Friday, February 27, 2009

"The writing's on the wall"

Here is an interesting BBC News article entitled "The slow death of handwriting." I can't help but agree with the article's assertion that the art (and, yes, it is an art) of handwriting is fading quickly under the glare of computer monitors.

I remember learning to write in cursive in elementary school. Several students would take turns going to the blackboard at the front of the classroom, clasping the chalk, and slowly copying the flourished letters. Additionally, I tried to teach myself calligraphy with some old pens, colored inks, and a guidebook that I found in our house from goodness knows what decade. I wrote precisely in the script form for a long time, but by now my capital "Fs" and Ts" and Ss" are not as correct as I learned them. However, I often get compliments on my handwriting, though I will admit that I do not write by hand nearly as often as I did while still in school.

My job often requires me to decipher manuscript revisions proposed by authors, written in their personal handwriting on hard copies. I cannot count the number of times that the illegible handwriting has baffled me and required a follow-up e-mail for clarification.

I also cannot remember the last handwritten letter I received. Most any handwritten mail I get today is in the form of holiday or birthday cards with a short note scrawled beneath the printed text. I miss receiving handwritten letters, and I miss writing them (although, the problem boils down to, who has the time when e-mail and text messages are so darn convenient?). I would be beside myself to receive an antiquated, pages-long handwritten love note from Husband, but, in the spirit of the true geek that he is, I should probably just settle for a love e-mail instead.

My deceased paternal grandmother (an English teacher and editor of her college newspaper, go figure) was a prolific letter writer. After she lost her vision, my family even hired another woman come in and write letters as she dictated them. I wonder how I will appear to my children or grandchildren through my legacy of prose. Will a piece of me by obscured by the lack of beautiful, personal handwriting? They will surely never see the many e-mails I send to friends or stories I have typed out and saved on my computer.

Today, handwriting has become a scarce commodity. Brides hire professional calligraphers to address their wedding invitations, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, simply because they were never taught this art. This practice would probably seem absurd just a century ago. It seems we will soon revert to illegibly childish hieroglyphics to communicate with one another and leave for the future in handwritten form.

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