Is the art of handwriting dead?

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

A few years ago, the BBC published an article suggesting that the art of handwriting is in decline (read the full article here).

This got me thinking.

Aside from my own creative writing habits, which fluctuate between scribbling frantically into a well-thumbed notebook and typing just as furiously on the computer, I tried to remember when I’m most likely to handwrite things.


There’s the obvious – the shopping list, notes in meetings at work, greetings cards – however there are other things which I once handwrote that I now do via a computer or smartphone: calendar entries, reminders, ideas, emails, letters.

Growing up, an early primary school report contained the line “Rachel’s writing resembles a spider walking across the page”.  Thankfully, that report got lost when my parents moved house several years ago.

I recall being made to sit down by my parents after birthdays and Christmas, writing thank-you letters out by rote: “Thank you for my present. I liked it very much”. Given the state of my handwriting at the time, it’s probably just as well the letters only comprised two sentences.

I was reminded of this ritual recently when we received a thank you note from our neighbours’ kids for their Christmas presents. In shaky handwriting, they’d both written to us on a home-made card which they’d decorated themselves before dropping into our mailbox. We thought it was great that people were still getting their kids do this – it meant a lot to us.

Then there were the handwriting practice sessions held during class at school when I was about seven or eight – having to carefully ensure my letters didn’t spill over lines by mistake, or trying to get those weird squashed ‘s’ letters right – and then getting that right, only to be told that we now had to join it all up !

Thankfully, I’m glad to say that my handwriting improved dramatically during my teenage years, probably out of necessity so I could read study notes and also develop my burgeoning creative writing ideas.

These days, I write to my grandfather every month and have done for several years now – we share news, jokes, and I’ll enclose photographs of our latest escapades here in Australia. It’s something I started doing on a regular basis before we emigrated as we’ve always been close and I didn’t want the distance of some 10,000 miles to get in the way of catching up on a regular basis. Grandad actually confessed that when we first started writing to each other while I was still in the UK, it was the first time in decades that he’d sat down to pen a letter.

However, I now type my letters to him – I can increase the font size making it easier for him to read, and I usually fill a minimum of three A4-sized pages so it’s quicker (and my hand doesn’t fall off by the end). Plus, I get to keep them and they’ve acted as a good reminder of what we’ve been up to since moving to Australia eight years ago. In turn, I’ve kept all the letters I’ve received from my Grandad, who uses an A5 notebook and again, usually fills these with wit and wisdom, which I’ll be able to treasure forever.

Consider, then, the history available to us at the moment which is completely reliant on handwritten records – medieval scripts, ancient scrolls, local village churches’ records of births, marriages and deaths. I’m always fascinated by documentaries or visits to museums where old documents are carefully unfolded and their secrets exposed to daylight once more.

So, here’s a thought – if handwriting is truly dying out, what’s going to be left for future generations to get excited about?

Times New Roman 12pt in an online file?  I don’t think so.

What do you think?

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