If you want to become a better reader, science says you need to read more. The same is probably true of writing. If you want to improve, the unavoidable reality is you need to practice.

But that takes time. While you're exercising your writing muscles, are there any shortcuts -- simple things you can do right not that will make you a better writer today. Yup, says a super actionable and straightforward recent study.

Just slow down

The study out of the University of Waterloo was based on a wacky-sounding premise: what happens when you get a bunch of undergraduates to type essays one-handed? The surprising answer is their writing actually gets better.

It turns out that all the modern tools we have to assist us with getting our thoughts down more easily might, in fact, be making us write too quickly. "Typing can be too fluent or too fast, and can actually impair the writing process," commented lead author Srdan Medimorec.

Why? That's not one hundred percent clear from this research, but the team is guessing that when we're forced to write a bit slower, we have more time to thoughtfully consider our words and choose the best expression to convey our thoughts.

No, don't tie a hand behind your back

So is the takeaway to go back to hunt-and-peck typing, or literally force yourself to use only one hand when you're writing on your laptop? Of course not.

"We're not saying that students should write their term papers with one hand," Medimorec said, "but our results show that going fast can have its drawbacks. This is important to consider as writing tools continue to emerge that let us get our thoughts onto the proverbial page faster and faster."

It's interesting to note that one handed typing slowed the students down to roughly the same speed as good, old-fashioned handwriting, so for some writing tasks you might want to give an actual pen and paper a try. (It's worth noting that several advocates of journaling insist that longhand writing is actually a superior way to fully connect with our thoughts.)

But even if you haven't really exercised your handwriting since grade school, you can still put these findings to use. Next time you sit down in front of a blank paper (or screen), simply make a conscious choice to go a bit slower. What comes out will most likely to be better than had you rushed to get your thoughts down as quickly as possible.

Do you find that the tools you use to write affect the results?

Published on: Feb 9, 2016
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