Handwriting is “too old fashioned” and should not be taught, learned, or bothered with.
That is, in large part, the sentiment that some of the 5th graders in my daughter’s elementary school expressed when presented with a choice of learning cursive or keyboarding.
Cursive, they said, was too difficult on their hands compared to keyboarding.
Plus, some added, “no one uses cursive anymore;” people only use fonts on computers to write or text on their phones.
While the value and merit of these valid arguments are debatable, the general point to single out is that handwriting today (on paper versus your laptop or mobile device) does appear to be a not-as-preferred way to author or express ourselves.
“Like on paper!?!”
Media culture reinforces anti-handwriting sentiment.
Anti-handwriting ideas, like the ones voiced by my daughter’s 5th grade peers, are just as pervasive beyond grade school.
Take this 2022 TV commercial entitled “Real Letter” by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which includes the voice of a sarcastic narrator poking gentle fun at an “antiquated customer” who wrote to express their appreciation “like on paper!?!” (sic) instead of sending in a non-paper email:
TV commercials produced by any brand or group are tools for mass communication.
And such mass communication efforts are hardly cheap; most cost millions of dollars to produce, package, and distribute.
While the marketing folks at Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups did not wake up one morning intending to denigrate human writing (their main goal is to position their peanut butter cups product as desirable and modern; as a food product that’s deliciously “with the times” and worthy of your purchase), their disparagement of human writing *was* (or is, unfortunately so) the means to their marketing end.
My goal in pointing this out is not to denounce the marketing folks at Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; they’re just doing their marketing and selling their employer’s peanut butter cups product and not thinking about anthropological values or potential cultural harms.
It’s not about blame
The truth is that the extensive market research the folks at Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups embarked upon informed their ad agency teams, Creatives, and senior execs that their prospective and existing buyers live in a tech-saturated world where email, texting, and posting on social media rule our every day.
In such a world, how does Reese’s not just reach but connect with that type of wired, tech-savvy, texting customer in a brand voice that’s hip and fun?
The answer is evidenced by their million dollar commercial distributed en masse:
- poke fun at the “real letter” (the narrator positions writing a letter on paper as something that’s not preferred and oh so passé)
- ridicule the use of paper versus email (“like on paper!?!” exclaims the narrator in a jesting disbelief 🙄)
- reinforce the “cool way” of communicating with their brand instead (aka via mediated technology (email) while keyboarding with fonts and not so much by way of dated letter with authentically-authored penmanship)
The above example is one of many out there that position handwriting (including cursive) as something that’s not worth teaching, learning, or doing because it’s:
- way too boring;
- much too hard on the hands and fingers to endure;
- and too unfashionable to be bothered with.
Plus it’s not as compatible or desirable for use in our 24×7, technology-laden world.
It’s also about the unnecessary trade-in
… and that trade-in is focused on either (a) using computer fonts “to write” over (b) our own handwritten penmanship.
(Not to mention our trading of “real letters” for mediated communications … but this trade-in is a deep dive for another blogging day.)
I’m not opposed to font usage.
I’m a graphic designer by trade so fonts have been a longtime asset and staple in my computer and publishing design arsenal.
I’m also not anti-technology.
In fact, much of my 9-5 career has been as a marketing technologist developing products in support of advertising, branding, and sales.
And in my own personal life, I’m just as wired and plugged in as anyone else.
As such, I rely on my mobile and desktop devices for work and life every. single. day.
What I am opposed to, however, is the false trade-off.
The assertion that writing by our own hand is not useful and unwanted when compared to writing by way of technology devices is a false one.
One method of writing is not “better” than the other; this unfortunate framing is subjective and highly contextual.
And the same can be said about preference; there are times when texting and keyboarding are necessary or preferred yet the same can be said of handwriting and cursive.
What we forget (or often ignore)
In his book, Handwriting: Revelation of Self, Viennese born psychotherapist, distinguished clinical psychologist, and world renowned handwriting expert Dr. Herry O. Teltscher pointedly tells us that handwriting is:
In other words
… there is a visceral and strong correlation between our individual personalities and the idiosyncratic way each of us writes; this is a physiological reality.
As Dr. Teltscher explains it, our writing impulses emanate “from the cortex of the brain, which are then conveyed into the muscles of the fingers via the nervous system.”
This is why Dr. Teltscher says that the finished product of “writing” is far more like “brain writing” than it is “handwriting” as our hands merely hold, move, and guide a writing instrument.
As such, our hands are only responsible for the “manner in which the letters are formed or the lines are spaced.”
Thanks to Dr. Teltsher for this important explanation describing not only how we craft “handwriting” but also the bounty of psychographologic value and meaning that we can derive from our very penmanship.
I’m not sure about you but absolutely NO font on this planet, no matter how well designed or how well it could (try to) simulate, can ever achieve or represent the very essence of our magnificent humanity.
About me … and about you
As much as I love playing and designing with fonts, I love handwriting — despite all its imperfections — even more.
It’s why I handwrite as much of my creative writing as I can.
I’d love to know so please do share in the comments or send me a note.