28 October 2010

[type] The Dying Art Of Handwriting?

Handwriting makes the news again.

According to the story in The Oregonian (at http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2010/10/most_college_students_print_as.html), fewer and fewer students are writing in cursive or cursive-style handwriting, most preferring to "print", or use a manuscript style. Citing a PSU professor, of a recent assignment which 17 essays were turned in, only two were written cursively.

I'm of a certain mind about why it's important to have some sort of handwriting style, or at least be unafraid to do so. The professor mentioned above, Richard Christen, has an interesting slant (so to speak) on it:
What most concerns Christen, who has studied the history of handwriting, is the loss of the aesthetic qualities of handwriting with its descent into cold print. Cursive writing in its flourishes and graceful strokes expresses an artistic beauty that goes beyond its utility and gives artistic experience to those who use it, he says. Students today "are not doing this kind of craftsmanship activity that they used to do on a daily basis," he says.
This is something that puts into words whatever I feel when I do do handwriting, which is something I attempt to do at least once a day in my diaries. I only partly do it to capture my days - I also do it because in these days when drawing inspiration is hard to come by, there's something ineffable about putting pen to paper and drawing letters - writing - that I just crave. It feels good. It's productive creation.

The next graf, if the previous graf did nothing to convince why handwriting is a good thing to do, should break through on practical considerations:
They also may be losing an edge in their learning. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity say handwriting, whether print or cursive, engages more of the brain in learning and forming ideas.
So if you like having brain, if for no other reason, a good artistic handwriting style will commend itself to you.

All the rest is just aesthetic preference. I adore italic, such as the type promoted by the highly-underappreciated Fred Eager and the similar-but-subtly-different style promoted by Dubay and Getty. I don't much care for the cursive styles such as D'Nealian and Zaner-Bloser (these look very much like the schoolroom-cursive your teacher probably gave up on teaching you by about seventh-grade) but that doesn't mean they can't be made beautifully (and, as I said, it's strictly an aesthetic consideration after a certain point anyway).

But I would advocate that, whoever you are, it's never too late - or unnecessary - to learn cursive writing. It's a kind of art that is open to all, and all you have to do is get out a piece of paper and try it.

And if you do it well enough - trust me on this - people will admire you and compliment you. And when's the last time you got a compliment these days? Especially on art you've produced, hmmm? And you don't have to learn how to even draw stick figures for this, and who knows? Maybe you'll be the next Samuel Pepys.

Although the way they're talking about handwriting "going extinct" makes me feel like I'm one of those aboriginal tribes who have a dying language that only two or three elders speak.

So get out a piece of paper, find a handwriting style you can enjoy (there are many graphics on the intarweb that you can download and print) and just try something! It's good for you.

Though if you get Fred Eager's book, you'll get example and exercise sheets to copy. And that's invaluable.

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KateGladstone said...

As one Italic enthusiast to another — and sharing your concern about handwriting's possible demise in the computer age — I thought you'd like to know that there's now (of all things) an iPad app teaching Italic handwriting. (So far, I've co-designed only the monoline-pen version -- my business partner and I will soon be at work on the calligraphic-pen version).

The app is called BETTER LETTERS, and further info is here: http://adf.ly/135205/betterletters

Kate Gladstone
Director of the World Handwriting Contest
CEO and Handwriting Specialist of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works: teaching Italic handwriting since 1996 — http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com or http://adf.ly/135205/handwriting

Samuel John Klein said...

Well, you're to be admired and applauded for trying to see to it that handwriting has a place going forward into the kind-of-cold future.

Nicely done.

No iPad here, sadly, we're a bit short of that kind of discrectionary spending. But if I had an iPad, I'd sure give it a workout!

KateGladstone said...

Oh, my app also works on the iPhone and iPodTouch.