Saturday, July 11, 2015

Does Handwriting Have a Future?

Handwriting, that antique art form of loops and curves instilled in me in grade school, is rarely taught these days. My students print and sometimes can't read my cursive writing.  Of course, this is a minor problem in our changing world. Yet to people like me concerned with writing in its various dimensions, the shift in technology from old to new is important.

What is the point of handwriting? That is the title of a fine article (in Hazlitt) by Navneet Alang, who connects handwriting to the body and identity in fascinating ways.

First, I agree with his contention that cursive writing expresses feelings and personality in a way that the printed word cannot.  Even though some dismiss handwriting as a lost art, a crude form of writing, hopelessly outdated, or a sign of a bygone age, Alang shows that this form of writing is distinctly human and, what's more, helps one retain and understand what he or she is writing. Why? In part because it's slower.

And it has a future in 21st century technology:  the digital pen soon to be part of Microsoft's new Edge browser will let users write by hand atop web pages; so this antique writing, ignored by most English teachers over the past thirty years, may find a rebirth on screens.

While the speed and efficiency of typing on the computer will continue to dominate the way we write, capturing the speed of our thoughts, the slower pace of cursive writing and its personal impact have many benefits.

The author shows how studies of penmanship have an important bodily dimension, and how language, the body and the identity we create through writing come together. Fascinating!  Valuable!

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