Has it been lost?
Gone are the days where hand-written letters were our primary way of communicating via long distance, now we can message or video chat someone on the other side of the world instantly with a simple tap of a button.
With the overwhelming advances in technology and more innovations to come, some people fear that the newest generation will never write a hand-written letter, birthday card or love letter, instead they’ll type, text or Facebook message. The big question is, has handwriting been completely lost?
The Paperless Trail
Handwritten documents, letters, cards, diary entries and memos have already given way to typed documents, emails, texts, electronic calendars and memos. There are even electronic birthday cards nowadays. But, why the electronic switch?
Simply put, digital mediums have become much easier to use, they’re instantaneous and multifaceted. Whether you’re buying something, organising an event or working on a project, you can do multiple things at once without even leaving your desk (or bed, for that matter). That’s a lot harder to do with handwritten documents (you actually have to get up).
Although the majority of things can be done electronically these days, handwriting still has its purpose – for things like signing off on important documents (this can be done electronically too in some areas), writing cards for loved ones, note taking in class – but’s it’s not a necessity.
Cursive in schools
Remember the days when you had to get a ‘license’ to be able to write with a ballpoint pen in school? The teacher would carefully assess your ability to write neatly and legibly in cursive with a sharp tip HB pencil, before you were allowed to upgrade to ‘big kid’ status.
While some schools in Queensland are still doing that, others have started promoting typing skills instead, putting handwriting skills in the ‘not important’ basket.
Many primary schools in the US and Europe have already phased out cursive handwriting completely as part of their teachings.
Last year, Finland was one of the first countries in the world to officially make cursive handwriting lessons optional in schools, replacing them with typing and computer lessons.
At the time, Finland’s National Board of Education Spokeswoman Minna Harmanen told media that fluent typing skills had become more relevant to modern life and were an important national competence every child should learn.
She’s not wrong there. These days, handwriting is no longer needed or valued in the job market, whereas computer literacy and digital skills are considered a must. Whether it’s banking, construction or retail, most industries and workplaces rely on computerised or digital systems to perform daily tasks – but, does this mean cursive should be removed from the schooling system altogether?
The Benefits of Handwriting
Research taken from two different studies in the US (Indiana University and Psychology Today) revealed that learning to write in cursive is crucial for young children’s cognitive function, motor and visual skills, eye-to-hand coordination, spatial awareness, hand and finger dexterity and overall brain development.
“The thinking level is magnified in cursive because the specific hand-eye coordination requirements are different for every letter in the alphabet. Moreover, in handwriting the movements are continuously variable, which is much more mentally demanding than making single strokes, as in printing A, E, F, H, and so on. Even so, because cursive letters are more distinct than printed letters, children may learn to read more easily, especially dyslexics. Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says that brain scans during handwriting show activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory. Learning to type makes little demand on the brain: you just have to punch a key.” Dr William R. Klemm Ph.D. from Psychology Today said in one study.
Medical research also states that the practice of handwriting can help reduce some of the symptoms in dementia patients, as it keeps their minds active.
All great reasons why we should step away from the technology every now and again and jot a few cursive lines down.
Handwriting in 2017
Some would say that handwriting in 2017 has become more of an art form rather than an everyday necessity, simply because not that many people do it anymore. There are some people, however, that still enjoy the art and they do it very well.
Expert Calligrapher and owner of Lavender Lane Calligraphy, Jane Nurthen says handwriting is a skill that should not be lost.
“I will always see a place for handwriting and calligraphy in the world. It may not be for everyone, but it’s a skill that I don’t think we should lose,” she says.
“People aren’t as quick to pick up a pen and send a handwritten letter anymore, but that also makes the art that much more special and meaningful when it is used. Who doesn’t love a hand-addressed envelope in amongst all those bills?”
Jane fell in love with the art of calligraphy after picking up a ball point pen back in 2015 and soon after started her own small business writing invitations, signage and logos.
“I love that it’s an old art form that I can help try to keep alive,” she says.
“I think it’s special to receive a handwritten note and that we can spread happiness through the written word. Our handwriting is part of our personality – I heard it described once as the ‘accent’ of our hands – it’s our individual voice, why would we want to lose that?”
Jane says despite the move to more technological ways of communicating, calligraphy and handwriting workshops have become more and more popular.
“I definitely see it on the rise at the moment – when I wanted to learn I couldn’t find anywhere that offered pointed pen workshops but there’s a lot more opportunities to learn available now,” she says.
“Many people are seeing the value in learning a new skill or hobby that doesn’t involve a screen, or want to learn the foundations and basic strokes to improve their everyday handwriting. The fact it’s therapeutic is just a bonus.”
For those looking improve their hand writing skills or learn more about calligraphy, Jane recommends checking out your local calligraphy society for workshops.
Although it’s seems like handwriting is slowly dying as an everyday necessity, it’s becoming more of a special art form for those interested. Maybe we should all take to using pen and paper again?
For more information on Lavender Lane Calligraphy visit lavenderlanecalligraphy.com.au