Art of good handwriting is vanishing
Published on: Sunday, August 18, 2019
By: Dr Astri Yulia
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IN today’s world, written communication is mostly done by typing on keyboards or screens, such as for emails and social media interactions. We rarely scribble a signature as forms are now digital and transactions are mostly online, which usually requires us to verify our identities by clicking a button or checking a box.

Handwriting is seriously at risk of disappearing. During its glorious era, handwriting was used in numerous forms of communication. Letters, post cards, thank you cards, journals and essays were hand-written. Handwritten letters evoke feelings in readers. It makes them feel close to the writers. They capture a little bit of the writer’s personality. A signature often makes the letter feel more authentic to readers. It is a form of revealing the writer’s identity to the reader.

A research by the National Pen Company in the United States suggests that handwriting gives clues about the writer’s personality. However, this research was conducted based on graphology, which is considered a pseudoscience.

Regardless of its limitations, the research makes some interesting claims. It says those who write in large letters are outgoing, people-oriented, outspoken and love attention. While writing small letters show that someone is shy or withdrawn, concentrated and meticulous. People who are well-adjusted and adaptable write average size letters.

Another aspect included in the research was the spacing between words. Wide spacing shows someone who enjoys freedom and doesn’t like to be overwhelmed or crowded, while narrow spacing is associated with people who can’t stand to be alone and can even be intrusive. The research also analysed the shape of letters, looping, dotting, crossing, pressure and page margins.

Handwriting was, once upon a time, an important subject in schools. Some countries have dropped the subject from the curriculum, but a few still teach it. Learning to write is a process about crafting our unique writing style. It is during this time that one finds his signature and handwriting style.

A research published in 2000 by professors from the University of Maryland, US, showed that instructions on improving a child’s handwriting can improve the child’s writing ability.

Sheldon Horowitz, senior director at the National Center for Learning Disabilities in the US, said children who practised handwriting performed better in reading and spelling tasks. The rationale behind the link, Horowitz suggested, was that forming letters by hand while learning about the sounds of the letters activates reading circuits in the child’s brain.

An article published in the Reading Rockets magazine talks about the importance of handwriting as a basic tool used in any subject in school, from taking notes, taking tests and doing classroom work to homework. It argues that poor handwriting can have a negative effect on school performance.

A more recent research published in 2012 in the Trends in Neuroscience and Education journal analysed the effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development among pre-literate children and found that handwriting is vital for early recruitment in letter processing of brain regions related to successful reading.

Whether we like it or not, technological gadgets have invaded our world; reading and writing are no exceptions. Most people now read news and books digitally. Crossword puzzles and sudoku, used to be completed with a pencil, are now available as mobile apps. Recipes, used to be written and compiled in a book, are now available as tutorial videos on YouTube. In this shift, pens, pencils and paper will soon be artefacts of the past.

When handwriting no longer exist, some information may not be traceable anymore. Information on whether the writer was in a hurry or took time crafting a letter cannot be discovered through print writing or digital texts. For instance, a piece of writing with multiple misspelled words simply means the writer can’t spell well. The beauty of handwriting may not survive. It may one day be gone and treated as artefacts in museums.

Change and transformation are inevitable. Like many things in society, we lose something when new technology replaces old ways. Considering the importance of handwriting, we need to breathe life back into it by cultivating a culture of handwriting within ourselves, instead of hustling handwriting to its graveyard.

Dr Astri is Deputy Dean for Academic 

Affairs, Education and Social Science Faculty, Universiti Selangor.

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