Monday, April 14, 2014

The Write Stuff

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, I know Jonathan and I have a funny and unusual life. The other day, I was in a cab on the way to a library event, when Jonathan called me on my cell. He was trying to decipher the handwritten notes I'd made on the draft of his opening statement in a murder case.

I can't read your handwriting, he said. (Here's a photo of it.)

Yes, indeed, my handwriting is --well, incomprehensible. I write thank you notes and people say--I got your note. What does it say?

(Decoding the above: The C (commonwealth) wants you to believe Mr. H and Mr. P shot and killed Mr. R, and they are going to shower you with what they will try to convince you is...) 

Now, I know schools have stopped teaching cursive handwriting--a move I cannot believe.

In that same cab,  I said to the driver--did you take handwriting in school? 
He said no. It was too difficult,  and we all hated it, so they stopped teaching it.
How do you sign our name? I asked.
I just hook the letters together, he said. We learned what they call...  He paused.
Printing? I said.
Yeah. Printing.

Reds? Thoughts? (And if you have a handwriting sample--let's see it!!)

HALLIE EPHRON: My handwriting is so atrocious my husband insists on rewriting shopping lists. Printing is no better. And they taught cursive writing when I was in school - I even earned a "penmanship certificate." The older I get the worse it gets. This is a challenge when I interview someone for research. If I don't transcribe my notes within 24 hours I simply have no idea what I've scribbled.

So here's an example. This is a note I took recently interviewing a friend whose mother was a doll collector. (I think my next book is going to be something about dolls. Creepy dolls, of course.) I challenge anyone to figure out what it says. Hint: She was telling me about a doll her mother's hair dresser gave her when he closed his shop. It stood in his shop window at Christmas-time.


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have terrible handwriting and have always had a real complex about it. I think I must have made Cs in cursive writing in elementary school, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Maybe it's poor eye-hand coordination or motor skills or something...  I've never stopped envying people who can write a beautiful, flowing cursive script in journals and letters. That said, I do write by hand, all the time, in cursive, not printing. Printing is so laborious--no wonder people who can only print want to text or type all the time. Here's a garden list, and some book notes.
Debs! This is completely legible. And fascinating, how there are no corrections.....

And there is something special and unique, I believe, about the way our brains work when we write by hand that can't be duplicated with a keyboard. I do a lot of my brainstorming/idea jotting in notebooks, for instance. So if they stop teaching cursive in schools, will our brains lose another bit of wiring?  A very scary thought.

Something weird? In business college I made an A in shorthand.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I have fairly terrible handwriting, even though I remember studying it—with the practice paper with two solid lines and the one dotted line down the middle—in first grade. As an adult, my handwriting has gotten worse and worse. I was a little disconcerted to realize the kiddo would not be learning it in school (he prints and has perfected a scribbly signature), but, yes, he'll probably be using keyboards, so.... 

I recently bought a fountain pen though, inspired by novelist Kim Fay, mostly for the romance of it. [Of course I'm not using it yet, because I need to pick up ink — one of the many things on my (typed and on my smart phone) to-do list.]

Generally I just type right into the laptop when I write, but I do use yellow legal pads and pen when I'm outlining. Like Debs, I think there's some sort of connection to our more emotional selves. Or something....

Here are some of my notes for THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT :

HANK: Oh, let's see Mattie's writing--er, whatevering.

SUSAN: Okay, here's a thank you note Mattie wrote today to novelists Carole E. Barrowman and her brother, John Barrowman (aka Captain Jack of Dr. Who fame), for their gift of an autographed copy of their novel, HOLLOW EARTH.)

HANK: He is hilarious! (Did I mention..hilarious?) (We need to do a blog about thank you notes!)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm a big believer in nice handwriting. I'm glad they taught it at my kids' parochial schools, although in my son's case (left-handed and with small-motor challenges when he was small) it didn't take. My girls have a good hand, when they try. I think I was inspired by my grandmother and my mom. My grandmother Greuling had that classic Palmer penmanship they taught back in the first decades of the 20th century, when almost everything had to be written by hand. I don't know if my mother had it from her mother or from good teachers, but she has handwriting that is lovely, legible, and also distinctly hers.
I can understand the schools dropping penmanship - there are a lot of subjects to be taught and lets face it, our children and grandchildren will spend more time typing and texting than writing. On the other hand, I can't imagine getting through college and law school without cursive. Done correctly, it's both readible and extremely fast. If I had had to block print my class notes, I'd still be a 2L.

LUCY BURDETTE: You all had better let me and Julia write the ransom notes if we're kidnapped...I can't believe they aren't teaching kids to write by hand any more. What about thank you notes? Emails and texts, I'm sorry, do not match up. I can remember the lined paper--I had trouble with the tall looping letters like h's and p's. And Debs is right--when I'm stuck somewhere waiting without a computer, I often take a pad of paper to work on book in progress. It's amazing what comes up on the paper... Here are some notes:
Wait--I can totally read this, Lucy!

