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Comments on Taking Notes by Hand or Computer

I accidentally closed the Comments section for last week's post on taking meeting notes. If you wanted to comment, please do so. I apologize for the problem!

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “Comments on Taking Notes by Hand or Computer”

  • I have found that I miss too many things when taking notes by computer…..the old fashioned way works best for me!

  • I am fairly quick on the keyboard and have tried computer notes. It worked pretty well while I was taking notes during a phone conference. I still prefer hand notes when it’s an in-person event. I can draw all kinds of arrows to get the flow going!

  • I once read an article about a study that showed that people remember more with hand notes than computer notes. Using the keyboard becomes a mechanical act of merely transcribing what it is heard without paying enough attention. Hand notes force you to pay attention and capture only the most important things.

  • Thanks for adding your comments, Eliza, Pat, Fernando, Sidney, and Laura. I appreciate hearing from all of you!

    Eliza, I agree that focusing on one’s computer can draw attention away from the meeting.

    Pat, I wonder whether the computer works well for phone meetings because such meetings have little visual information. Interesting. Like you, I have experienced the efficiency of drawing arrows.

    Fernando, good point. Using a computer can lead to “a mechanical act of transcribing.”

    Sidney, I have come to agree that taking notes is an individual preference rather than an aspect of age. Still, I wonder whether some younger professionals use a laptop or tablet because they assume electronic is more efficient.

    Laura, you took notes for a course but didn’t review them? And they still helped you? Interesting idea.


  • I am a secretary for a club and have to send out typed minutes once a month. I took the position from someone who took notes on the computer and just happened to be from the generation x. I am a millennial and prefer all notes by hand. I feel notes by hand help me concentrate more on the important information. The young woman’s comment baffles me. Taking notes is a personal preference and has nothing to do with age.

  • I use hand notes if I have a handout, generally, and type on the computer when I have more information to record. But I type loads faster than I write, too. I recently took a course for a certification and I hand wrote all of my notes, to help me remember them better. And it did help! Though I never reviewed them (I re-re-re-read the book for the certification).

  • A lot of the work I do is about building relationships with stakeholders as much as it’s about the content of the meeting(s).

    I’m capable of touch typing with decent accuracy and speed but it feels… rude(?) to be typing while someone is talking. Part of it would be the noise, but I also think the technology puts a barrier between you and the person speaking – a notebook can be off to one side and you can jot the odd word but a keyboard has to be aligned with your hands and therefore between you and the conversation.

    There may be other options available I’ve seen colleagues use a stylus and tablet to ‘write’ notes and I trialled a ‘digital pen’, which used special paper and a little camera to allow you to both write notes for immediate reference and later upload them as text to a PC to edit into a document or save as a digital record. It worked great for my needs; If the device security had been sufficient for where I work these could have saved me several hours per meeting of typing notes.

    I agree it’s not an age thing (born ’85).

    P.S. from Lynn: Walker later informed me that the digital pen mentioned in the comment was the Livescribe Echo.

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