The Death of Penmanship.

Have you looked at your handwriting lately?  It stinks!  Why?  Penmanship has become the vestigial tail of communication, and for the most part that’s ok.  We don’t really need penmanship the way we used to.  We’ve come to adopt the mindless physician signature, a whorl of unintelligible ink.  The proliferation of email and texts, spewed by computers, tablets and smartphones, has led not only to the death of penmanship, but the death of paper, too.  Goodbye penmanship and paper, keyboards and voice recognition software hath slain you.

Why am I all amped-up about penmanship’s death knell?  Well, one of my clients recently remarked that they couldn’t understand my handwriting.  Granted, it was a Monday, the weekend having afforded me an exemption from writing manually, but she was right–my penmanship was piss poor, a lawless thicket of hieroglyphs.  A former grade school recipient of multiple Best Penmanship awards, my handwriting now looks as if I’m writing from inside a Category 5 Hurricane.  You know you’re in trouble when you squint at your own scribble, wondering, what the hell is this?!

But what about a special occasion where fancy penmanship is highly desired, say….  a little kid’s name on a birthday cake?  Have you seen how crappy those things come out?!  Monogrammed cakes no longer reflect the recipient’s name, rather, they blind us with a full-blown circulatory system, a garish crisscrossing of frayed nerve endings.  Well, you ask, what about Calligraphy?  Surely there must be a need for pompous lettering somewhere, yes?  Spare me.  Download a cool font from, open a Word doc, make a damn stencil and you’re in business.

Truth be told, I do dabble in Calligraphy.  Anyone who’s ever received a card or gift from me will recognize my personal font.  It’s a bloated tangle rooted in the venerable Copperplate Gothic Bold.


Everyone needs one.

While I poke fun at this demise, the greatest death is our loss of novelistic history, books like The Devil in the White City and The Johnstown Flood.  Currently, historians are able to pore over our time-yellowed personal letters, manuscripts, diaries, log books, official missives, all in service of synthesizing our written history.  What will future Larson’s and McCullough’s draw from when writing novelistic history?  String together 140 character tweets?  A series of Facebook posts chronicling that natty Spring Break trip?  Future resources look bleak, save for the medium you’re reading now, a rich source from the everyday journalist: the blog.

Seriously, how’s your penmanship?

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4 Responses to The Death of Penmanship.

  1. Maralyn Kinch says:

    and you should watch the Nova presentation on the Dead Sea Scrolls to see the value of handwritten, tangible text! Mar

  2. Nancy mayer says:

    I do seem to recognize your personal font – I believe a lot of ink is used. You are right – who will be able to read/study first person articles if people no longer know how to write themselves. Perhaps it will be a course some day – deciphering cursive. Seems to be a loss to me, but perhaps that’s just my age showing.

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