Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Script: A Lost Art?

I have a lovely little note sitting in the piles of randomness on my desk. I go through phases from hoarding to cathartic trashing, but this note never seems to make the cut for garbage. The content is sweet but not exceptionally memorable. Yet the reason it brings a smile to my face is for the perfectly shaped cursive that its writer sports so casually. It's from a simple, well-mannered 60-something year old administrator... and when I received her handwritten script note of recognition last year, I saw her as a ladylike beacon from a previous era.

As I struggled to write several Mother's Day cards using my best script handwriting, it bothered me that I lack this feminine grace that both of my grandmothers and my aunts possess.  Nowadays my script looks more like a leafy scratch, while they each have these gorgeous, loopy signatures/handwritings (degree of loopiness varies between them but the precision does not) that just flow effortlessly. From what I understand they were strictly disciplined in public school for their script handwriting back in the day- to the extent that my grandfather who is a lefty was taught to write with his right hand- and the habits that they were taught stay with them until today.

I happen to love my handwriting; it's like a skinny print with a slant and a curve that resembles script. I am not a fan of the large, girly, rounded print that a few of my colleagues still tote. Most people I know do not come out of college or graduate school with their cursive unscathed (unless they always take notes on laptops I guess), but the extent to which we have collectively lost the skill and our value for it really is remarkable. I can still remember the declaration at the beginning of the SAT that had to be written word-for-word in script, and a smart-aleck boy sitting in front of me made the whole class wait for him to etch his way through that one sentence, one painful letter at a time, because he couldn't write in script for his life.

Remember how cool calligraphy used to be? Who even thinks about it anymore when hundreds of fonts are at our fingertips? Likewise I suppose that handwriting is not as important to stress nowadays since official documents are all typed up and we are not relying on penmanship for legibility of contracts anymore.

Times have changed. I wish the signature on my driver's license was more swoopy, but I do not regret my rigorous education and notetaking that vanquished it. Hopefully once I start digitizing my signature for official reports that I sign off on, I will have perfected it a bit.

Just something to think about: conversations have been reduced to messages, messages have been reduced to texts, and texts have been reduced to symbols ("The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics" by Michael Maslansky). Similarly our beautiful penmanship system is slowly draining away as we replace it with more expedient orthography.

What do you think of your handwriting, script or print?


  1. I always wrote my notes, never typed. I cling to my script, which my mother always snorts as being vastly inferior to her own. Although, my father and brothers' penmanship is execrable, and my sister favors rounded girl-print.

    I love script. And I shall keep it always.

  2. My handwriting is horrible, script or print. I only use script to sign my name. My grandmother writes only in script in all her letters and cards. And my great aunt. I have to squint to decipher their words. While I see something beautiful and timeless in cursive, it does seem to be dying out and I know I will never again use it unless forced to.

    Yes, I wish I had better penmanship. And I am a lefty. And no one ever forced me to write with my right hand. My mother has a beautiful handwriting and is constantly writing long notes to people. But I find that with the shift to texting and emailing, it is not needed as much.

    Someone told me that when she was engaged to her husband and they lived in different cities, she wrote him a letter every day of their engagement. I thought that was so beautiful. I would love to do that, but I'm not sure they would be legible.


Please comment. The minds wonder what you're thinking...