Even “apples, large kitchen, wash + peel” is enough to remember what needs to be done


1.4 Bonus

A little bonus paragraph to end with:

Drawing and writing are very similar to each other, just think of ancient hieroglyphs. When you are taking notes for your own use, it is ok to draw to help remembering the content. Some people like mindmaps.

Exercise 1:3

In your diary, or on a paper sheet, make a mind map of this course as you go along. You can use the four modules as your main “bubbles” and add important keywords to help you remember what you have learnt. Adding your personal goals can also be a good motivation.