When I was in third grade, our teacher, Mrs. Hall, handed out pens to students whose cursive writing was exceptionally neat. I remember being very disappointed one day because I thought I’d been doing well, but didn’t get a pen. I can’t recall if I ever got a pen or not.
I’m sorry to say that my cursive writing hasn’t improved much since third grade.
Although I like to write, I tend to rush instead of taking my time, which results in a somewhat messy penmanship. If I really take my time, my writing will be a little neater, but it also doesn’t really look like mine.
I’ve been thinking about writing lately because I’ve handwritten some letters and I keep a small journal that I write by hand. For years I kept a daily journal by hand, but I switched to typing it a few years back when I realized that capturing the thought had become more important to me than the style in which the thought was captured.
However, I think handwriting is tremendously important and I suspect it’s become sort of a lost art.
With our emphasis on computers and electronics for communication, I’m sure that many of us go entire days without actually writing complete sentences by hand.
Does this matter?
I think it does.
Handwriting is personal. Everyone’s handwriting is unique and I can look at writing and not even look at what the words say and I’ll know it’s mine. (If you'd like to read this blog post in my handwriting, click here.)
An aside: What’s the point of an unreadable signature? Aren’t signatures supposed to indicate that a particular person has seen or agreed to something? If I sign my name as (unintelligible scratch) how the hell does anyone know that I’m the one who signed it? Sure, I could verify that it’s my signature, but if I’m there to verify then they don’t need my signature in the first place. When did unreadable signatures become the cool standard?
In my various jobs over the years I’ve noticed that the great majority of people use a gibberish signature. I don’t think it makes them look cool or important. Instead it makes me think that they think that they’re so busy that they can’t take the time to sign their name legibly. I’m sure some think their nonsense signatures are their own unique style that separates them from everyone else. The irony, of course, is that anyone can duplicate some non-descript squiggles, but it’s more difficult to copy a legible signature.
Handwriting also forces us to think. It takes longer than typing, so we have to think about what we want to say as we’re constructing the sentence. Plus, there’s the actual physical act of writing. We use more of our brain to tell our fingers to make the slight movements to form letters than we do to tell them to simply press down on keys.
Our handwriting also can remind us of when something was written. I recently wrote a letter over the course of ten hours during which I was sober, partially drunk, drunk, tired, and then well-rested. My handwriting changed throughout.
Decades from now I might look at this post and think that it looks like a young person’s writing. No doubt I can tell when an old person has written something.
I also think handwriting is much more personal than allowing some predesigned font to convey a message. Not only does the unique writing style of a person come through, but since writing takes longer, we’re actually giving more of ourselves when we write something than when we type it.
I’m not foolish enough to think that we’ll ever go back to a time when people write more than they type. But I think we’d all benefit from writing at least a few hundred words by hand everyday.
Warning: You probably have not written by hand regularly in quite some time. Your writing muscles have grown lazy. Don’t let this stop you. Write a little everyday and the soreness will disappear.
And for the love of all that is holy, please sign your name so a stranger can read it!
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