Making myself illegible

What better way is there to spend a freezing Sunday afternoon than pondering DH23Things and specifically Thing 9 Annotating Information? This Things’ tool is Evernote – with a focus on capturing and annotating notes in different forms (webpage, image, audio, video, and of course text).


I can do this for up to around 100 words a minute once I’m warmed up.

I’ll confess upfront to being a rather disorganised note-taker. In the good old days I made all my notes in shorthand (which I learned as my Duke of Edinburgh skill). This has the enormous advantage that no-one can read what you write, although frequently – unfortunately – that includes me. I have to transcribe shorthand notes quite soon after writing them or I find them indecipherable; this is the best before date of my notes. At University I made folder upon folder of notes, in shorthand, handwritten and typed. However, in a recent spring cleaning frenzy I recycled them all as they took up too much space.

So I wonder how Evernote could have changed all this? I now use Evernote mainly to store pdfs so that I can read through documents on my iPad when it’s not online. I’ve not yet used it for note-taking of my own because I’m not that quick at typing (a speed typing course might afterall have been more useful than shorthand) and also I don’t like the idea of people being able to read my notes, which are often merely half-formed notes to self. I do like using it to capture other people’s notes though. In particular, I find clipping from the web sometimes more reassuring than link bookmarking site delicious which relies on the url remaining in place and the content unchanging. I’ve yet to accumulate enough material here to use the meta-tagging function but I can see how that would work really smoothly, as on delicious. I find it easier to be clear whether the notes are verbatim or my response to a lecturer when I write them by hand. Can you have notes on notes in Evernote? That’s one of the things I like about Scrivener, coincidentally our next Thing.

Perhaps one of Evernote’s downfalls is that it makes it too easy to save hoards of information one wouldn’t actually have time to explore. I think my note-taking strategy for the future will be to continue with pen and paper (and sometimes shorthand) for my own notes, but to use Evernote to avoid laboriously copying out references and to continue to provide reading material for train journeys. I’ve also heard Evernote praised as a to do list tool, although I’ve not worked out a non-clunky way to this. I wonder if anyone else has?

3 thoughts on “Making myself illegible

  1. I wish I had learnt shorthand! The more I become reliant on my computer (see my latest dh23 thing!) the clunkier and slower my writing gets. How do you manage the relationship between handwritten and digital notes and resources? I got confused if I have things in too many places.

  2. Well, I don’t have anywhere near so many notes or resources as you! Although I do have a kind of logic to it: if notes become more important they usually make it into a Word document, as part of something, otherwise they stay in my designated notebook for interesting thoughts that occur to me. I obviously haven’t had that many interesting thoughts worth jotting down yet as it’s all in one notebook at the moment…

  3. Ah okay, interesting. People always give me notebooks, which I like the idea of but then get annoyed at the lack of flexibility in moving notes around. Maybe I should start requesting computer software instead!

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