The art of handwriting

Is handwriting a dying art? And does it matter?

I no longer write letters (I use to be an avid letter writer), I don't write a diary (I did once), I am not a student (and most of them use the computer these days) so there isn't many opportunities to write the "old fashion" way.  Perhaps the only thing I write on a regular basis is my shopping list or instructions for my son such as "vacuum the house". 

According to a newspaper article I read: Ample research coming out of the US and elsewhere supports handwriting for improving brain development, forcing children to write in full, cogent sentences and assisting with memory development. Yet in spite of the research, about 40 states in the US have adopted a national curriculum, known as the Common Core State Standards, that dumps mandatory teaching of longhand. The onus is now on individual schools to decide whether or not to teach handwriting. (link)

Fortunately (but for how long) longhand is still taught in Australian schools, however more and more schools are using computers for the writing of essays and other school work, therefore our children no longer write by hand to the same degree as they once did.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro (1756-1791)
On the weekend I went to see a fabulous exhibition of 10 centuries of handwritten treasures (link) from the National Berlin Library (now being exhibited at the National Library of Australia). I was able to look manuscripts, letters, musical scores and other rare material by the likes of Beethoven, Michelangelo, Napoleon, Marx, Mozart and numerous other famous names through history.  This exhibition was well worth visiting and it is free. 

I couldn't help but think of what we are leaving behind.  Most people don't write letters anymore, this was common place not that long ago and it is often these letters, found after a person had died, that allow us to share some of their most private thoughts, such as a love letter.  Even things like birthday greetings, thankyou cards and even Christmas cards are on the decline - these are now often sent via email or facebook or like my son, via SMS to his grandmother!

The problem with the computer age is the lack permanency - what is written on Twitter lasts no more than a week then its gone, your SMS message of thanks or your email is delete - many things that we record have a very short lifespan.  
Love letter from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
When I receive a card or letter from someone special (such as my parents or children) I keep them, besides being a treasure to me personally, one day they may be a treasure for future generations - a small glimpse into our lives.

St Bernard of Clairvaux's commentaries on the Song of Songs (c.1225-1250)
Just think of how many times the Bible has been handwritten, often so beautifully and treasured so dearly?  How many people risked their lives to hand-write the Bible?



  1. Despite my hubby's dislike for 'junk', I have kept old letters from people - those who are special to me, or those who have gone before.

    And I still write handwritten letters! Not many it is true, but there is NOTHING like a real letter!!!!

    No one writes much,so when they do their writing is messy! Ugh! =)



  2. Oh this is such a great has been our discussion in our home a lot. Now that I have my first child in public school I am seeing how little he writes...everything in on computer and test are fill in the one accepts handwritten papers at all. Even though I taught longhand to all my other four none of them use it...I wonder too what affect this will have on us mentally and also what we will miss from those wonderful handwritten documentations.

    What a wonderful exhibit you had the pleasure of enjoying.

  3. Bets - I have kept a selected range of things for both my children as well, enough to show their development in art, writing, school generally - but not so much that I have run out of room storing it all. I have put it all into a book to give to each of them as adults.

  4. I have kept a box of letters I've received over the years, and I've kept some of my school work. I'm keeping letters the children receive and notes they write me, and their school work. I think it is such a shame that handwriting is disappearing - it shows so much more character (because everyone's is different), and it is a personal touch unlike anything we can do or design on the computer. My children will do most of their school work by hand because I think it is MUCH better for them.

    I guess if other kids don't write much, it will be children like mine and other homeschooled children who will fill in the gaps in history in years to come - it will be their letters that people read back over and put into museums, because no one else will have any handwritten papers to fill the gap!! Interesting thought...

  5. The other bit of this is the fact that today's children also aren't learning to read cursive very well, which spells huge problems for our future historians, who may struggle with reading all of those pre-typed documents!

    It's funny - when I was in college I printed anything I wrote in English, but wrote in cursive anything in Russian. It helped me keep the two languages straight in my mind. Upon graduating, though, I decided that it was more "grown up" to write things in English in cursive as well, and I made an effort to form this new habit. It worked, and today, I write in cursive probably 65% of the time.

  6. We practice handwriting in our home school. I think it has helped my children immensely - with reading, with perception, so much!

    For me, I find when I write out the Scriptures each word POPs with meaning and I am able to remember it better. This is not the same with typing. I can type pretty fast, almost as fast as I can think. That least little bit of delay in writing out the verses, is a mini meditation. That is what God calls us to do, to meditate on His Word. Writing it out is one way to do it.


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