Why the hand-wringing on handwriting? On handwriting and technology, in this month’s issue of TYSN


October 2023 Vol 5 Issue 10

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!


ARTICLE 1: Why the hand-wringing on handwriting?  On handwriting and technology, from staff writers at “The Economist”


From Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers” (and what they mean!)–Part One




Welcome Mid-October 2023!

As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” Saskatoon is in the midst of several weeks of largely mild but also grey weather.

Many of us have indulged in Thanksgiving treats like turkey, ham, pumpkin pie or alternative, multicultural culinary delights. And online ads already promote Hallowe’en candy and (dare I say it, this early?) even Christmas festivities.

Yet, even thinking about these seasonal traditions shrinks before news such as the heightened conflict between Israel and Hamas; the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and other world hot-spots.

And yet also, as a part of valuing our democratic freedoms, our daily lives and the service of what we do must continue–and that includes discussing issues of communication and entrepreneurship, which are often the fare of this newsletter.

So in this month’s issue, I share findings from a recent article in “The Economist,” co-authored by staff writers (named “Johnson” after Samuel, himself), on why handwriting (even cursive) still matters: How can we say that in our digital age?

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I cite the Merriam-Webster dictionary for six of “11 bookish words for book lovers” of all varieties.

In “Shop News,” I’m delighted to feature as “Entrepreneur of the Month” my colleague and friend, Julie Barnes, of Julie Barnes Creative Services. My “Entrepreneur of the Month” continues to feature some of the remarkable contacts and colleagues I meet in Saskatoon and surrounding communities–found as a part of entrepreneurial networking. “Shop News” is, therefore, openly and unabashedly partisan.

Julie’s cv is both fascinating and impressive. I encourage you to read her profile, sample some of her work and consider the fine mind which authored them both.

Undergirding this month’s issue is my thanks to the many (often unnamed) friends who have helped me to stagger through another year of caring for an elderly mother in SK’s collapsed senior health care system; and to those who simultaneously have encouraged my entrepreneurial pursuits.

That gratitude can extend to the changing of our seasons, too, this month. Autumn can be lovely, especially when it delivers sun that illumines our dramatic skies and mitigates the chill of nature’s unpredictable winds.

As we begin to reach further into our closets for sweaters, shawls and blankets, good readers, may we consciously turn our minds indoors again: Although Old Man Winter will shortly enter our main stage as he has for millennia past, we can plan to keep ourselves warm by much great literature (past and present); films, performances and art exhibits; food and spirits to nourish us; and even the indoor watching of outdoor sports (!).

Through these and other blessings, while we traverse the remaining weeks of autumn 2023, I wish  you the very best.

Sincerely yours,



Storytelling Communications



Article One: Why the hand-wringing on handwriting?  On handwriting and technology, from staff writers of “The Economist”

In a recent monthly newsletter from “The Economist,” the magazine’s collective of staff writers, “Johnson” (named after the 18th C. British man of letters, “Dr.” Samuel Johnson), writes that even in these hyper-digital days, taking “pen to paper” can intensify the impact of one’s message.

In recent years, educational psychologists have found that note-taking by hand offers learners a significant advantage (across all age groups). As Lane Greene writes in an introduction to the article, “The very inefficiency of the medium is its advantage: it seems to force writers to think and compress information as they jot, rather than mindlessly transcribing verbatim.”

Despite the rush in recent years to digitize human activity, this research has been noticed: Many education programs in Europe now reduce the amount of technology in the classroom, especially for students in their early years, and have increased the teaching of handwriting, including cursive.

The “Johnson” writers note ironically that “two and a half millennia ago, Socrates complained that writing [i.e. handwriting] would harm students,” because it would provide a way to store ideas “permanently and externally,” so the need to memorize would evaporate!

But in our times, a related (now very familiar) debate has developed about the negative effects of using and typing on computers. Students ranging from kindergarten to PhD levels rely heavily (more than ever) on computers to take notes and write their papers.

Families of young students also express alarm that in some American classrooms, laptops have become compulsory for young children. Meantime, university-based academics complain that students are distracted when they should be listening to lectures, because they’re reading and sending email, text or social media messages, instead.

Add to this the power of generative AI (particularly for college and university students) and educators’ hand-wringing, over what medium/media we need to learn by, and how, intensifies.

But as the “Johnson” writers report, one area of pedagogical research shows that long before computers were built, handwriting was revolutionary: “Studies have found that writing on paper can improve everything from recalling a random series of words to imparting a better conceptual grasp of complicated ideas.”

