Cursive Catastrophe

I totally identified with Mary Ellen Bates’ thoughts on whether handwriting has become obsolete. She relays that children aren’t required to learn cursive in school anymore; instead, they now learn to type. Yikes! Although I learned to write in cursive when I was young, I admit I have never had nice handwriting. Like Mary Ellen,

“…my penmanship is so bad that I print my handwritten notes, and my signature looks like the scrawl of a third grader. But I still swoon when I see nice handwriting and dream of one day having the time to practice my cursive writing. Yes, I’m a nerd.”

In fact, it’s not just my cursive that looks ridiculous, it’s any writing I do on paper. While I used to journal by hand and write letters to friends, these days those have been replaced by blogging and emails. I am a semi-decent typist, but I physically write so rarely nowadays that it’s no wonder my handwriting is so atrocious. When I do sit down to physically write for any length of time, my hand gets tired embarrassingly quickly.

And I’ll admit my spelling skills have taken a giant hit, too. As a child, I was a good enough speller to make it into the city-wide spelling bee, but today, WordPress has alerted me to three misspellings in this post alone. Let’s pretend they were all typos, though 😉

At one of the law firms I used to work at, there was an articling student (who went on to become an associate) who freely and frequently sent hand-written thank-you notes to anyone who’d done something nice for him. There were people who teased him (lightheartedly, for the most part), but hey, I still remember the guy because of this, almost a decade later. Cursive or not, hand-written notes are rare these days — rarer still in law firms — and it was such a small, but thoughtful action; a tangible, personal expression of gratitude and connection. It’s always nice to receive a thank-you note, but hand-written ones really stand out.

What is lost when we stop writing on paper and committing spelling rules to heart, and start focusing entirely on a screen, typing skills, and built-in dictionaries? It doesn’t bode well. According to the WSJ article that Bates cites,

“Typing doesn’t help the brain develop as much as writing in longhand, a tactile means of expression with roots in scratching on cave walls, argues handwriting analyst Michelle Dresbold. With typing, the fingers make repetitive movements rather than connect shapes, she said.

“It’s a very natural process to take a crayon or a rock and make symbols with your hand,” Ms. Dresbold said. “It’s just bringing down things from your brain.” Without that, “children are not thinking as thoroughly.””

The only way to reclaim these skills is to practice. Maybe I’ll dig out a paper journal and practice my cursive tonight.

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