Do you know what your handwriting looks like?

When was the last time you “wrote” a letter? Used stationery? 

The answer is less obvious than you might think. Sure, you are familiar with your own scrawled to-do lists, or the brief missives you leave on the kitchen counter for houseguests or your spouse. Perhaps you take notes by hand in meetings (though if you’re like me you consult them only sporadically after the fact). But when was the last time you filled a page of foolscap—or Mead college rule, for those of us who’ve never been quite sure what foolscap is—with lines and lines of unbroken lettering, trying to express an argument or make a developed point? When was the last time you used pen and ink for writing, and not just for jotting?

The Missing Ink, from British novelist Philip Hensher, makes the case that it has probably been too long. Subtitled “The Lost Art of Handwriting,” the book is an ode to a dying form: part lament, part obituary, part sentimental rallying cry. In an age of texting and notes tapped straight into tablets, we are rapidly losing the art and skill it takes to swiftly write, with a pen, a sentence that is both intelligible and attractive. The time devoted to teaching handwriting in elementary schools around the globe has dwindled. Hensher opens his book with the plaintive question: “Should we even care? Should we accept that handwriting is a skill whose time has now passed? Or does it carry with it a value that can never truly be superseded by the typed word?”

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  • I write all my sermons out (and take study notes too) by hand in a moleskin in nice (because anal) handwriting. Got a full shelf of full moleskins. I use a good pen too (again, anal). It’s such a habit I can’t really think clearly without writing by hand first.

  • Phil Miller

    College was the last time I extensively took handwritten notes, but I still do usually take a notebook with me to meetings and the like. I also used to prepare sermons using a notebook. Even when I do write in notebooks, most of the time it’s not in cursive though. I tend to write in all caps using a modified lettering technique we had to learn in my architectural drafting courses.

  • Mark Edward

    I practice calligraphy, in addition to regularly writing. My calligraphic hand, wondrous. My normal hand, likened to ‘an architect’s handwriting’ (i.e. clear, legible, rigid).

  • In my personal journal, I write by hand in a notebook. Sometimes in somewhat neat cursive, but usually it degenerates to scrawling, loopy letters that only I can read. (which is okay, since it’s a private journal, anyway!) I’ve never had beautiful handwriting, but I still love the feel of writing by hand to process thoughts. It feels more real. More free flowing. I can’t stop to backspace/delete if something doesn’t come out right. I just have to keep going.

  • James

    I tend to find it much more clarifying to write out important notes to really get lessons and thoughts down on paper. Typing doesn’t have the same sense of connectedness to the thought process that writing does…perhaps in part because I’m having to do a constant typo-check when typing that I don’t do when writing. Not only that, I use a fountain pen most of the time.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I had to write an exam in Law & Ethics for a professional association earlier this year. Essay-type questions, 3 hours of writing. I was amazed that I did not suffer from writer’s cramp, the last time this happened being 16 years ago….

  • Stacey Douglas

    Sundays I pen running notes and thoughts during the sermon to help me listen and focus on the text (sometimes Hebrew and Greek texts) and what is being said. I have done this for years as a personal discipline in hearing the word of God as it is preached – only occasionally do I forgo doing so (typically speaker-dependent reasons). I also maintain this practice during lectures and public presentations that are content-rich. It has helped me retain what I have heard and or pondered during the sermon/presentation. Now I have a mind full of minutiae – much of it useful.

  • I keep a prayer journal and write daily. One of the benefits for me in putting pen to paper is it forces my mind to slow down to the speed of my pen. It evens helps me hear from God more easily because my mind is slowed down and I am focused on God and my relationship with Him.

  • kent

    I fill legal pads with my writing. Notes, lessons I teach, meetings I attend. I write out everything.

  • EricMichaelSay

    I take the kind of notes the writer describes. I also remember what I hear better than what I slowly attempt to follow with my hand, so that is a big factor for me.

    I really enjoy calligraphy though, and find it to be very meditative

  • TriciaM

    Last August an old friend, who doesn’t use Facebook, invited me to write her a letter. I sat down a few weeks ago and filled 3- maybe 4- sides of the UK equvalent of Mead college rule. The act of writing in longhand caused me to be reflective rather than newsy and the whole process was a joy. I tried to write as neatly as possible in my script that pretty much looks like joined up printing rather than the curly handwriting of my generation.

    The oddest thing, however, was the fact that, after I put it in an envelope, I couldn’t really remember what I’d written. Unlike an email, there’s no copy in a sent folder and the document doesn’t belong to me but tp my friend. I’m awaiting her reply and I will know her handwriting in an instant even though I haven’t seen it for at least 10 years.