RHYS BOWEN: Isn't it interesting that many of us have less than stellar handwriting?

 Perhaps great creativity equals poor handwriting, OR our brains rush so far ahead that our hands scrawl, trying to keep up. I've tried taking handwritten notes for my books and often can't read my own notes. I make John a shopping list and he calls me to say "Did you mean beets or leeks?"  

"Peas" I reply.

So if any of us were ever captured and held hostage and could get out a note with a friendly carrier pigeon we'd write "Help. I'm a prisoner in the old clock tower."  And nobody would understand us.

HANK:  True! Remember that Woody Allen movie where the bank robber hands the teller a note--and the teller reads out loud: "Huh? You're saying--I have a GUB?"

Reds--where are you on the hand-writing spectrum? And the Hank-book of your choice to one lucky commenter!


  1. Both my mother and my grandmother had absolutely beautiful penmanship and, when I had those cursive writing classes in school, I really tried . . . but it doesn’t seem to have taken very well. Alas, my cursive writing leaves much to be desired and I must admit that on occasion [when I am really rushed and writing quickly] even I cannot decipher it.
    Despite my challenged cursive, I find it preferable to grab a pencil and write on paper rather than using the computer . . . .
    My printing is far superior to my cursive writing and I am always encouraging my grandbabies to print neatly. But there doesn’t seem to be any particular emphasis on it in their school, so they have really sloppy printing skills. Interestingly enough, my Colorado grandbaby is going to a school where they teach the children to write in cursive --- in first grade . . . .

  2. If I take the time to actually write well, my hand writing is passable. Most of the time, I'm writing as fast as I can, and the result is a scribbled mess. I can read it, however. Not sure how many others can, but I certainly can.

  3. I'm with Julia--I'm not sure I get the brouhaha over no longer teaching cursive in school. Kids need keyboarding instead. Times change and so do our needs. That being said, children do learn to write the alphabet, usually in preschool. Some brief exposure to cursive wouldn't take all that long, would it? So I am firmly in the wishy-washy camp on this one.

    I do a lot of my writing by hand. Virtually all of my short story first drafts are in longhand, as well as morning and planning pages. I can't imagine printing those. It would take forever. I have a good handwriting when I try. My mother has one of the lovely ones. When I was engaged and my fiance's family threw us an engagement party, my parents could not attend. My mother sent a note. The first time I met my husband's grandfather, he took my hand and said he could tell I came from a quality family because my mother wrote with a lady's hand. Never forgot that moment. (Thanks, Mom!)

  4. For us Jackson's the pinnacle of handwriting fame surely occurred in 1777.

    My 6-greats-grandfather Col. Giles Jackson was Chief of Staff of Gen. Horatio Gates at the battle of Saratoga, Oct. 7, 1777. There he was author and engrosser of the articles of Capitulation under which Gen. Burgoyne surrendered.

    In other words his penmanship was so good he got to copy the surrender terms.

    Had I been charged with such a task, there would be no United States. We would still be fighting the war with England because neither side would have a clue what had been agreed to in the surrender.

    ~ Jim

  5. As with most people, my handwriting I'd considerably better when I'm not in a hurry. I've also noticed it reflects my mood - if I'm grumpy, angry, tired or depressed, my handwriting goes to pot. I'm a lefty and we tend to either have very good or very bad writing. Mine is very good, though I think my cursive is a little childish, probably because I tend to print more often. I have a glass dip pen that I love to pull out and practice writing with. Of course, more often than not I practice writing mirror image.

  6. On a lefty too! And now on the phone with my computer tech support… Back soon!

  7. Jim, I am still laughing! That is quite a story! And really, you could write a terrific short story about that.

  8. Ramona, I am in the wishy-washy camp too. But leaning to people need to be able to write… imagine that!

  9. Let me just say this.

    As someone who is the recipient of notes from our Hank every now and again . . .

    I have NO idea what she wrote.

    I have pondered and even turned them all sorts of ways.

    I've recruited Donald to help.

    And then Harley.

    All I know by the end of my rope is that she has sent me hugs and kisses and I cherish every unreadable word. So keep 'em coming, dear one, whatever they say.

    Like Sandi, my writing is much better when I'm not in a hurry. I have little notebooks in my purse, and on the nightstand, and they're full of notes - notes for novels, notes for narrative non-fiction, notes for the grocery store or the taxman. Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to find what I need when I need it and then I sometimes can't read it. (I'm thinking about sending them to Hank for translation).