“Johnson”  adds that whether forming “the shapes of letters to the quirks of English spelling, the benefits of using a pen or pencil lie in how the motor and sensory memory of putting words on paper reinforces that material.”  Even how and where one makes “squiggles on a page feeds into visual memory.” I can remember distinctly, as an undergraduate, putting stars in the margins of my handwritten lecture notes, to mark an idea that I wanted to explore more deeply, possibly for a course essay assignment.

Writing by hand underpins “superior note-taking,”  the “Johnson” writers say, in contrast to typing, where students have been found to input nearly twice as many words and more verbatim passages from lectures. This reflects the sad reality that when typing, students often do not understand, but simply copy, what they are hearing.

Due to the time required to write by hand, students’ handwriting compels them to synthesize the lecturer’s ideas in “their own words,” which increases their understanding, even as they write.

Studies also show that hand note-takers “perform better on tests when students are later able to study from their notes.” By contrast, students who typed verbatim did not understand the lecture material, so much as regurgitate it.

The “Johnson” writers say that many studies have demonstrated the benefits of handwriting and so have influenced education policy, due to the “campaigning” of researchers. Half of the states in America have reported that they teach handwriting after the first grade, although the country’s “Common Core” curriculum has not required it, since 2010. I’d like to know (but haven’t yet located) an accurate statistic for Canadian (and especially SK) primary schools.

In the UK, curriculum already prescribes teaching cursive before children turn seven. And in Sweden, there is pressure from educators to work more with handwriting and books–and less with digital technology.

But typing will still be a skill needed by nearly everyone, because (as the “Johnson” writers say) it can “improve the quality of writing: being able to get ideas down quickly, before they are forgotten, can obviously be beneficial.” The greater legibility of typing also weighs as a factor in its longevity, for writers like me.

Handwriting researchers add that students need to learn to slow their typing to process what they hear, thereby improving their understanding.

Not only cursive, but also “ ‘manuscript’ print-style writing” and typing all have proven benefits, the article notes. And handwriting can be reviewed and “tuned up,” even though current school and university/college students continue to increase their use of digital devices, as they age.

Consider, too, how much what we write (i.e. our “message”) will intensify, when we understand it more deeply as part of sharing it with others.

The “Johnson” group (at “The Economist”) aptly concludes that whether Socrates was right or wrong about the threat that handwriting poses to education, “no one would remember, much less care, if his student Plato had not noted it down for . . . posterity.”

And now it’s your turn: What value do you give handwriting in the learning process, in this increasingly digital age?

Should there be hand-wringing over handwriting? Please write in: I’d be delighted to hear from you. 







STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: 

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

“Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers”

(and what they mean!)


Merriam-Webster dictionary periodically makes the news for its quirky and fun blog postings. Last May, their house writers collected a posting called “Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers,” the first six of which I’ll share in this month”s issue of “Storytellers’ Corner” (with fictional examples of my own):


(1) “Bibliomania” = “an extreme preoccupation with collecting books.” 


This word is said to date to at least the early 1700s, and comes from the French term “bibliomanie” (with “biblio” meaning book; and “manie” meaning mania). 


E.g. “The Symphony Booksale in Saskatoon each year benefits from the bibliomania of those who donate to it, and even more, from that of those who buy the books!”


(2) “Florilegium” = “a volume of writings; an anthology.”


This word comes from the Latin word “florilegus,” which means “culling flowers.” So it refers to a “bouquet of writings, specially selected and arranged for your enjoyment,” the writers say.  


E.g. “The romantic Willoughby left a posy of flowers and a florilegium of poetry for the lovesick Marianne.” 


(3) “Librocubicularist” = “someone who likes to read in bed.”


This word comes from the Latin “libr-, libre” (meaning “book” ) and “cubiculum,” (meaning “bedroom”). Writer Christopher Morley is credited with the coinage of “librocubicularist” in his 1919 novel, The Haunted Bookshop: 


E.g. ” ‘All right,’ said the bookseller, amiably. ‘Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to. Are you a librocubicularist?’ ” (Morley).


(4) “Dithyramb” = The writers define this as “a usually short poem in an inspired, wild, irregular strain.” The term is not new to English literary critics. But while it currently refers to “any short irregular poem,” the word dithyramb comes from the Greek “dithyrambos,” which was the name for wild and irregular verse that honoured Dionysus, the Classical god of wine. He was widely associated with Greek festivals. 


E.g. “The poet who had hitherto been known for her ordered, highly structured verse, suddenly rose and, throwing caution to the wind, read a dithyramb about the the chaotic emotions of unrequited love.”


(5) “Book-Bosomed” = means “carrying a book at all times,” metaphorically (or literally) near one’s bosom. The term is attributed to the early 19th-century verse of Sir Walter Scott.


E.g. “The book-bosomed teenager whiled away the afternoon by reading a well-thumbed collection  of Shakespearean sonnets.”


(6) “Bibliotherapy” = “the use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy.” The word dates to at least 1914. 


