Pen and Ink

Pen and Ink

Does what we’re writing on affect what we write?

Some time ago, we wrote about the pros and cons of using a diary instead of a smartphone.  (For example a diary can’t act as a GPS, but it won’t stop working if you spill tea on it.)

I’ve been doing a bit more looking into the subject.  But could the difference be between typing and writing, rather than diaries and smartphones?


I’ve found out about an experiment where participants were asked to write a report on bank charges. Half of them typed it on a computer, the other wrote it out by hand. We’ll call them typers and penners.

It turns out that the typers finished their first draft 50% faster and 20% wrote more than the penners.  However they had a haphazard way of making revisions, including pausing in the middle of sentences and editing on the fly.

The penners were more methodical.  They tended to write the first draft, then start editing it carefully. While they paused less than the typers, they tended to pause for longer.


Here’s what I think: diaries and smartphones turn us into penners.  Both formats are meant for short(ish) entries. And, since we’re not likely to show them to other people, we probably won’t edit so much when we write.

To ‘misappropriate’ Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’, do you believe the format changes the way you write?

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  1. Pingback: What Does Your Favourite Pen Say About You? | Euroffice Stationery Blog

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