Handwriting in the Digital Age
“The moving finger writes,” says the famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, “and, having writ, moves on.” Nowadays, the finger more likely is hammering away on a computer keyboard, texting on a cellphone, or Twittering on a BlackBerry.
Some people are concerned, though, and one is Kitty Burns Florey, whose book “Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting” comes out Friday – John Hancock’s birthday and National Handwriting Day. Florey, author of nine novels and a book about sentence diagramming, became interested in the subject after reading that computer keyboarding has displaced handwriting in schools.”My first reaction was horror,” Florey said in an interview at her home, “then I thought, ‘Why would anyone use handwriting in today’s world?’ I write my books on the computer. I discovered two schools of thought: One is that it wouldn’t matter if nobody learned handwriting because we all have computers, and the other is that this is an interesting, historic, valuable, and beautiful skill that has been around for thousands of years, and we are just tossing it out.”In the e-mail age, most people seldom need to write more than a grocery list or a short note, or sign a check. It’s not only kids; many who formerly wrote fluently and neatly have forgotten how.
“It’s a very disturbing problem,” said Kate Gladstone of Albany, N.Y., who has a website specializing in handwriting improvement. “I see people in their 20s and 30s who cannot read cursive. If you cannot read all types of handwriting, you might find your grandma’s diary or something from 100 years ago, and not be able to read it.” There are practical concerns as well. Sometimes we don’t have a computer, or the professor won’t let us bring it to class to take notes. Or sometimes, as happened in New Orleans hospitals during Hurricane Katrina, computers lose power and medical orders and records have to be written out by hand.
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