The pen, the sword and the keyboard

Isabella Schreiber/Staff

The pen has always been mightier than the sword, but how does it stack up against the keyboard?

As a reporter, writing is the most important part of my job. I have to take accurate notes, organize my story and write — during this process, I always have to decide whether to write with my computer or my Pilot G2 pen.

The first narrative story I ever wrote was, regrettably, a fan fiction. I wrote it in segments during my seventh grade English class, in a bent-up old composition notebook. I’d hand it around to my circle of friends during lunch break — they were characters, after all — and listen to the chorus of complaints about the illegibility of my handwriting. No one could read it. Everyone was upset, from my friends to my teachers to my mom.

The legibility was one problem, but the speed was another. I was only capable of cranking out one page per day, which was not enough for my impatient preteen friends or for preteen me. We wanted our fan fiction and we wanted it now, but my hand couldn’t grip a pen for long enough to write more than a page.

It took me a few years to realize this, but long stories are meant for typing — for fast fingers that can click. My words per minute speed is so much faster on a keyboard. Seventh grade me should be fired for even thinking she could handwrite that fast.

On the other hand, when I was a freshman in college, I tried to plot out a book. On my computer. I wrote out a bulleted list on a Google Doc, indenting with every change, and wrote a timeline along with it. The next day, however, the list made no sense to me. It didn’t read linearly, and the indentations didn’t help me parse which details were important and which details I might just find funny. It made no sense to me.

It takes more effort than it should to make a flowchart on a computer, and while there are apps that make filling in a flowchart real easy, nothing beats being able to visualize two different coexisting plotlines on top of each other like you can do with two different colored pens. Google Docs could never.

When reporting on a story, there are times when I’m out in the field with my laptop, and that’s usually when I have to decide whether I want to take notes on my notepad or my keyboard. It’s a difficult decision every time — there are so many variables that I could write a whole other listicle column blatantly listing the pros and cons of both — but, like all decisions, I take it on a case-by-case basis.

At the end of the day, though, my articles will always be written with my keyboard in a Google Doc on my laptop whose screen won’t stand straight. My field-article outlines will always be written with my Pilot G2 in my bullet journal, on some random page where I can draw the different leaps in logic and facts I’ll need to weave together. Everything serves its purpose.

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.