Thursday, March 05, 2009


I was once voted person with the nicest handwriting. To be fair, there were only four of us present. (And we are a group of friends who will derive more fun inventing a complex voting systems to decide which DVD we’re going to watch, than the actual watching of the DVD.) One of us has mad handwriting (HPoP) and you should see the way she holds the pen; one writes like a serial killer (TA) and Husband is left handed. Enough said really; I only won by default.

I used to write long, long letters to pen friends. It was the same as liking the sound of your own voice, only in writing… (Hey, blog readers, you’re free to come and go; my poor pen pal had to read them and answer!) I used to love the way the texture of the paper changed when I’d filled it with writing – particularly biro words. The pressure of a biro does something delectable to the paper and it goes all crinkly. Life just isn’t the same with those modern gel pens.

Sometimes I come over all traditional and get my ink pen out. I’ll start writing and about four lines down, my handwriting will disintegrate into a hideous murdered spider sprawl. Thinking about it, there are three doctors in my family… do you think I could blame the handwriting genes which surely come with the doctoring gene? You've seen those prescriptions, right?

I have a friend who has recently left me handwritten notes as she hands over a job to me. She is from Louisiana and is twenty five odd years older than I am. Despite being from different continents and of different generations, we both write in Roman script and yet I can’t read her writing. I mean, it’s almost illegible to me. Not because she's untidy, or like me has lost the ability, but because of the style she was taught.

So this article, on the death of handwriting, had me hyperventilating. The idea that in a hundred years we might need an expert to decipher early 21st century handwriting actually makes me feel a bit sick. And I can see how that might come true.


Lane said...

I certainly don't have the stamina to handwrite as I used to. Do you remember getting a lump on your middle finger after writing a long essay?
At school we had to write with osmiroid fountain pens, all with the same width calligraphy nib. I still write like that but like you, only for about four lines.

And yes, gel pens are pants!

JJ Beattie said...

Lane, I do, and Osmiroid, cooo, that takes me back. I can't believe we wrote essays for three hours in exams... Like using a slate and chalk, huh?

ChrisH said...

Oh Blimey, Lane's comment brings back memories.. and exactly that pressure to write quickly in exams that I blame for my terrible writing now. Well, that's my excuse!

HelenMHunt said...

My father was once told by his university tutor that his handwriting was like a drunken spider crawling across the page! Equally though, I have a friend who is a teacher, and his handwriting is absolutely exquisite but totally unreadable. Interesting topic.

I love gel pens :)

Yvonne said...

A teacher at school made us write all our essays by hand, even the really long ones - mainly because he'd typed all his uni assignments and therefore his exam papers were an illegible scrawl.

I can see why the death of handwriting would upset people, but some of the comments make a good point, lots of other writing techniques have died a death and we haven't missed them (like the cuneiform - sounds awful!)

Leigh said...

God, this is so true. I have a Boston-born friend who has beautiful, but almost completely illegible, handwriting. And French handwriting I find hard too, though equally lovely to look at. My handwriting looks like I have a bad case of writer's cramp, but I love the feel of pen and ink. Biros, despite making the paper feel lovely, leave my letters looking like a drunken spider has wandered over them.