If you are anything like me, your handwriting is, um, less than ideal. The word “scrawl” may be bandied about, and jokes about illegibility abound. (Though, in this regard, I truly am my father’s daughter.) It’s not just me, though. It’s practically an epidemic. I’ve often said that if a genie offered me three wishes, I’d take the first two to ask for health and prosperity for me and my family, and for the third, I’d ask for fast, beautiful, legible handwriting.
Why? Well, first, schools don’t seem to teach penmanship anymore. Once a child can spell out the alphabet and has learned cursive script–somewhere around third grade–the entire subject is more or less dropped from the curriculum. As soon as you look at other countries, the differences grow–Different styles, different ways of forming letters. Just to make things more fun.
Of course, we are all such rampant individualists these days, we pride ourselves on being special and unique (as, of course, we are) and so the idea of distinctive handwriting has an innate appeal. Why shape your “D” just like the person next to you when you can write it unlike anybody else? Except that, unfortunately, that “unique” handwriting all too often means “illegible to anybody but you,” which can be a little problematic.
And then, of course, the biggest reason–we just don’t write by hand that much any more. Keyboards are everywhere. We type e-mails. We type memos. We type book manuscripts. We type reminders to pick up milk on the way home from work. And when we’re not sitting at a computer or typewriter, we’re sending text messages on our telephones.
So, not only are we typing the vast majority of what we’re writing these days, the mere fact that we do means that our fine-motor skills for hand-writing are getting flabby. I can touch-type at about 70 words a minute, which is respectable enough, but put a pen in my hand? Well, not only is that going to be slower, but it’s not going to be particularly legible, either. It’s a catch-22.The more I type, the lazier my writing muscles get. The lazier my hand gets, the worse my penmanship gets. The worse my penmanship gets, the more I type out of sheer necessity. The more I type … you get the picture. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.
What do you think? How good is your penmanship these days?