So, Gentle Reader, when did you last write a letter? A handwritten one? Me? I still struggle when drafting thank-yous’ after receiving presents, so when I do, it generally turns out looking like a car crash.
So why, are schools across the western world phasing out the teaching of traditional, joined-up writing; focusing instead on the ‘imitation’ of printed letters while concentrating on “developing digital skills”? Such a basic skill seems to be going the way of hand signals when driving, and sewing on buttons. And last year a poll found that a third of participants hadn’t put proper pen to paper in six months, seeing no need to. Why use five fingers when a thumb will do? Why risk indecipherability when any fool can read txt?
This insidious trait does worry me. No ‘LOL’s’ here.
Writing is a language, and a beautiful one. Anyone who thought the written word would die out with the explosion of mobile phones was just plain wrong, but in preferring to text, it allows us to be removed, safer, and less committed to any consequences.
If we no longer have to write by hand, why try? Now that we can talk into our mobiles and see what we say printed out, in time there will be no need to use pen, ink and paper, or to fumble over the QWERTY keyboard. WRONG.
For all that, handwriting remains one of the few practical handicrafts that we continue to use. It connects hand and brain in a task of active engagement: what used to be called penmanship, and it’s an act of pure aesthetic creation.
In China a mastery of characters is thought to be essential for a cultured person. To watch someone write the worlds loveliest scripts – such as Hindi, Arabic, Persian, and Thai or indeed, demonstrate the wonder of Mediaeval Latin – is to watch the most fluid human artistry. The glory of English handwriting is its chaotic expressiveness; the outward entity that is part of an individual personality. In signing my name; in leaving a unique and indecipherable squiggle, I am leaving my own private hieroglyph.
And what I am sure of is that any communication confined to printed fonts loses a wealth of significance in translation.
Perhaps paper is on the way out, and on-screen handwriting will prevail. But new scripts and spellings will evolve. Writing will change and evolve into new forms, just like any language,
Just please, let it be beautiful.