Paper or Digital: What Type Of Journal Should You Keep?


If you’re ready to start journaling this year, probably your biggest question should be: paper notebook or digital app? Here are some advantages of both formats.

Paper Notebook

1. A paper notebook is more personal in that you choose the style and size of the notebook you want to write in. The notebook might actually reflect something about your personality.

2. Handwritten journals can feel more personal, and each journal entry you write becomes your personal signature.

3. Studies maintain that handwriting slows down your thinking and helps you be more reflective.

4. A paper notebook is great for art journaling.

5. A paper notebook doesn’t depend on a device that must be charged and maintained.


Digital Journaling App or Notebook

1. A digital journaling app, like Day One, includes a password lock that makes your journal more secure.

2. A digital journaling app can be more mobile, especially if it’s on your phone or digital pad.

3. Typing text is naturally easier to edit and revise.

4. A digital journal is easier to archive and backup, and the content can be exported to PDF for printing and further archiving purposes.

5. Text and pictures from other sources can be pasted into your digital journal.

6. Journaling apps, like Day One, or notebooks like Evernote, allow for tagging entries, which helps categorize your content and make it easier to review.

7. Digital apps allow for easier sharing of writing on the Internet.

8. You can type faster by using applications like TextExpander for Mac or PhraseExpress for Windows, to automatically type commonly used words and snippets of text. The voice dictation program, Dragon Dictate or DragonNaturally Speaking, is also a useful way to write.

What Works Best For

Writing coaches, Nathan Ohren and Mari L. McCarthy discuss in this podcast the advantages and disadvantages of handwriting versus typing your journals. And Mari points out, the correct format is what works best for you.

As the creator of NaJoWriMo, I admit that digital journaling is my preferred form journal keeping. But for the purposes of NaJoWriMo, I’m going to promote both formats, and encourage you to try to handwriting and digital journaling to see what works best for you.

I welcome your feedback on this topic. Which method do you favor and why? Is there a reason to keep both handwritten and typewritten journals? We’d love to get your feedback?

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Bakari Chavanu

is the creator of NaJoWriMo, and is the author of the interactive iBook, Starting From Day One: Using the Day One Journaling App to Record and Enrich Your Life
  • I find the paper-digital divide to be a false dichotomy. Both types of journaling are important to me and part of one whole approach to journaling.

    My theory of journaling is this: each of of us is composed of many parts. I call these parts “tints”.

    During the course of the day, from our perspective here on Earth, the light of the sun changes in a subtle manner. Photographers are familiar with this, and I even have an app that tracks these changes in tint. The light from the sun is “white light”, it is just that certain tints tend to dominate the light at different parts of the day.

    Each person is one person, but different parts of our personality tend to dominate at different times. Journaling gives a voice to these different aspects of our being, and even more important, opens channels of communication between them.

    And these different aspects have preferences on how to express themselves. Some parts of me like digital journaling; others pen and paper.

    Joe Orlow

  • I have personally tried both paper journaling and digital journaling and. I have found it easier for me to paper journal everything at home and use a digjtal journal when i am out

    Overall my preference is paper journaling

    • Hi Carolina, I can definitely see why many people still use paper journaling. Sometimes it just feels more comfortable and personal. It’s great to have both to fit the situation in which you’re writing. Thanks for your feedback.

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