UnscriptedI'm part of the last generation for whom handwriting was taught as a vital skill. All through school, it was an important part of our lives: you had good handwriting, or you had bad handwriting – at some level, the way you wrote was a part of you, and was judged. That identification with my own script has never left me.From a review of Script and Scribble : The Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey
A couple of days ago I asked well-known local writer Dave Jardine if he could remember the last time he handwrote a letter, went to the post office, bought some stamps, licked them and pasted them on an envelope before consigning his missive to snail mail.
He thought, and then told me that it might have been eighteen months ago.
It may well be longer for me. And you?
When I went to teacher training college I had a fairly well-developed style, but I was then coached, drilled almost, in the nicely rounded print style developed by Marion Richardson, mainly as an aid for young children. An example can be seen here in the banner. It's easy to see from afar and may be the reason that I prefer sans serif to serif, Arial to Times New Roman
, for all my two fingered typing.
Having spent all but fifteen years of my adult life outside my home country, I've generally kept a diary to remind me where I've been or, as with Jakartass, where I am. I spent a year or so backpacking around the world in the late-80's and every month I'd write, or have compiled, a missive for Son.No.1 back 'home'. It was, if I say so myself, highly legible. In fact, my first teaching job in inner London back in 67 was, as the headmaster told me, partly because he liked my handwriting. Whether he'd submitted my application letter to a graphologist, as Eisha Sarkar did
, I don't know.
My pen of choice was a Platinum fountain pen
, firstly with a small lever on the side which squeezed a rubber sac inside to create a vacuum in order to suck up ink, probably Parker Quink in blue or black. Later one could buy cartridges. These pens were a great advance on the nibs attached to a short stick which one dipped into an inkwell fitted in our school desks. These primitive upgrades of the feathered quills used by our forefathers also made fairly dangerous darts. Being being picked as ink monitor was almost a mark of prestige.
Later came disposable ballpoints and with them came a drop in handwriting standards. As there was less friction needed to be applied to the paper one tended to scrawl. As a teacher, later I noticed that using chalk instead of whiteboards and markers produces a similar effect. Incidentally, it was as a kid that I observed that chalk left brown stains on the teachers' fingers. I thought it was a bit of magic, of alchemy, not realising until much later that the job could be so stressful that it made many nicotine addicts of us.
Whatever, perhaps it's the need for greater control as well as the friction but handwriting needs more time to produce than digital txting and that time is generally well spent in thinking. Mind you, being able to cut and paste and instantly delete is certainly a boon in the production of prose and I'm not sure I'd have been able to rewrite Culture Shock-Jakarta without my home computer. The notion of wading through reams and screeds of prose in order to check what has already been written or researched is too daunting for me to consider, but Shakespeare and Dickens did it.
However, diarists such as Samuel Pepys would, of course, have kept a blog
In the past ten years or so, schooling authorities have determined that incessant testing is the key to egalitarian education. They're totally wrong with that notion, which must be the topic of another post, but multi-choice exams do not allow for anything other than the memorising of 'facts' from a set curriculum. Instant responses need instant tools.
Creativity and critical reasoning need a little extra time and handwriting gives time for reflection.
I've got a callous on the side of the top knuckle of my right middle finger. It took years of holding pens and pencils to acquire and I value it because it does take years to reach a definitive and personal, handwriting style. It's therefore part of my identity.
Can Twitterers say the same?