    Fountain Pens!!!!! Oh, how I love 'em! I don't have many, but the couple I do have are a treat and I thank our Debs for introducing me to Fahrney's. When their catalog arrives in the mail I drop everything so I can drool over the pens I wish I could afford. My dream pen is one of those gorgeous Mont Blanc pens named after someone glamorous - Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, etc. I'm just sure one of those would improve my handwriting.

    A fun post today!

  10. I just love Mattie's Thank You letter. I have no doubt that John and Carole will cherish it. Basically because...well...the Barrowman's rock and now, so does Mattie.

    As for my handwriting, it is just terrible. I think that my brain works faster than my hand and I just can't keep up. LOL.

    Friends have picked up my notebook where I make notes about the books I am reading for the blog and they ask me "Can you actually read this?" The sad part is, unless I write the review right after finishing the book, there are times when even *I* can't read my notes. Very sad!

    Nice handwriting ranks up there with a singing voice for things I would wish for if I could.

  11. Oh and let me add that I have quite a few signed books from our dear Hank. In one of them, I am convinced that what she wrote is not English. ;)

  12. My handwriting varies from beautiful to illegible depending on my sense of rush vs. calm, and definitely my mood.

    I write first drafts in longhand and force myself to be neater so I can decipher it to type. Hugely influential: learning that the act of picking up a pen to write creatively activates the same area of the brain as when an artist picks up a brush to paint.

    Regarding cursive handwriting not being taught in school...I agree that keyboarding skills are important in a digital age. But I wish more schools used something like the Vimala handwriting system. (Teaches character building along with simplified handwriting.)

  13. Two words: Catholic school, although my handwriting went from just OK to great in 6th grade when I was constantly assigned "punishment lessons" -- write the spelling words one hundred times or write the catechism lesson twenty times. I hated them, but I did improve my writing.

    It's not as good as it used to be -- remember I was a classroom teacher and had to write on the board! But I still write letters (it is how I communicate with my mother -- we send each other actual letters) and notes.

    Like a lot of things in education, there seem to be swings -- from spending too much time on handwriting (especially for the little boys) to too little. It will probably come back as an art form.

    I do a lot of "typing" for my husband, and he has the WORST handwriting -- although, I don't know, Hank?

  14. There is research, I'm told, that suggests learning to write cursive develops a part of the brain not otherwise stimulated. But aside from that issue, kids who don't learn to write cursive usually don't learn to read it either. Imagine not being able to read old family letters or Grandma's recipes or any number of other things that aren't translated into e-formats! Talk about the pre-computer age being "historical mystery" territory! Will the next generation have to take special courses in college if they want to do research in original documents of the 1970s?

    Kathy/Kaitlyn, often frustrated by 16th century handwriting

  15. Ah, penmanship. I went to Catholic school where the nuns prized good penmanship above most else.

    We did writing exercises (loops and strokes, as I recall)for hours. I was the opposite of the star pupil because I lacked patience. I also held the pencil in a death grip, an issue over which Sister Mary Veronica and I locked horns and battled to a draw.

    In high school I learned something called college note hand, essentially cheater shorthand. So with clenched pen I could now right fast, which served me through college and my newspaper reporter days and law school.

    Is my handwriting legible? I think so, but perhaps legibility is in the eye of the beholder.

  16. That was supposed to say "write fast" but I wrote it (and proofed it) too fast . . .

  17. Unfortunately, I practiced and practiced and practiced my cursive in the 1970s, so I am the proud owner of that teenage bubble script that was so popular at the time. And of course, as I get older, the worse it gets, simply because my hands are so shot from all the time on the computer.

    The thing about handwriting for me is that it is like a personality. The other day I got a letter from an aunt who has never written to me before, and I nearly fainted when I saw the writing on the envelope. It was identical to her mom's (my grandma's). My grandma died in the 1990s, and it was like being whispered to by a ghost. Printing, for some reason, does not carry that same sense of character.

    Susan, I love that you bought a fountain pen. I don't use mine all the time, but as with my typewriter, I use it when I need to slow down, set a certain mood, write something special, or simply enjoy the moment of writing itself. I love J. Herbin ink - shades of brown like Lie de The. Perhaps you will find an ink shop the way you found that perfumerie recently!

    I am now off to discover Fahrney's - thank you for this recommendation, Hank. I love my pen (a Pelikan with a gold nib that has shaped to my hand), but would love to see what ink they offer.

  18. I forgot to mention one thing. It is interesting to me that many people who bemoan the end of teaching cursive go on to admit their own handwriting is awful. If it's illegible, what's the point? Send an email or text. Even with crazy auto-corrects, those can be deciphered without calling in Scotland Yard.

    I once receive a handwritten note from a juror, for a grant. It read something like, "Tho opneg wos strang, but bergs to foll aport mink vey aftor tho...." You get the idea.

