Friday, October 16, 2009

The Art of Handwriting

Handwriting appears to be a dying form. National commentary has sometimes focused on why we continue to teach handwriting in schools to our children since we are in the "digital" age and using a computer is a far easier way to get things done. Umberto Eco, the world-famous novelist, even wrote an article lamenting the lost art of handwriting.

This saddens me, and not because I am a history lover who treasures old things, but because I feel we will lose a fundamental part of who we are as human beings if we leave handwriting by the wayside.

Our handwriting says a lot about us. There are handwriting experts out there that can decipher the type of person you are, your health issues, your past experiences, hidden talents, etc, just from how you write. That's an awful lot of information! But when you stop and think about it, our handwriting is as individual as we are. We move the pen or pencil across the paper in a certain way, making unique loops and swirls that showcase our originality.

While I love my computer keyboard for allowing me to write much faster than I can with just pen and paper (plus editing is a breeze without that pesky white-out!), I also cling to my old-fashioned paper and pen. I even went so far as to buy a quill feather pen, ink, and parchment paper to experience how those of yesteryear wrote letters and novels and stories. It's something I think everyone should do at least once so that you may truly appreciate the art of handwriting.

And that's just it - it is art. Calligraphy is essentially the art of handwriting, but I'd like to argue that even ordinary, everyday handwriting is art. When I sit down to write in my journal and let my pen flow over the paper, I marvel at how I create words with all these different angles and curves and swoops. It's actually quite amazing.

When is the last time you looked at your handwriting? Played with it? Wrote your name over and over, making it look fancy or goofy or serious or fun? Maybe sometime in the near future, grab a nice pen, one that flows well when writing (I'm a big fan of the gel pens) and just start writing. Don't become a slave to technology. While the computer keyboard and the Blackberry and the cell phone have improved our lives, they've also robbed us of part of our personality, the personality that comes through in our handwriting. And don't even get me started on how these devices have butchered the English language and our inability to write complete sentences. (Fine examples include: C u ltr or U c me? GAH!!!).

Thankfully, my daughter's school still teaches handwriting, and my daughter has even won prizes from her teacher for her excellent handwriting ability. That makes me extremely proud. I want her to know how to write. And you can be sure that I'm going to put off buying that cell phone for her for as long as I can get away with it.


  1. I admit, I heart my keyboard. A lot. And I don't heart my handwriting. Why? I've never been able to do cursive well. My mother has beautiful cursive--the kind you see on embossed cards and invitations. Mine looks like chicken scratches. But there is a beauty in the hand on the page.
    I'll try to appreciate mine more.

  2. To be honest, I hate handwriting. Some of my bitterest memories of school revolve around penmanship. I am a poor writer. My cursive is dreadful and nothing I can do will change that, I tried. My kids are the same way.

    Handwriting is no longer required at my kids' school. While I would like them to be taught, I do not want it to be a gradeable part of the curriculum.

    Cursive was never meant to be an artform. The curves and loops were designed for function and speed. The slant of cursive saves paper, the smooth loops and curves are for faster writing. I have not used cursive since jr. high. Once I hit high school, we were expected to turn in printed or typed papers. And in certainly in college I could never have turned in an handwritten paper no matter how pretty I wrote.

    If you enjoy it, its a lovely way to communicate. But I certainly don't miss it. I'm such an unromantic.

  3. I much prefer a keyboard - for reasons you mentioned, but yet I don't want to give up my handwriting, either. I think both are crucial to life as a writer, as well as to a person in today's society. Yeah, maybe places are trying to push it out, but I still write checks! It's there. Few and far between, but it's there.

  4. My 14-year-old niece was never taught cursive in school. I find it rather appalling that it's not even taught. I mean hand writing isn't completely outdated yet (checks, thank you cards, your signature on documents...). I don't know how she takes notes in high school having to print... and her printing is not particularly legible. Sometimes, when I'm sick of my computer monitor, I'll take a pad of paper and go write story longhand for awhile, just to get a change of scenery and use different muscles. But my handwriting is fairly neat, and I do enjoy the feel of doing it.

  5. Oddly enough, my daughters' elementary school stressed handwriting, not printing--much easier for the kids to execute. We're a rare breed, I guess.

  6. In school I was the best in my class for handwriting. I still correct my daughter for sloopy handwriting in her school work, I believe it displays laziness.

    You have raised a valid point!

    Happy writing...

  7. I used to have perfect penmanship until I got pregnant. Now I can barely read my writing and hate to write for real. You are so right about loving to read a person through their handwriting. I think all anyone would get from mine right now is stress!!:)

  8. These comments are all so fascinating. I love how we all have such different viewpoints on this.

    I wouldn't trade in my keyboard for anything, that's for sure. But I do find that I almost crave holding a pen in my hand and writing on good old fashioned paper. It somehow connects me more to the work. I wish I could write my stories in longhand - I just can't anymore. The words come too fast for my pen to keep up with.

  9. I'm glad they still teach handwriting, and make a point of handwriting letters to my mother occasionally (she lives overseas), as I think it's so much more exciting to receive a hand written letter than an email.

    That said, my handwriting - even when I think I'm being careful - is not very good at all.

  10. Another lost art, like conversation. Sad.

    My kids were "the last people on the planet to get a cell phone" and then texting...which they all must pay for themselves. :)

  11. Handwriting is gone from our schools here. And from two of my four kids' lives. Truthfully, mine has always been deplorable too and I've always regretted that.

  12. I enjoy modern technology, but I also miss hand-written letters. Sometimes I still write and send letters for the fun of it. And as much as I enjoy blogs, I couldn't do without my hand-written journals.

  13. At our private school cursive is taught starting in kindergarten. At first I wondered if it was too early but then I did a little bit of research and found a lot of great info on cursive writing and brain development. The research is very interesting and now no one can convince me cursive is not absolutely essential and important that it be taught as early as possible.

  14. I used to have pretty handwriting but it's deteriorated--too much note-taking in college at break-neck speed, too much writing in charts at work. I always wanted handwriting as beautiful as my mother's. I still practice one of the oddities she was taught in NY public school in the '30s--leaving the cross off the any "t" that ends a word and substituting a spiky bottom serif instead. I've never seen anyone else do it--maybe it's an East Coast thing?


I love to hear from you!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!