National Handwriting Day. Photo: KnowInsiders
National Handwriting Day. Photo: KnowInsiders

While technology speeds up the writing process and makes communication more efficient worldwide, there’s something to be said for writing something out longhand. Whether it’s a journal, notes, or even a letter to someone, the act of writing with pen and paper is a supremely tactile and patient practice. If it does anything, it forces the body and the mind to slow down and resynchronize.

"The purpose of National Handwriting Day is to alert the public to the importance of handwriting. National Handwriting Day is a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting."

When and What is National Handwriting Day?

National Handwriting Day is a day that falls annually on January 23rd.

It is no coincidence that the day occurs on John Hancock’s birthday. John Hancock was the first person to sign The Declaration of Independence. He is known for his large, bold signature.

If you’ve ever had anyone ask for your “John Hancock”, they’re referencing his famous signature, and asking for your own 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.

Photo: History
Photo: History

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!

Why is Handwriting Important?

While the use of technology may make certain tasks easier, the act of putting a pen or pencil to paper and writing has been proven to have a positive impact in many ways. Consistently, you are more likely to remember something you write down than something you type. Creatively, it keeps you more focused on what you're working on and away from the distractions of the digital world. Cognitively, students who handwrite notes outperform those who type.

The supporting numbers, found on, are staggering – 25% of the United States student population is not proficient in handwriting, and it may be even higher. Of U.S. students in grades four through twelve, 75% write below their grade level, and of U.S. college students, 33% are not prepared to write at a college level when beginning school. Most importantly, found by Hanover Research, handwriting for just 15 minutes per day can help cognitive development, motor skills, writing skills and comprehension.

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What Are the Benefits of Handwriting Versus Typing?

Writing has many deep-rooted benefits, like:

* Develops fine motor skills: Handwriting exercises a complex cognitive process involving neuro-sensory experiences and fine motor skills. By feeling the writing surface, holding the writing instrument, and directing precise movement with thought, you give your brain a full workout! In contrast, typing is a simple, memory-based movement. Executing key strokes is just a repetitive movement.

* Helps with cognitive development: Research shows that children who practice their handwriting have higher levels of literacy and cognitive development. This is likely because as children learn how to quickly translate mental images of letters into a physical form, they begin to understand how letters form sentences and meaning.

* Boosts reading comprehension: Strong writing skills also improve reading comprehension.

* Retains knowledge: Writing notes by hand helps you retain knowledge more than typing.

* Increases creativity: Writing and drawing by hand increases creativity because we are forced to slow down, consider the big picture, and come up with creative ideas.

* Improves spelling: Writing words out by hand instead of relying on a digital device’s spell check helps learn and retain.

* Combats dyslexia: Studies show that learning cursive helps those with dyslexia create a stronger association for learning and memory.

* Calms nerves: According to Dr. Marc Seifer, a graphologist and handwriting expert, writing a soothing sentence like, “I will be more peaceful” at least 20 times per day can calm a person down.

What Are a Few Ways to Celebrate National Handwriting Day?

While on every other day of the year we turn to our keyboards and smartphones, let’s use National Handwriting Day as a chance to dust off the old pen or pencil and get writing.

1. Write a Letter

Photo: Two Sides
Photo: Two Sides

There’s nothing quite like receiving a handwritten letter or card in the mail and unfortunately, this is becoming a lost art. But National Handwriting Day is the perfect time to revive this tradition!

First, make a list of all the friends and family you want to reach out to. Next, pick up some simple postcards or custom stationery and think about the message you want to write. Maybe you want to include some fun past memories, a handwritten poem, or an update on how your life has been. No matter what you write, the recipient is sure to appreciate the effort and you will be practicing your penmanship at the same time!

2. Draw a Doodle

Whether you’re on a call, sitting in the waiting room, or just lounging on the couch, doodling is a great way to express some creative freedom and exercise your writing skills. Take your doodles one step further by expanding them into a larger sketch. Who knows, you could create your next piece of art! Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist or creative person, it never hurts to tap your inner creativity with help from pen and paper.

3. Color in a Coloring Book

Photo: Vox
Photo: Vox

More than just a means to an end for writing assignments, your handwriting is actually a great window into personality traits and preferences. Graphology is the study of handwriting and analyzes a writer’s character, personality, and abilities and it’s been around for a long time. In fact, how you write can indicate more than 5,000 different personality traits and can even be used to detect certain diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, earlier. Below are some notable characteristics:

Writers who use large letters are more likely to be outgoing, people-oriented, and outspoken, while those who use small letters might be more shy and withdrawn.

