A few months ago, I was reading the news online when I happened to stumble across this fascinating BBC article about handwriting which begins with the alarming statistic that one in three people haven’t written anything by hand within the last six months.
I was absolutely floored by this fact. I can’t even imagine what kind of superficial and/or dreary life you would have to lead in order to avoid something as basic as writing. The idea of relying on a computer or a phone for even something as basic as a simple note to yourself just seems unnecessarily convoluted.
Morbidly fascinated, I decided to do some more online research about the state of (English language) handwriting in the modern world and, reading comments below American articles like this one from 2013, I was shocked to learn that many people over the pond don’t even use joined-up writing any more. Apparently, it isn’t even really taught in that many schools over there either.
And, before anyone says anything, the only reason why I use block capitals in a lot of the stuff I post here is because it is the type of writing that is traditionally used for cartoons and comics. It’s instantly legible and it’s also easy to edit too (either traditionally or digitally). However, when it comes to writing quickly, writing at length or writing spontaneously, you can’t beat traditional handwriting.
This is possibly because the schools I went to were vaguely strict about handwriting (I mean, my old secondary school actually insisted on everyone using fountain pens, rather than ballpoints, until sometime in the early-mid 2000s).
Not to mention that, when I started sixth form college, I discovered narrow-ruled paper 🙂 It used to wind up some of my tutors to no end, but I could cram more of my small handwriting onto each page – which was really useful when essays were usually limited to the meagre length of just one page of A4.
In fact, until my early twenties, I actually vastly preferred handwriting to typing (I only really got good at typing quickly in my early-mid twenties). When I wrote fiction back then (and I used to write a lot more of it back then), I always used to handwrite it first before typing it.
Although I unfortunately had to give this up when I started writing slightly longer stories, it’s probably one of the best ways to write fiction. Not only does the first draft flow onto the page spontaneously, but you can also edit the first draft whilst you’re typing up the original manuscript. Plus, you actually have a physical manuscript too. I mean, although I lost a fair amount of my old fiction due to a serious computer crash in 2010, I didn’t really lose it since I still have the handwritten manuscripts for quite a lot of it.
These days, I enjoy both handwriting and typing in equal measure. Handwriting is useful for day-to-day stuff and typing is useful for, well, writing these articles. But, the idea of a future without handwriting fills me with a kind of cold, empty dread.
One of the great things about handwriting is it’s individuality. Your handwriting looks like, well, your handwriting. Although you can add some uniqueness to typed texts through your writing style or font choice, it just isn’t really quite the same as having unique handwriting.
After all, this article was originally typed in size 10 Arial on Microsoft WordPad and is currently being displayed in whatever the default font and letter size on this site happens to be. It looks exactly like a typed article. This means that it’s more legible, but it also means that it doesn’t really look particularly distinctive or unique.
Another cool thing about handwriting is that -for me at least- it’s slightly illegible when I write quickly. Yes, this can sometimes be a bit annoying when I’m writing something for someone else, since I usually either have to slow down or go over my writing again and re-write several of the letters. However, if I’m writing something for myself, then writing it in an illegible scrawl means that it’s harder for other people to read. It’s a type of encryption.
Another interesting thing is that, in theory, I shouldn’t like traditional handwriting. After all, I read quite a few online comments pointing out that joined-up/ cursive handwriting is supposedly more difficult for left-handed writers, since we push the pen across the page instead of pulling it across the page. Personally, I’ve never really had that much of a problem with this, since all you have to do to write quickly left-handed is to turn the page sideways before you start writing (so that you write using a diagonal or vertical arm movement, rather than a horizontal one).
Finally, there’s just something brilliantly physical about real writing. Although I enjoy the clacking keys on my traditional-style computer keyboard, even that doesn’t quite compare to the flowing spontaneity and sheer physicality of actually writing something. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