Day 94. Becoming Illegible

I realized something yesterday.  I had to write a cover note for some information I was giving someone.  In years gone by, I would have reached for a pen and some paper, and I would have handwritten it.  But, instead, I turned on my computer.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I wrote something out in long hand.

Think about it.  Greeting cards have messages already printed on them.  How often, if ever, do you buy a card that’s blank inside?  And more and more often, people are using electronic greeting cards and invitations.  We don’t even have to address an envelope or lick a stamp any more.

Personal letters have been replaced by email and Facebook status updates.  And if we can say what we want to say in a 140 characters or less, we just tweet.  Short and to the point.  No fluff.  Perfect, because we’re always in such a rush.  So not only are we forgetting how to actually write with an instrument, we’re losing our social skills.

It’s getting to the point where we run out of things to say if we’re required to speak more than a sentence or two.  Even a lot of business communications, which used to require a letter, are now handled with an email.

We bank online so we don’t have to make out deposit slips.  I don’t think I write five cheques a year any more.  So I don’t know about you, but my handwriting is suffering.  It was never the best, but now I look at it and often can’t understand what I’ve written down.  I’m out of practice. The only time I pull out a notepad is when I’m with a client.  But when I get home and look at my notes, it takes forever to decipher them.

When I first started school, penmanship was one of our classes.  I hated it because the teacher always gave me a hard time.  My mother wrote backhand.  I don’t know if the fact that she was left handed had anything to do with it.  But I must have unconsciously copied her, because I wrote backhand.  The teacher kept trying to force me to write forehand.  It was awkward and uncomfortable and it gave me a lot of trouble.  The more she insisted, the more illegible my handwriting became.  Until my mother intervened and I was finally permitted to write the way it felt natural for me.

Do they teach kids to write any more?  Will future generations know what pens and pencils are?  For that matter, I wonder how many pens are sold these days.  Remember when everyone wanted a Mont Blanc?  When was the last time you saw someone pull one out of their pocket or handbag?  Now we take our devices out.

Don’t you think it’s a shame?  I do.  There’s something lovely about seeing messages and notes and letters that are hand written.  I love letters.  I love writing them.  And I love receiving them.  I’ve written countless letters during my career; and I don’t just mean the usual stuff.  During my time as a direct marketing copywriter, letters were a significant part of the work I did.  Letters that introduced the readers to far away places, or new services, or different products.  To books.  And cars.  Recipes.  Medications.  And anything and everything you can think of.

I’ve also written countless personal letters during my lifetime.

To my parents and friends, when I was in camp.  Letters and postcards back home when I travelled.  Letters to boyfriends.  And if I may say, letters that are typed and come out of printers are just not romantic.  I remember having personal stationery.  It was so much fun to pick.  It makes a statement about you.  Whether you’re being serious or playful.  Whether you want to appear sophisticated.  Straight forward.  Elegant.  Classic.  Feminine.  Masculine.  Fun loving.  Outgoing.  Formal.  Or informal.

There’s also something wonderful about all the different styles of handwriting.  Each one of us has a totally distinctive style.  You can tell things about people from their handwriting.  Like one’s choice of stationery, our handwriting can also describe our personalities.  Whether we’re shy or gregarious.  Like the limelight or are introspective.  Whether or not we’re tense or uptight.  Spontaneous or relaxed.  Whether or not we’re creative.

And now it’s all being lost.  To ‘progress’.  Technology.

Well I think there’s a time and a place for everything.  So I’m going to buy myself some stationery and maybe even a fountain pen.  And my personal correspondence is going to look personal again.  Expect to get handwritten notes from me in the future.  Once I practice a bit, and get my penmanship groove back, you might even be able to understand what I’ve written.


8 thoughts on “Day 94. Becoming Illegible

  1. Recently, I mailed a book back to someone that I had borrowed 20 years ago (long story). I wasn’t even mailing it to the person whose book it was, but to his friend. Anyway, I went to write a quick note to enclose with the envelope, It turned into a two-page letter, handwritten in purple pen, about the book, Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American,” why everyone should read it, etc.

    A few days after I mailed it, the recipient sent me a message on Facebook about how much he’d enjoyed getting a handwritten letter. I loved writing it and he loved receiving it, and it made me think that once a week, I should just sit down and write a letter to someone, anyone I know, not necessarily even close friends. Have I done it? Of course not. It would bring to joy to others and maybe to me, but I don’t have time.

    Fransi, I guess our blog posts will just have to be our non-handwritten letters to the world.

    • Check this link out. A Facebook friend sent it to me this morning after she read my blog post. I think it is a brilliant idea. This FB friend told me she’s been ‘volunteering’ with them for months and loves doing it. I think I am going to do it. You might enjoy it as well. It is very cool. Think about writing letters to your kids. Doesn’t have to be often. Maybe one a year, on their birthdays. Who knows. A thought. Great legacy, I think. Anyway, here’s that link:

  2. The idea behind my blog is the remembrance of the good and the best of the past. Letter writing, sending greeting cards or written mail is things that had gone submerged under the invasion of technology. Dwindle in the reading habits of the youth in India, is reflected in the drastic drop in sales of books. The other day I received an SMS from my godmother’s son inviting me to his son’s wedding. Some years back, such a gesture was unheard of. Till now, my family had been sending greeting cards during Christmas and New Year, a habit which I don’t think would be changed any time in future. Your post and the comments of Ms. Julie have much relevance. I salute both of you.

  3. We’re so less personal nowadays. And even not competent anymore. I totally remember applying myself to learn my penmanship and doing well in it and my parents being proud. I also remember doing well in my typing class in middle school (the only boy in a classroom of girls) and my Dad asking why I was even taking it? haha So that’s come in handy as well.

    All so true here, it’s sad in some ways how times have changed.

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