  19. Another Catholic school product here, and my handwriting has gotten lovely compliments most of my life. However, the nuns kept putting my pencil in my right hand, and I still wonder if my left hand would be more useful to me if they had allowed me to write the way I wanted to.

    I've actually hand-addressed envelopes as a side business for awhile. My hands have tremors now, though, and they are unpredictable--an occasional spike in a word makes it kind of difficult to have a consistently pretty result. Which bums me out.

    My oldest daughter, whose dad has legible, but quirky handwriting, has a perfect melding of her dad's and my style. It's a wonder to me, every time I see it. Her nine-year old son just taught himself to write cursive by practicing from the letters on the wall in his classroom. They don't teach it in his school, but he's very proud of his new skill, and my daughter let him write all the Christmas tags this year. He writes more legibly than most adults, too.

    My husband has a version of his family's handwriting--they all write so similarly it's difficult to tell them apart--and our two daughters write so much alike, and so similarly to their dad's, that I have trouble figuring out who wrote what. The scientist daughter, in particular, has abyssmal, Hank-level illegibility.

    If no one uses cursive writing any more the police lose yet another tool to help solve crimes. Just saying.

  20. You are all so funny!

    And yes, Kristopher, hardy-har. xoo (And I know, there are times when I cannot read my notes, either. Freeps? what's freeps?)

    Yes, and I agree, our brines are gong faster than our hands can keep up. And I'm sticking to that.

  21. Kathy, exactly! Isn't that such a terrible thought? And maybe there'll be a new job--translating cursive. Like the old Navajo language--there'll be cursive-talkers.

  22. Cate, I didn't know that about the brain. But it does make sense. All my notes about the books are in handwriting.. it never crosses my mind to take note or put "ideas" on the computer.

  23. I thought penmanship classes were torture in elementary school. I have a natural tendency to write small. I had to try to write BIG to hit the lines on the special writing paper. Ugh. Then I would go back to my "normal" handwriting for the rest of the day. My handwriting now is a combination of cursive and printing. I remember thinking the cursive capital Q was just strange, and the G, and others.
    My grown son (whose handwriting is horrible) laments dumbing down students further by removing cursive. He wants to know how they will read documents like the Declaration of Independence?

  24. What a great post today! (Jim, still laughing...)

    I am sticking firmly in the "teach cursive" camp. (Glad I am backed up on the brain-wiring thing.) And imagine not being able to READ cursive?

    How hard is it to teach elementary kids at least the basics? A few minutes a day of practice. And yes, I learned in first grade.

    I also think keyboarding should be taught, and much earlier than highschool, otherwise we will have people who can only text with their thumbs and hunt-peck type. I didn't learn to type until I went to business school. In highschool, my poor mother had to type my papers for me. Now I think she was a saint--and a damned good speller and proof reader! But I cannot imagine writing a novel without being a touch typist.

    Kim, on the inks (we must have a fountain pen discussion) I don't like Fahrney's. Mostly I use Levenger's, which I love.

    And Kaye, shame on me. I haven't been using my fountain pens much lately, even my favorite Century Platinum, because I've discovered Pentel EnerGel needle point gel pens, .05 mm.

    And one more thing--handwriting is not only (usually) uniquely identifiable (and useful to mystery writers) but it tells things about character.

    Lastly, I think we all have lovely, creative, expressive script--legible or not!

  25. I'm a definite scribbler and crosser-outer. My writing is all over the place -- sometimes crabbed (if that makes sense), other times spikey, other time flat and flowy. Maybe it's just my multiple personality disorder showing. :-)

    Does anyone have a fear of signing books badly? I do. A few times I've had to cross-out mistakes -- that's just wrong.

  26. I'm a definite scribbler and crosser-outer. My writing is all over the place -- sometimes crabbed (if that makes sense), other times spikey, other time flat and flowy. Maybe it's just my multiple personality disorder showing. :-)

    Does anyone have a fear of signing books badly? I do. A few times I've had to cross-out mistakes -- that's just wrong.

  27. Susan, meant to say I LOVE Mattie's thank you note. And the Barrowmans are awesome! How did you get a signed book for Mattie?


  28. Both my husband and I are left-handed (meaning we are in our right minds!). We had penmanship in school. As a lefty, I want to make circles clockwise. Penmanship said A's and such go counterclockwise and we needed to write unending circles counterclockwise. Not good for us. Plus the Bic pen came out. The early versions tended to glob ink on the point. When the heel of your hand comes after your writing, you smudge through the ink or pencil--unless you use the "broken wrist" style of lefty writing.
    The teachers were not favorably impressed with us.
    It got so bad that my husband had a mean spirited teacher who kept lowering his grade because of his handwriting. Mind you, this was NOT in a penmanship class! It was a regular class and even though his information was correct, the grade was lowered. He made a deal that he would work with some penmanship books and if there were an improvement, the teacher would lighten up. The teacher claimed there had been no improvement. Totally ticked off by now, my husband (bless him) asked to have another teacher look at the before and after and decide. The unbiased teacher agreed that he had improved noticeably!
    May handwriting varies on mood, speed, and unknown factors like the phase of the moon. It goes for enviably nice looking (so I've been told) to suitable for a doctor's prescription pad!

