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Handwriting: Legibility Issues

Handwriting: Legibility Issues

IMG_1617 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?

This is the third post in my series on Handwriting. The first post, on the act of writing is here, and the second, on the personal touch, is here.

7 thoughts on “Handwriting: Legibility Issues

  1. J

    I have pretty decent handwriting, actually. But I took a lot of pride in developing it, back in Jr. High, and then making it ‘my own’ as you say, in High School.

    My mom and my brother both have nearly illegible handwriting, though, which may have been part of my motivation for actually caring.

    J’s last blog post..Have You Ever Had it Blue?

  2. --Deb Post author

    Mine was better in high school, started going down-hill in college from sheer overuse and trying to keep up with note-taking in lectures, but it’s the last few years when I simply don’t hand-write much stuff that it’s gotten really bad. Not truly awful, mind you, but … bad. Sigh.

  3. amanda

    My handwriting depends on the situation – when I’m writing for myself, it can be pretty darn illegible. However, if someone else needs to read it, I can write fairly neatly. I’m one of those few people whose signature is actually readable. My boss on other hand – his handwriting is absolutely hieroglyphic. He literally has his own letters – scrawls – that you have to learn before his writing is readable. And he can’t blame computers either – he hates the things!

    amanda’s last blog post..the view from my window

  4. Pingback: Punctuality Rules! » Blog Archive » Handwriting: Improving Legibility

  5. Rob O.

    Having been out of school (and maybe a little out of touch) for many, mnay years, I was stunned to discover not too long ago that elementary schools have dropped cursive writing from their curriculums altogether.


    Now sure, in this increasingly more computer-centric world, there may not often be a call for this, but still… I can say for certain, now that I’m a parent and have a bit more credible frame of reference, that I’d still prefer my child learn cursive writing than instant messaging, PowerPoint presentation-making, or any of a handful of the other computer-based stuff the schools are foisting on young children now.

  6. --Deb Post author

    My niece and nephew (18 and 14) WERE taught cursive in school, but I can’t say that they had penmanship lessons for very long … My own (these many years ago) ended in 6th grade; theirs ended somewhere around 3rd grade. Sad, sad, sad….

  7. Shub

    The fact that computers and texting are tarnishing our finger muscles and consequentially our legibility, is so darn true! Earlier, in school days, my writing was the worst in comparison to all my classmates. But owing to my unique obession of developing a free-flowing, and beautiful handwriting, I practiced cursive writing in school. But it wasn’t before college that I happened to develop the so-called legible handwriting that I had such a fixation about..I’m still working on it so I could one day have those British-archaic styles of writing…