Ergonomics Wednesday – 13 – Taking Notes? Use the Write Tools

Last week I wrote about the ergonomics of hand tools. Continuing with the theme of ergonomics being about more than your desk chair, keyboard and mouse (although I have written about all of those things), it is:

an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely

— called also biotechnologyhuman engineeringhuman factors

Because of this, ergonomics is an entire field of engineering. No, seriously, you can get a degree in this stuff. Ergonomists apply psychology and physiology to design, with the intent to make products, processes and systems easier and safer to work with, resulting in greater safety, comfort and productivity.

So, what about the terrible pun in the headline?

We are transitioning to a post literate age. People read less, and because of this, they write less. Personally, I find this to be a tragedy. A hand written letter, thank you note or birthday card is simply more than an e-card or email.

On the bright side, I seem to have imparted this to my kids, and my oldest is learning cursive. Not because the schools teach it, they don’t, but because he is interested in it, and because he can.

Yay me.

Anyway, for those of you who still need the old pencil and paper, whether it be for correspondence done the old way, for school, or simply because your job requires you to take notes and you prefer to do it with pen and paper, I present to you the ergonomics of pen(cil)s, old and new.

When you hear the word “pencil,” what comes to mind? Something like this?

A standard #2 orange pencil
Writing with these? Ouch

The old orange, hexagonal, #2 pencil with eraser on the butt?

Do you still write with these? And if so, why? They are

  • Too hard
  • Too narrow
  • Slippery
  • Six cornered to bite into the skin of your fingers.

And just like them, the old Bic pens, which were the same size and shape.

If I use one of these things for more than a minute, my fingers and carpal tunnels start to ache. Fortunately for me (and for you) there are better solutions out there. Here’s one of the pencils I use now.

A silver mechanical pencil
Writing with one of these? Ahhhh.

It’s pretty much the opposite of the #2 pictured above. The finger grip:

  • Is soft rubber, contoured to the grip
  • Circular in cross section (no corners)
  • Has a greater diameter
  • Has friction ridges

All of this means your grip is more comfortable, and uses less force so your fingers and carpal tunnels don’t tire or get sore nearly as easily or quickly.

As with these types of pencil, so there are ergonomically comfortable pens.

So, like your hand tools, your writing implements have come a long way in the last 40 years. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t update your pens and pencils, and your wrists will thank you for it.