  29. My handwriting is somewhat passable. ONLY because I had a teacher for 7th & 8th grades who consistently failed me in penmanship (200 years ago when they still taught it). It almost kept me from graduating elementary school because every marking period was "F", "F", "F". He told me he knew I was destined to work for the UN because only the Chinese would have any idea what I had written.

    So....I became terrified of failing and wrote very slowly and managed to get it legible. But, to this day (50 years later...ack) I leave gaps after writing 3 letters in a word. I have to break the word up or else it becomes a long sting of ancient symbols.

    I think,despite the use of keyboards, handwriting is still important. Getting a handwritten letter or signed card is much more personal than something typed & printed out.

  30. <>

    Rhys, I'm going to go with your explanation!

    My handwriting is awful, and my printing isn't much better. Arthritis and tendonitis contributed to the deterioration of my handwriting. When I'm writing a note to someone (yes, I do still send off little personal notes the old-fashioned way), I print because I KNOW my writing causes eyestrain in the recipient! I used to write long letters to out-of-town relatives. When I finally bought I computer, I started typing my letters to them. One of my sisters told me that she used to cringe when she received a hand-written letter from me because it would take her a couple of days to decipher it!

    But I still think kids should learn cursive in school! Beautiful handwriting is a joy to read. A couple of grandparents have mentioned to me that they wrote letters to their grandchildren in cursive, and the kids couldn't read them. A parent had to "translate" for them.

  31. I came home from Michigan Saturday night sick as a dog and have just now managed to drag myself from my deathbed and upload a sample of my handwriting. (Actually, after spending most of Sunday in bed and sleeping - no lie - twelve hours, I'm feeling much, much better.)

    So you can all go to the front page and see a the start of a letter I sent Youngest at camp. She helped me find it, since she has all the letters and postcards her parents/siblings/grandmother have sent her when she's away during the summer.

    Which makes me think of the other thing about handwriting - the handwritten note has so much more power than an email. Re-reading this brief letter, for instance, instantly transported me to the wonderful dinner party I attended this past summer, while Ginger (her nickname) started telling me about things she had been doing in camp at the same time.

    I guess you could say of the handwritten letter, "It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

  32. Oh, I also should add that when I told Youngest about this discussion, she confirmed that she has been complimented on her handwriting by several of her peers. She can remember cursive writing drills from when she was in parochial school, while her age-peers who only attended public school haven't had much instruction in cursive at all. At St. Brigid's, all students were required to turn in all their work in cursive by the 3rd or 4th grade, so they had lots and lots of opportunities to practice!

  33. Thanks for the Levenger's tip, Hank - am looking into it now!

  34. Yes,PAt D, the cursive capital Q is silly.And so is the f.

    Pentel energel--off to find it! Than you, Debs! LI love fountain pens, but they are just one too many more things to break..

    Lisa ALber--I gor a signed book from LAura LIppman--which she completely messed up And said so in the book. . I think it makes it more valuable. If that helps... And yes, I always worry about it. Because hey, why not worry about everything possible?

  35. Libby Dodd, that is AWFUL. ANd of course I remember the first bids, yuck. And being left-handed , the ink glob thing was especially annoying.

    Charlie, I'm with you on the ancient symbols Even when I really try, the writing degrades.. Funny, though, a teacher would never say that"CHinese" thing today, you know?

  36. Julia! Quite lovely..xoo but of course.

    DebRo, you and I can write notes to each other..and then type the translations..xoo

  37. Hank, I like your suggestion:-)

    After reading how many of us were educated in parochial schools, I wonder why my writing is still so awful? Huh. All five of us in my family went to the same school. If you were to read a writing sample from each of us, you'd see that we each have totally different penmanship from each other. I can't explain it! One of my high school teachers refused to give me a 100 on an exam where I had all the correct answers, because she didn't like my penmanship. My penmanship back then was beautiful compared to what it is now.

  38. That's so ridiculous, DebRo! YOU liked your penmanship (per-personship?) and you had all the correct answers.

    Still do, right?

  39. Mattie's thank you note is a reminder of how much more powerful a handwritten note is than one dashed off in an email, or even typed. It's so personal, and reveals so much about a person to see their actual handwriting.

    And did I mention how much I love the many creative ways kids pad out their writing?

  40. Julia, if we are ever kidnapped for ransom, you and Lucy will definitely write the demand note:-)

    Hank, the EnerGel comes in different points. I like the finest one, the .05, which is a little harder to find. I got a pack of red, black, and blue from Amazon when I couldn't find them at the office supply.