E.g. “After trying many forms of treatment, the man found that his depression lifted only through bibliotherapy–especially focusing on Alexander McCall-Smith’s life- affirming mysteries.”


 Stay tuned to next month’s issue for another five “bookish” words from Merriam-Webster! 




“Entrepreneur of the Month”: This month, featuring Julie Barnes of Julie Barnes’ Creative Services: 


Julie Barnes is a full-time freelance writer and a regular contributor to Saskatoon HOME magazine, where she writes about everything from agriculture to architecture, composting to cohousing.


Her recent article about Radiance Cohousing was born out of several conversations with friends about how to create a better sense of community and belonging.


For anyone who is seeking to strengthen their own community ties, Julie recommends reading Mia Birdsong’s excellent book, How we show up: Reclaiming family, friendship and community. 


Nine years ago, Julie and her husband, Josh, installed a green roof on their detached garage in Saskatoon. Brimming with succulents and native grasses, and buzzing with bees each summer, the roof has thrived, but green roofs in Saskatchewan never really took root. Curious about why green roofs have gained popularity in other places, but not in her home province, Julie investigated how other cities have encouraged their uptake for a recent article for CBC Saskatoon. 


Julie has also written about travel, environmental stewardship, gardening, urban planning and more for a variety of publications including the Ottawa CitizenPrairies North magazine, Cottage Life West and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s quarterly magazine. 


In addition to writing, Julie is also a talent agent for the folksinger/song writer/public speaker Eric Paetkau, the former conductor and music director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (2015-2022). 


Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Julie spent a year in Dublin after university, followed up by five years in Ottawa, before moving to Saskatoon in 2011.


She’s happy to have found a community of local freelance writers, who meet monthly to share ideas, advice, referrals and more over coffee. “When you work in a solitary field, like writing, it’s important to find time to get out of the house and connect with others,” she says.


(Nepotism Alert: Julie is a friend and colleague whom I met more than 10 years ago through Saskatoon’s branch of the International Association of Business Communicators [IABC]).




Ten years ago, along with the freelance writer and web designer, Asheigh Mattern, Julie and I co-founded a writers’ group (aka “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable”) and encourage other creatives to do the same.


For more information about our group and what we do, please check our collective article in the “Writers Ask” section,”  forthcoming in the next (quarterly) issue of the  Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild  magazine, “Freelance.”  



Hearty thanks also go out (albeit belatedly) to William Wang, Director, Alberta China Offices, Intergovernmental Relations, Executive Council, Government of AB, for discussing with me potential markets for teaching the English language to newcomers, particularly in SK.


William once led China Offices for the Government of SK and still calls Regina home (huzzah)!


I’m deeply indebted to him for sharing with me his time, strategy and even an introduction to “WeChat.” I am now past due to host an authentic Chinese lunch when you next visit Saskatoon, William!  


And thank you again to my long-term mentor and dear friend, Monica Kreuger, for introducing me, last summer, to William! There will be more collaborations to come . . . .




And a final “Thank You”  in this issue goes not least to the extraordinary women leaders of SK who spoke at “Women in the Lead: Navigating the Political Labyrinth” (October 4th), spearheaded by Monica Kreuger, in affiliation with Business and Professional Women of SK (BPW), the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce and Equal Voice (the latter, a not-for-profit organization that encourages women to serve in politics). 


It was fortifying to hear eight talented and successful women, who have served in either municipal, provincial or federal politics, discuss the urgent need for more women to enter leadership roles in our province; and the related challenges of defining our own priorities, since we usually balance the demands of family with those of our careers.


Special thanks to speakers and panellists Claire Card, Vicki Mowat, Tracy Muggli, Lenore Swystun, Tiffany Paulsen, Bev Dubois, Colleen Young and Pat Atkinson, for renewing this discussion for us.


Would you like to improve your English language skills?

Are you a newcomer whose language skills have not gotten you traction in the job market?

Do you have language-related “career blues” and don’t know how to move through them? 

Starting in December, I will take one or two more students for my in-person language lessons, most of which occur in one or other local  library.

If you (or someone you know) are interested, or for more information, please don’t hesitate to email me here:




This month, I’m particularly grateful to close friends, several of whom have provided me with emotional support and encouragement, as I move (perhaps for the last time) an aging family member into a care facility for disabled seniors.

The list of these friends’ names is long (and I wish to preserve their privacy), but they know who they are, even as I strive to thank and acknowledge them, in-person.

Good friends have often been said to be “the family we would like to have chosen.” So this issue of TYSN is dedicated to all of the truly wonderful friends out there–whether mine or yours, good reader. Blessings on them, for personifying generosity, support and kindness.


Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help Canadian newcomers secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I also write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).