Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yes, I'm lazy but I wanted to share this article...

And I promise to provide a 'real' post soon. I swear. Cross my heart.

Although this article on the lost of art of handwriting is a few days old and it's likely illegal to copy and paste someone else's work into a blog post, I thought I'd share it as it's a sentiment that I completely agree and identify with (minus judging people). I do recognize the irony of posting an article on handwriting on a blog, but nonetheless, I too am sad that handwriting appears to be going by the wayside. I still love receiving letters and cards in the mail and going to the mailbox is still something I look forward to everyday - as a kid receiving a letter or card was the absolutely highlight of my week.

Anyways, having read India Knight's piece, I am now going to make a more concerted effort to send friends and family hand written letters and cards - it's a nice friendly way to stay in touch and selfishly, it'll be a good way to practice my handwriting :)

Here's the article without further adieu:

From The Sunday Times May 23, 2010 (

The kiss of death for romance
by India Knight

I judge people by their handwriting, which isn’t an especially nice thing to do but can’t really be helped: it’s one of those tiny snap judgments you make almost subconsciously, like the ones about shoes or ties.

If people’s handwriting is terrible — “thick people’s handwriting”, as I uncharmingly call it in my head — they can slide down a notch or six in my estimation; they risk a complete cull if they are older than 14 and dot their “i”s with fat circles (I’m a bit sniffy about fat, round letters generally). This isn’t remotely fair, but there you go; snap judgments seldom are.

Imagine my horror, then, on discovering that I now have thick people’s handwriting myself. I’m writing a book at the moment and last week something struck me as I was sitting in a cafe. I was without a laptop but I did have a (paper) notebook on me, so I started writing by hand.

First two pages of A4: no problem. Third page: thick people’s handwriting with knobs on — I might as well have been using my toes. My hand ached almost immediately; two more pages and my fingers had practically gone into spasm. Worse, when I got home, I could make out only one word out of 10 in the last few pages. I felt as if I was trying to decipher a doctor’s prescription, except the scrawl was my own.

Like everyone of my generation, and the generations before mine, I used to write reams without thinking twice about it. School essays went on for pages and pages without any discernible loss of calligraphic ability. University essays were practically books; you’d rub or shake out your hand every 5,000 words and just carry on. Novelists wrote in longhand — in fact, I know a couple who still do. Everybody wrote all the time — notes, letters, postcards, instructions, essays, schoolwork, billets doux.

Now nobody does — not even someone like me, who spends all day writing for a living. The only things I handwrite, I realised last week, are shopping lists, birthday cards and my signature on the odd cheque. Everything else is typed. (The other weird thing is that I can’t organise my thoughts properly on paper any more. They make sense only if I can see them before me on a computer screen. I’m sure it means some important hand-eye part of my brain is slowly atrophying.) I love technology more than most but this is really a pitiful state of affairs. A love email — or a love text — is never going to be the same as a pen-and-paper love letter of the kind you carry around with you until it disintegrates. The letter you’ve always wanted to write to your dying father loses something by being delivered via Outlook with a cheerful “ping!”; the diary you keep electronically will never have the emotional heft of the bulging, tattered five-year version you had as a teenager; an ecard isn’t the same as a Valentine.

It isn’t just the sadness of all of the above that concerns me (which it does — it’s a loss of the poetic, a loss of romance on a vast scale). It’s also the fact that we’re forgetting how to write — how to hold a pen and form aesthetically pleasing letters.

Does this matter? Well, yes: if you believe — I do — that beauty brings little darts of pleasure into your day, that a beautifully addressed envelope gladdens the heart. Then, yes, it matters a lot.

You pick your font carefully when you type, or you may even pay some absurd company a fortune to come up with a logo and typeface for you, so it seems mad not to apply the same care to your handwriting. (This is particularly noticeable when you get a typed letter on beautifully designed, letterheaded notepaper — everything made just so, to convey a particular impression — and find, three-quarters of the way down the page, that the sender signs his name like a monkey.) I’m constantly having a go at my older children about their handwriting, which actually makes me feel ashamed on their behalf. They, in turn, are constantly pointing out that nobody “needs” handwriting any more — not when you can type your homework and email it in.

Of course, even that’s going to change: by the time they’re at university, nobody will type by pushing keys — the exertion! — any more. We’ll all be gently stroking our touchpads, and presumably human beings will eventually end up with tiny withered hands that have giant, splayed, spatula-like fingertips.

A survey of 1,188 British schoolchildren aged 7-14, by the charity World Vision, found last week that one-fifth had never received a handwritten letter and one-tenth had never written a letter themselves. In the previous week alone, almost half of the children questioned had either sent or received an email or a message on a social networking site.

This is better than nothing — it’s communication, after all — and although some of the messages or emails will have been in phonetic text-speak, at least the social networking sites are full of voluble grammar Nazis. And I like the fact that children can type — if I were boss of the world, all children would be taught to touch-type at the age of five.

They would also be taught how to write properly, with care and attention given to letter formation, and encouraged to send letters and cards. It’s nice to email your granny — but how much better to send her something you sat down and wrote thoughtfully, rather than dashed off in 30 seconds; something that caused you to find a stamp and meant you bothered to walk to the post box.

Writing is magical when you think about it: you can communicate anything you like just by drawing a sequence of little loops and squiggles, and anyone who honestly believes that the loops and squiggles don’t have a ton more charm than Times New Roman has a section of their brain missing. Handwriting a letter is usually an act of love, which no one could ever say about typing.

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