    I think we should have compared book-signing signatures! If you look at my signature on title pages from twenty years ago, you would never know it was the same person:-)

    And yes, I have messed up inscriptions, too, and had to cross out. Too funny. But sometimes it's really hard to write while people are talking to you!

  41. My penmanship is good when I take my time. If I'm in a hurry? Forget it. I have to take notes at our team meetings on Monday, and I have to write so fast, nobody can read it (fortunately, I post to our intranet).

    Write by hand? I can't. My brain goes faster than my hand. It would be such a mess, with the scrawls and crossing out, I'd never be able to transcribe it.

    My kids, especially my daughter, have beautiful handwriting. The Girl has even won awards. But they go to Catholic school so...

    My father, a lefty, has horrible handwriting. Nobody except my mother and I could decipher it.

    And Ramona, I'm with you in the wishy-washy camp too.

    And Hank, um, you wrote something in my copy of THE OTHER WOMAN - and I absolutely cannot read the last word. But I got the general idea, so it's all good. =)

  42. I always enjoyed the compliments I would receive on my handwriting, but as I don't have as much occasion to write in cursive anymore, I miss that. I think my handwriting has deteriorated a bit over the years, but I'm still amazed how it stacks up against those that are practically illegible. Of course, I was one of those annoying kids who actually looked forward to writing exercises in class and perfecting those swirls on the lined paper.

    I do lament the current trend to stop teaching cursive. I'm with Debs in that camp, and I too wonder how students will ever the cursive writings of those who have gone before them. I also like Deb's idea that there is a unique connection between the brain and handwriting. I think there is an emotional connection, too, that creates a flow of feelings more naturally. I have often posed the question about how future generations are going to tap into the feelings and thoughts of important historical figures or even their ancestors. Are emails going to be available for them to peruse? We now have such a rich treasure trove of written correspondence from throughout history. Can you imagine not having letters from one historical figure to another or their personal correspondence or letters that authors wrote. We are privy to so many important and personal thoughts of people through handwritten letters and documents.

    And, thank-you notes can be something of an art. I've always been rather adept at them, but my daughter is even better. She still sometimes writes the no-occasion note, too. I can't begin to tell you what those mean to her grandmother. The cursive missive is just special. Now, my son, on the other hand, has terrible cursive and has long ago switched to printing. We are all better for this switch, but I bemoan the loss of that special skill for him.

    All of your Reds' writing examples were great fun to examine, and I got a good laugh out of those I couldn't read. Julia and Lucy, I am inspired by your beautiful script. It is most interesting to try and decipher many authors' inscriptions in their signing books, but not usually impossible. I keep in mind how many books they are signing and how that might reflect in their handwriting skills. The one that I am still working on after some years is one that Diana Gabaldon signed. A friend and I both got books signed by her, and we still laugh over the scribble that we can't read. (It wasn't just her name.)

    Susan, great note by Mattie. It gives me some hope that maybe printing will be acceptable as records of written correspondence and will, in fact, be available.

  43. Oh, you know what? I even say to people--I'm so sorry, I can't talk and sign at the same time. I always wind up writing what I am saying..

    MAry Sutton, I'm sure it was something like--you are fabulous and -oh, I bet it was "inspiration." Could it be? xoxo

    Yes, Debs, book-signing signatures! We'll do it soon..xoo

  44. Making a note of the Pentel Energel. We who scribble small like finepoint pens. I worry about our kids not having the basic building blocks of knowledge. Some don't learn multiplication tables anymore; they are totally dependent on calculators. One should be able to read, write, and do math without electronic help.
    Teachers are supposed to encourage, not pick at you! I remember one making fun of the way I hold a pen or pencil. I don't pinch it between thumb and first finger, as taught in penmanship. Oddly enough, no handwriting teachers criticized the way I hold a pen. So take that, evil gym teacher!

  45. Oops. Second paragraph, second sentence should have read "I too wonder how students will ever read the cursive writings ..."

  46. And yes, KAthy--think of all those historical documents--we treasure them because they are in handwriting. Even an authors hand-written revisions are such a window in to the brain!

    (Its just not the same in track changes..)

  47. Hank, there is only ONE word I can't read - it was thanks and something about friendship. But the very last word, totally baffled me. =)

    But that's okay, because the XOXO says it all.

  48. My handwriting has never been great. I can write legibly, but I have to slow down and focus to do that. Usually I'm in a hurry so a written list or page of notes is partial printed, partially cursive, and mostly illegible. I prefer to type whenever possible. I am much faster with a keyboard than a pen.

    I do believe people still need to learn so they can sign their names.

