Tools for Killer Content: Pen and Paper?

Using pen and paper for marketing content

Can handwriting help your content marketing? What if your marketing communications pieces started out in longhand?

Do you write anything in longhand anymore? Does your marketing communications writer?

Could be something to it.

Freelance writer Lexi Rodrigo posted a list of her favorite copywriting tools, among which are pen and paper. She writes:

When you find an example of an excellent piece of copywriting, copy it entirely, word for word, by writing the entire thing by hand.

Don’t ask me how this works, but great copywriters swear by this method, and it’s one way I learned myself. There’s something about the act of handwriting that hard-wires the words into our brains.

That’s pretty novel advice, particularly in an era in which keyboards, touchpads and texting are turning longhand into a dying art.

I know that my brain works differently when I have a pen in my hand – I can feel it – but my handwriting is such an aesthetic affront to me that it gets in the way of creativity. Anything longer than a grocery list just grosses me out.

The best writing I’ve ever done was either in longhand or on a typewriter, a machine halfway between handwriting and a computer keyboard. It’s much more annoying to fix a mistake when using a pen or a typewriter – have you ever noticed how often fast typists hit the backspace key on a computer keyboard? – so I think things through before committing them to paper.

It’s better writing.

Getting help for tibiwangzi

But the problem for us Westerners pales by comparison to the problem for Japanese and Chinese youth. Whereas we need remember how to write only a couple dozen different alphabetic characters, writers in Asia must remember how to compose thousands of pictographic characters.

Recognizing these characters for reading is a completely different matter from pulling them out of your memory and putting them on paper, and tibiwangzi, or “take pen, forget character” afflicts millions of mostly young, mostly electronic-input-oriented Asians. The pervasiveness of this “character amnesia” prompts young Chinese to fear for the future of their ancient writing system.

What would it take for you to resume your childhood use of pen and paper? Would you use it for copying excellent text, as Rodrigo suggests? Can you imagine writing a creative brief or a press release in longhand?

If, as a marketing manager, you discovered that you wrote better in longhand, would it justify the additional time to transcribe your handwritten copy on a computer?

photo credit: Marquette La

Can handwriting help your content marketing? What if your marketing communications pieces started out in longhand?


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”

2 thoughts on “Tools for Killer Content: Pen and Paper?

  1. As much as I’m an social media fiend, I still write with pen and paper. It’s very organic that way — and yes, I did have to memorize characters as a kid (Burmese is half phonetic characters plus 36 alphabets.) My best outlines, and marketing processes start out on the white board or pen and paper with doodles, arrows, stars, check boxes, flow charts, bullets, and paragraphs.

    1. Interesting. My former business partner works like you on the white board to lay out his thoughts. He does his best thinking with a writing instrument in his hand. He always moans, “I can’t write for toffee,” but he’s able to build out such a clear vision in longhand that it’s easy for the writers to come along afterward and turn it into useful content.

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