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Operation Longhand: It’s Time to Revive Pen and Paper

We are in the midst of a communication crisis. The age-old art of penmanship is on the brink of extinction—but the power to rescue it is quite literally at our fingertips. Gentlemen, here’s why you should sharpen your pencils.

Writing by hand—an act that could once reveal a person’s trade, class, and even gender—has been on a steady decline since the birth of the typewriter. Now, in an age when we do it all digitally, our calligraphy has become chicken scratch. The future is even bleaker: An entire generation is being deprived of penmanship skills, and any understanding of their importance.

We don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds us; digital communication is the backbone of our work. But what we gain in efficiency and scope, we lose in permanence. While a hard copy could get incinerated or washed away in a flood, the odds seem low compared to those of a crashed hard drive or the hacking incident du jour.

But there’s more to this ancient practice than posterity. Science supports the physical act of handwriting as a cognitive stimulus. Studies suggest that it can bolster information retention and help with the completion of goals. Unsurprisingly, many professional actors consider it a go-to memorization technique.

Field Notes We don’t suggest surrendering your laptop or relinquishing your smartphone (that would never fly at Birchbox HQ). But with small, strategic changes—and a trusty tablet—we can start to revive this forgotten form.

Write out your grocery list—it’s easier without autocorrect intervention. Take handwritten notes in your next meeting. Jot down names you want to remember. Pen a letter to a lost love, or a thank you note to the guy who hauls your Bánh Mi up five flights of stairs twice a week. Instead of staring at a flickering cursor, doodle your way to your next big idea. Heck, take a cue from Tarantino and scrawl an entire screenplay. Whatever you write, free yourself from the “delete” button. In the end, the imperfections will separate the men from the bots.

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