Friday, December 14, 2012

Ink and flowing hands

I read in The Australian a week or so ago that writing implements may be on the endangered list, along with ties and hard copy diaries.

That's sad. I do love a good pen. There's something grand about writing with a fountain pen, for example.  I write letters to family members and old friends who haven't embraced the digital age, and take the trouble to use my fountain pen as it's about the only gallop it gets these days.

Even sadder on the handwriting front, there was a letter from a reader to the Oz's magazine stating that her grandchildren, in their early 20s, couldn't decipher their great-grandfather's WWI diaries, written in an elegant copperplate.

At school these days, it seems, kids aren't taught cursive/joined up writing. They learn a sort of italic printing but by the time they're in high school most of their work is via computer. Handwriting is not a skill that's desirable any more. Hence a generation who'll struggle to read the handwriting of their ancestors; they haven't learned how to form the shapes themselves.

There's a likelihood that cheques will go the way of the dodo as electronic banking buries them; that a signature written by hand won't cut the mustard at some point and that biometrics will be used to prove you're who you are. Handwriting, which has served us for more than a thousand years, will be more or less redundant.

That's a real shame.

Both my grandparents had elegant writing. Despite going to the same primary school their writing styles were quite different. Both slant forwards but my Pop's was copperplate, very neat and small, and Nan's was a flowing hand, big and generous. I write much like Nan, in a hand that lies about my age.

I grew up learning a very plain joined-up form called modified cursive, all the rage in NSW schools from the late 50s to at least the 1970s. It looked so plain and ugly - and even worse in my eyes, childish - beside my Mum's and grandparents' hands that once I was out of primary school and not marked on my handwriting any more I swiftly put loops on all the strokes I could and should. Fancy capitals, too.

I couldn't easily find an image of the cursive we learned at school on the net, so here it is, with my own cursive hand to show the difference.

I don't write by hand as much as I used to. My day book, beside my Mac, is covered with my scrawl, some of it neat, some of it all over the place as I take notes while I'm on the phone and/or pushing a cat out of the way.

This afternoon though, as work is getting quiet now with Christmas approaching, I did the annual Christmas card job, using my lovely fountain pen. I do have some fancy calligraphy I use when I'm handwriting, funky styles that I use for one-off cards, ie birthdays. It takes me a bit of time to do each card that way however, so with a pile of cards in front of me I elected for my usual handwriting, the one with loops and fancy capitals.

There really is something satisfying about writing by hand rather than simply tapping away at a keyboard. It means you have to think about what you're writing; you can't simply backspace if you change your mind half way through a sentence. Or misspell someone's name through being hasty. (Sorry to my cousin Louise, I really meant to put the 'i' in in the first place, not add it afterwards.)

There's some ink left in the pen; time to write a Christmas letter to my last surviving relation who doesn't own a computer!

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