Those that write rounded letters are creative and artistic, and those that write pointed letters are intelligent and curious.

Big loops in letters indicate open-mindedness and the need for adventure and narrow loops might correlate to skepticism or restriction.

5. Analyze Handwriting Styles from the Past

While you’re examining your own handwriting, try looking into some of the most famous scripts of the past! Like speech patterns and dialects, handwriting changes over time and it’s fascinating to look at the history of penmanship. See how famous authors wrote some of their best work:

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, would not only hand write his work, but he would also add beautiful doodles within.

David Foster Wallace, a popular postmodernism writer and poet, added stickers to his handwritten notes!

Jane Austen’s handwriting was beautiful but mostly illegible, at least to 21st century eyes.

Walt Whitman, the iconic humanist, poet, and writer, had picture-perfect calligraphy.

Anyone who has read Grapes of Wrath by author John Steinbeck won’t be surprised by his dedicated, disciplined, font-like handwriting.

As you can tell, handwriting really tells a story about a writer’s work and style. Take National Handwriting Day as a time to celebrate this art form.

6. Create a Vision Board

National Handwriting Day also corresponds with the beginning of the year and making resolutions. A vision board is a great way to visualize your goals for the upcoming year and creating one from scratch is the perfect way to celebrate handwriting and art.

Vision boards are simple to make. All you need are some old magazines, newspaper, other media, and art supplies. Find things that resonate with you, such as a person in a suit for career growth or a big salad for healthy eating, and put them on your board. Then, hand write words of motivation to finish the piece.

7. Practice Your Signature

Photo: The Postman's Knock
Photo: The Postman's Knock

No one said that John Hancock is the only one that can have a cool signature! Your signature serves as your personal mark on everything from checks to cards, so take time on National Handwriting Day to perfect it. Try different styles, spellings, and structures. Just initials? Full name? Larger first letter? The possibilities are endless.

8. Keep a Dream Journal

Dream journals are a way to keep track of your dreams and are often used to find patterns in thoughts and emotions. They can be used as a springboard for a writing piece or just as a fun hobby to monitor what your brain is cooking up! First, find a custom journal that you love and can keep right by your bedside. Then, make a habit of recording your dreams right when you wake up. Even if they are just fragments of memory or emotions you felt, starting the habit is key to dream journaling. You might be surprised with what you come up with! Ryan Hurb at Dream Studies explains his process for dream journaling.

Fun facts about handwriting for National Handwriting Day

* There is enough graphite in the average pencil to write roughly 45,000 words (or to draw a 35 mile long line). Though untested, it is theoretically possible.

* Though some states have different policies, most do not include cursive writing in the K-12 school curriculum.

* Forensic Document Examination (the analysis of disputed handwritten documents) is widely accepted in courts of law.

* Studies show that you are more likely to retain information if you take notes by hand than you are if you take notes by typing.

* National Handwriting Day falls on January 23, which is also the same date as the birthday of John Hancock, the first signatory of The Declaration of Independence.

* The first handwriting was discovered as early as 3400-3100 BC, in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sumerian archaic writing.

More national days in January

National days of the year are a fun way to celebrate odd and unusual foods, animals and items that you come into contact with. Be sure to check out my National Day’s Guide for more fun days to celebrate.

There are close to 2000 National Days in the year and over 150 of them are celebrated in January.

To see them all, have a look at this post to discover more about the National Days in January, as well as the January printable calendar of National Days.

A card that says "hello January" arranged with a cup of coffee, fir bough, nuts and cranberries to celebrate the national days in January.

Is food your thing? Each day of the month has a food or drink associated with it, too. You’ll find all the January food holidays here.

If you enjoyed this post on National Handwriting Day, be sure to also check out these other national days this month:

Organize Your Home Day – January is the perfect time to organize your home to set your year up for success. Let the day inspire you to do some organizing in your life!

National Disc Jockey Day – Let’s celebrate this branch of music history by learning fun facts about disc jockeys, also known as DJs!

National Spouses Day – Looking to show your sweetie some extra love? National Spouses Day is the perfect excuse. Check out the post for fun ways to celebrate.

National Hot Chocolate Day – Make sure to head over to the post to get our tasty homemade hot chocolate recipe!

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