  49. Yes, Jets! Seriously, otherwise, how is that even gonna work?

  50. I do agree the pen makes a difference. I remember the year I used a fountain pen (with ink cartridges) and my penmanship peaked. But here's the thing: I do not believe I was thinking about the meaning of what I was writing, just the shape of the letters I was making.

  51. Parents can slip notes to each other and their kids won't ever be able to read it! It's like spelling out words before kids learn to spell only this will be a forever game. I'm revising the will to cursive.
    They need a formal keyboarding class, though.

  52. If Laura Lippman can flubb up a signed book, then I'm golden! :-)

    The worrying causes me to flubb up more...

  53. My speech-to-text corrects everything I write—to very, very embarrassing things. But if I leave it on by mistake while talking to someone it gets the whole conversation down perfectly.

  54. Oh, Penny--exactly! If you don't know how to read cursive, it's just squiggles. Thinking of how to use this in a plot..

    Lisa, I KNOW. Me, too. It's crazy.

    Reine, I am convinced those are magic.I found the one on my phone because it started transcribing the radio. And I thought--WHO IS WRITING THIS?? I was terrified.

  55. Yeah, Pat D! But don't talk to me about math. If it's 8 plus 6, I have to really think about it. Somehow 8 plus 6 and 8 plus 5 elude me.

    I have to do 8 plus 4 plus 2.

  56. Another quickie then I'm back to writing. Whenever I got a new wheelchair, the PT would ask if I was right or left handed. I'd say I was ambidextrous. Then they would ask which hand I used. I'd say either one. They'd ask which I preferred. I'd say it didn't matter. I was reported for being "noncompliant." I reported them back. They referred me to a psychiatrist for testing. I was put through a three-hour battery of physical performance tests, four hours of psych assessments, and a two-hour mental health/status interview. They found out I am ambidextrous.

    Now I can type again. Back to writing. BBL

  57. No matter how illegible one's handwriting is, it can't be as indecipherable as "captcha."

    That said, I was trained in Spencerian cursive, but somewhere in high school, I developed that fat semi-printing, semi-cursive prep school style. It lasted until about 10 years ago when it suddenly disintegrated into incomprehensibility.

    Now, as to my signature, it was fairly legible until 1976. That was the year that I was not only practicing law full time (which required my notary signature several times a day and signatures on correspondence and court filings, plus tons of signatures on my own checks and credit card slips), but I also served as the State Treasurer on the Udall for President Wisconsin primary campaign. As treasurer, I signed 100 paychecks every Friday for six weeks, plus weekly filings with the FEC, and all the checks the campaign had to issue (someday I'll write about that chaos, but the wound is still too fresh). My signature disintegrated totally. Even I can't read it now.

  58. What a great topic! I could read some of your samples, the other reminded me of students I strongly encouraged to type their homework. One young man was extraordinarily happy when I told him I would accept printed rather than cursive work because "it's good enough for my dad's stories, so it's good enough for yours."
    I only write clearly now for a couple of lines, and then my hand deteriorates, but I used to write quite well, for a left-hander with the hooked-over grip (thanks to my second grade teacher's insistence on papers tilting HER way).
    I do think some familiarity with cursive is necessary, though perhaps with less emphasis than in former years . . . much the same as the treatment of spelling, taught but with less stringency. The school day can only hold so much and students have different aptitudes.

  59. OH, Ellen, I'm with you. My signature looks like--well, it looks like what was that shorthand method called--ah, I will remember as soon as I hit enter.

    Reine, you are hilarious. Ambidextrously hilarious. ANd ambidextrously non-compliant. LOVE that.

    And Karen in Ohio--remember the book report song from Charlie Brown?

    And yup, NOTHING is as bad as captcha-which wants me to use an umlaut. I have decided to be noncompliant.

  60. Kathy Reel -

    Diana Gabaldon typically writes something in Gaelic to go with the theme of that particular book.

    There was once a page or post on her website that translated the words she usually uses, but I can't seem to find it anymore.

    But unlike with Hank's signed book, in this case, it really *isn't* in English. ;)

    (I have all my copies of Gabaldon's books signed)

  61. Reine, I am still laughing at your ambidextrous response!

    Reminds me that one of my sisters (the one next in line after me) is left-handed, and our "baby" sister also is left-handed. The youngest tells us that she made a conscious decision to be a "lefty" because she idolized the left-handed older sister!(I don't know what that says about the rest of us in the family:-) These days,Baby Sister can no longer write in cursive, thanks to MS, but she still manages to print legibly (with her other hand.)

    I believe my 8th grade teacher was shocked when I was one of the kids selected by a missionary priest to address envelopes for a charitable event to raise money for his mission. Even my parents were surprised when I told them!

