Will I Write Better if I Write in Longhand?

Jun 11, 2019 | Better Writing

Karel sent me a link to an article about how some great writers work. Then he asked, “This seems to say that I’ll write better if I write in longhand. What do you think?”

There are productive writers who write in every way imaginable. Some write by hand. Some work on computer. Others dictate their drafts. Many writers combine several methods.

The only way you’ll find out what works for you is to try different things. If you’re starting out, you’ll do a lot more experiments and try a lot more things. After four decades of writing, I’ve developed a process that works for me. But I still experiment from time to time.


Writers who write in longhand tend to be the ones who form their thoughts slowly and take great care with their phrasing. I did that in the beginning because I had no choice. A ballpoint pen was the only technology available.

Even though I don’t write drafts by hand today, I do a lot of planning that involves using longhand and sketches. I mind map and flowchart in the early stages of a writing project to see if I can get the big ideas connected and in the right order.

Writing on A Computer

The computer made it possible for writers to make changes easily. For most of my writing career, that’s how I did almost all my writing.

Some writers who use a computer use a basic word processing program, like Microsoft Word. That’s me. Others prefer a special writing program. Scrivener is a favorite for books.

Today, I use Microsoft Word, and I use it for revisions after the first draft.


Writer who use dictation want to get their material out quickly so they can revise it. That’s why I use dictation. It also helps me write conversationally.

There are speech recognition programs, like Dragon Speaking. I have clients who use them, but I don’t. I prefer a human transcriber who can catch things that no computer would notice. Rebecca will type this. If I say something that doesn’t make sense, she’s likely to insert a comment in the manuscript like, “Are you sure you want to say this?” or “I think you mean … ”

Bottom Line

There’s no one way that works for everybody. If you want to write your best, try different things to find the best combination for you.


Here are some of the tools I use. Other writers do things differently. So will you.

Writing projects start with ideas. Here’s a blog post I wrote about Idea Capture Tools.

I do a lot of drawing and mind mapping when I’m putting ideas together. The tools of choice are lots of different-colored Sharpies and a landscape format pad.

I use Inspiration for outlining. The program makes it easy to change my outline and to develop an outline from a mind map.

Rebecca at Transcription Transformation transcribes my audio files. I dictate my zero drafts and first drafts.

When I revise, I use Microsoft Word and keep using it until the writing part of the project is done.

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