The extinction of writing by hand
Sunday, July 18th, 2021
Lately I’ve been thinking about all we’ve been missing with the extinction of writing by hand. The conspicuous losses jump first to mind: handwritten letters in hand-addressed envelopes, sticky notes on refrigerators, a cursive greeting in a holiday card penned neatly in a familiar hand. But there’ve been lesser, unintended losses, as the digital devices we’ve rushed to adopt have brought solutions to problems we never knew we had.
Now that so many of us are connected by wires (or wirelessly), communication is virtually immediate. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype can let us simply chat with one other—although that solution does require some scheduling. A quick email (my personal preference) can be dashed off anytime, to be read at once or later, depending. Approval can be communicated via a single emoji 👍. And we can choose these days from gazillions of memes to share more complex, subtle, and/or humorous thoughts.
Think of those littler details that once amused and surprised us: the note stuck under a windshield wiper, the words of love on a folded scrap of paper snuck into a jacket pocket, the doodled self-portrait or sketch of a cat in the margins of a handwritten letter that appears in our old-timey mailbox.
But Now We Have Phones
The iPhone hit the market a mere fourteen years ago, and already billions of us keep smartphones ever within arm’s reach. Why mess with pen and paper? Why monopolize the use of multiple fingers when you can simply use two thumbs?
What are our excuses for missing out on such things? The witchery of new technology? Lazy bones? A fixation on saving time?
Take, for instance, cursive or hand-lettered fonts that replicate real script. (Guilty as charged.) We need not even wield a writing instrument—no hand cramp, no inky fingers. Just specify a font and tap for a while on a keyboard, and you can pretend to have taken the time to respect your correspondent by composing a letter in longhand.
Oh, the irony. 😉
» Turns out handwriting does seem to lead to faster learning in kids.
» Hallmark introduces Sign & Send™, which lets users hand-write their own messages—then upload photos of those messages. (Why not just do it the old way? 🤔)
» In the olden days, some folks used handwritten postcards the way these days we use phone texts. Back when we weren’t in such a hurry.
» A handwritten message in a bottle gets delivered after nearly a century (sort of).
» Cursive instruction is still happening out there, as uplifting stories like this will attest.
» It seems the practice of writing by hand (like a lot of topics) can whip up quite the debate these days.
» Keeping a journal is good for your mental health—and handwriting that diary is even better.
» Finally, from North Country Public Radio, this story on a seminar titled “Technologies of Writing in the Age of Print.”
Tags: cursive instruction, cursive script, diary, handwriting, handwriting lessons, handwriting recognition, journal, journaling, longhand, pen and ink, penmanship, writing by hand