  62. I am pretty proud of my penmanship. It's always been one of my strong suits. I was in a combined 7th and 8th grade for two years. The first of every month for those two years we had to write the date and "This is a sample of my penmanship" on a legal sized sheet of lined paper. Sister Adelina kept all the sheets (there were only 12 of us) on a clipboard in the front of the classroom. She'd show it to anyone who visited.

    I took calligraphy classes, too. And I adore writing with a fountain pen.

    I have been a member of the Electoral College so my signature is on file with the National Archives. I took extra care writing that!

  63. Marianne, very very cool!

    And yeah, mine is in Gaelic, too. Sort of.

  64. LOL! My father's handwriting was so bad that he would type out checks! I saved a couple of the letters I got from him in college - I was the envy of the dorm because I got mail from my dad!
    ps - he was a newspaper reporter/editor and used the typewriter all the time.

  65. Yes, nothing better than Mail, Cindy! IN fact, we're dong a blog about it soon! xoxo

  66. My teenage nephews don't write cursive, except to sign their names. They learned in school, but there was no emphasis on USING handwriting, as everything is typing/keyboarding.

    Love all the stories and comments here today! Jim and Denise and Reine--I needed a laugh today! I'm a lefty, use cursive/printing,fairly legible (at least to me), all my writing projects begin on a yellow notepad, as do notes in progress, journal entries, cards, etc.

    And I agree with those who feel that we are losing something special--when I find a letter or note written by a loved one or a friend, it's like Julia noted, I feel blessed again. My mother's writing instantly recognizable as HER, my grandmother's, my father's. I think I hold onto somethings not for the content, but for the connection--physical, tangible evidence--in a way that a typed letter can never be--of that person. And now I'm getting maudlin and will stop.

  67. So right, FChurch! AndI'm a lefty, too..wonder how many of us are? And there's ANOTHER blog!

    And oh, yes, when I see my mother's handwriting? Wow.

  68. I think my handwriting is lovely, charming, and readable, but then I would, wouldn't I?

  69. Kristopher, I'm so jealous that you have all of the Gabaldon books signed. Yes, my friend and I figured it was something in Gaelic, but the letters were indecipherable, and we really wanted to know what it said. I've thought about taking a picture of it and sending it to her to interpret.

    One other comment I meant to make about the specialness of cursive writing is that to me it is a cultural aspect of our lives that we are extinguishing. It's like a part of our language that is being lost.

    And, FChurch, you put the personal touch square at my heart, as my mother has been gone right at twenty years, and it is such a sweet moment when I come across her writing.

  70. Sal, we think so, too.

    And Kathy, send it! She's love it, I bet.

  71. Hank, my hubby is a lefty, and prints rather than writes in cursive. So interesting. Must blog about that!

  72. I read a thing that said besides what was said before, learning cursive is very helpful in developing all kinds of fine motor skills. Last year, my gdaughter got a cursive license. :) They weren't going to teach cursive...the year my gson would've started, but all the protests from parents and gparents changed their minds. So gson had to play catch up. They were always upset when I gave them I card. You know I don't read cursive. Learn I said.
    I am pretty careful when I write a first draft or note or letter, but mine has devolved to half printing and writing and my own version of shorthand for college. Before she moved away, I'd take something I'd written to my friend to decipher. ;)
    I guess you can tell, I'm pro cursive.

    Pen M

    1. I'm ambidextrous too. Sometimes when I'm stuck in the middle of something, I'll switch hands. I seem to think differently. Weird huh?
      I should probably use the left for things that need to be legible. It is, marginally better. :)
      Pen M

  73. Gee, what is the common theme here? With one exception (or two) mystery writers have terrible handwriting. So glad I chose the write genre for my sloppy handwriting! : )

  74. I taught English in Poland right after college and when I wrote "of" on the chalk board ... not one student could read it. I connected in the o and the f in an unusual pattern I guess. My hand writing is also difficult for my children to read, I think that cursive was taught briefly in their school.

  75. Loved seeing all you Reds' handwriting! I taught myself to write from printed books before school, so my cursive is a combination of printing (as in book) and cursive. But it's fast and still readable, even though I'm getting older. I'm like Debs. I like to do notes, journals, planning, etc., with pen and paper. If I hit a hard stretch (don't like the term "writer's block"). I'll often start writing in longhand, and it always gets things started again.

  76. Wondering if your handwriting is a reflection of your personality?

    I know of several people who rely on communicating with others through writing notes and these people have beautiful handwriting.

    I've been told that I have beautiful handwriting. I remember copying the cursive writing from the cursive alphabet letters on the wall in my classroom as a young child.


  77. I once had a professor in a college French class wave my blue book in front of everyone and shout that I had written my exam in Egyptian hieroglyphics, not French. I think he was frustrated.
    I have dysgraphia, which means I also type badly. And yet I chsoe--oops, chose-- to be writer. That was one small smaple agh smaple no SAMPLE sheesh! of how I type and write.