Handwriting — who needs it?

Is handwriting really needed any more? Kids around the world are forgetting how to handwrite — because all of the writing we do is on the computer. It’s a familiar story. Every time we went back to school after the long summer break, my friends and I would all comment that the most difficult thing was getting used to writing again. “I haven’t had to write anything for about two months!” So every year our handwriting would get a little bit worse.

That wasn’t just because we were using computers all the time. It was just that there really isn’t much need to write at all is there? The only thing I can think of is letter writing. But how often do you do that? Once a year, if that? Maybe, back in the day, people wrote letters to each other. Nowadays people keep in touch by IM or text message. Or, if you’re really old-fashioned, by email. No need to lift a pen.

It’s sensible for me just to avoid writing altogether because my handwriting is a complete mess, and it has been probably since I started secondary school. My lowercase letters are all over the place. If I’m not careful, my ‘b’ looks like an ‘S’, my ‘a’ and ‘o’ both look like an ‘e’, my ‘i’ looks like an ‘l’, my ‘g’ looks like a ‘y’, ‘m’ looks like an ‘n’. And ‘v’ and ‘u’ look exactly the same.

The article says, “Teenagers are still experimenting with their handwriting and trying out new things”. The shocking thing is, I’m not a teenager, and I’m still experimenting with my handwriting. I could cope with all of the other things because I could understand myself what I was writing. But when my ‘v’ and ‘u’ began to look the same I had to take action. In the past couple of months I’ve actually added on a tail to my ‘u’. I never used to add tails because I thought they were a waste of time. Now they are how I tell a ‘u’ (or a ‘U’) from a ‘v’ (or ‘V’).

It became necessary because a lot of the equations I have to use at university involve a u or a v — often in the same place, meaning subtly different things. But I can’t be confusing them or I will get myself… well, confused. At the same time I’m coping with how to write Greek letters. Before it was just π in maths and the occasional μ in physics.

Now, in economics, I have to grapple regularly with Σ, θ, δ, γ, α and the dreaded σ. When you’re struggling with the Latin alphabet, the last thing you want to do is work out how to write a σ (my ‘σ’ actually looks like ‘δ’!).

Whenever I have to handwrite a note or something, I always write it in all capitals. Not print, though, because I am such a lazy bastard that I can’t even be bothered to write neatly in block capitals. My capitals used to be neat — when I was in primary school. But when my lowercase letters became illegible and I moved on to using capitals instead — well, of course my capitals became illegible as well. Nevertheless, it is the least-worst option. Although I always have to apologise and explain that I’m not shouting!

I don’t have a signature either. Well I do, but it’s basically just a scrawl. I’ve tried practicing writing my name, but I think I am actually physically incapable of doing it. It looks kind of like “D____ Sl_____”. Distinctive, in a way, but it’s just a scrawl. Some people are genuinely shocked by my signature.

Despite my uneasy relationship with handwriting, I find it absolutely fascinating. It’s interesting to note how different people can take such radically different approaches to writing the same symbols. My friend and I had a discussion about somebody else. I just said, “I like her ‘a’s.” My friend thought I was using some kind of secret man-code euphemism. But no. I genuinely like her lowercase ‘a’.

Maybe that’s why I don’t have a girlfriend.

Via Digg.


  1. […] Doctor Vee’s post about handwriting caused me to think about the scrawl that passes as my handwriting. As I pointed out in his comments; I use a fountain pen. Old habits die hard. We are supposed to be able to analyse ourselves by the way we write… Ahem, so, let’s look at the scrawl in question; below and see what comes up: […]

  2. Twenty years ago, I found myself in the same bad-handwriting “boat” that you now endeavor to steer. May I offer you some help (based on my own experiences since then) to reach something better than your present scribal “least-bad” option? If so, please visit the Handwriting Repair web-site at http://learn.to/handwrite