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July 18, 2018


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Kelly at Twentysomething Vision

Lynn - thanks for sharing the good and bad of both written and digital notes. I prefer to take written notes about 90% of the time. I digest the information better by physically writing it down, and I definitely pay attention to the meeting or lecture more than I would if I typed the notes. It's more efficient for me because I can quickly write down follow-up questions, and keep my notebook for reference later in related meetings.

I agree, typing gets the job done quicker and creates a nice little archive to search. But typing is loud and distracting, and what if a notification pops up on the computer, even if internet is turned off? I think digital notes are more distracting during the meeting, and might be a nice second step - if needed - to type out the written notes later that day.

I still write out my grocery list on paper. I find that when I type it out, I forget a few items as I'm typing, or I even leave my phone in the car sometimes (I know, who does that in this day and age?), and then I have to go by memory. The information is just floating around at that point, digitally. When I write it down, I can check it off and I get those thoughts out of my head.

Thanks for listing the pros and cons of each! It's definitely something to think about.

Business Writing Blog

Kelly, nice to hear from you about meeting notes.

And then there's the grocery list. I write mine on a whiteboard in the kitchen as I recognize what we need (as do other members of my family). Then I take a photo of the list with my phone. Of course, as you said, if I leave the phone in the car, that photo doesn't do me much good.

The paper list probably makes more sense except for the waste of paper. (But we can use scrap paper, right?) As you said, we can check off each item as we add it to the cart.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


John Held

Lynn, I also appreciate the article, thoughts, and pros and cons.

First, following up on what Kelly said, in our trainings on meetings, one of the key points we emphasize is that everyone should turn off their computers during the meeting. The only exception is the scribe--if she/he so chooses to take notes on their laptop. The issue is that, even if people are taking notes on the meeting on their computers, there is still the "danger" or "temptation" to multitask during the meeting. Having laptops open during a meeting is distracting.

On the topic of typing notes on your computer, the only time I do this is if I'm in a tactical meeting where there is a specific structure (we start with a lightning round to gather topics and then work through them). There is a very specific template for taking notes and tracking the action points of the meeting.

Something I discovered by accident several years ago is that, even though I can type much faster than I can write, I process information better when I write by hand. I talked to a neurologist friend of mine about this, to which he replied that writing by hand engages many more neurons than typing. So in addition to finding myself more focused when I write my notes by hand, I also find myself more creative and thoughtful when I take notes by hand.

Having said that, using a template that requires filling out the topic, action point, person responsible and deadline helps create an action plan that can be followed up and managed. This I always do on my laptop--assuming I'm the scribe of the meeting.

So I guess, like you, Lynn, I either write things down or use my computer--depending on the need of the moment.

Business Writing Blog

Hi John,

Thank you for this detailed comment. Obviously you have spent time thinking about how to take meeting notes most efficiently.

I especially appreciate the information that "writing by hand engages many more neurons than typing." I had read about that and should have brought that into the discussion. Thanks for providing it!


Business Writing Blog

More comments about this topic appear here:



Casey Decker

Great question, Lynn! I prefer taking notes by hand so that I can focus on listening to people and observing them while they are speaking. However, I will consider taking my laptop to a meeting to see whether it provides greater benefits than writing by hand.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Casey,

Thanks for sharing what works for you. Focusing on people is the key to success in business.



As an HR professional, my first thoughts were not on the debate over taking notes by hand or by computer, but that the young lady by whom Marge felt attacked needs mentoring, coaching, and/or soft skills training -- like how to be tactful, how to interact intergenerationally, and how to be courteous and respectful. The young lady in question may be technically savvy, but she is definitely lacking interpersonal skills.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for your great point. When I heard about the interaction, I felt the same way you do. The young woman has a lot to learn about business relationships. Marge would have had much to teach her, but now she wants little or nothing to do with her.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.


Ellen Leyrer

Thank you! I prefer handwritten in most cases. Another benefit for me is that when I type up my notes it's a review for me. I remember (almost) all of the original context. It also frequently makes me think of clarifications or more notes to add.

Business Writing Blog

Ellen, thanks for these good points. The only one I would caution you about is "more notes to add." Frequently additional content is not what notes need. They need the essentials: decisions, action items, key points.

Thanks for stopping by.


Jon B.

I'm in my late 40s and have taken meeting minutes for about 10 years. I reluctantly switched from handwritten to typed a year ago.

There was a short transition period where I had to retrain my brain… but now I prefer typing. It saves a lot of time if you're going to have to type them up anyway. I usually still handwrite the attendee names, because it’s too hard to update those and take notes at the same time.

However in the type of meetings where people jump around the agenda instead of going through it methodically, I still find it’s better to handwrite so you can draw arrows, etc. Every person and meeting is different… criticizing how someone takes notes is pretty immature. :-)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Jon, thanks for sharing your experience.


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