Is Handwriting Dead?

Is Handwriting Dead?

When I started my first day at my office, a coworker asked (begged, really) if my handwriting was decent, since we deal in note-taking a fair amount. The apologetic look on my face said it all; my handwriting is awful. Years of typing have ruined any chance of something legible coming out when I put pen to paper.

I feel vindicated in my poor handwriting, however, after reading the New York Times Bits Blog this week. They featured an article in Miller-McCune by an Oberlin professor named Anne Trubek who argues that handwriting is not necessary when typing is more efficient; it is more the culture concept of handwriting that keeps it alive.

It’s a fascinating essay, and one part really stuck out for me. Trubek discussed her son’s difficulties in school because he was required to learn proper handwriting, to the point where the poor kid was getting detentions over it! When she transferred her son to a private school that allowed his assignments to be dictated and typed, he began to enjoy school again. I feel very validated, as I had basically the same experience (though mine was a revelation in college, thanks to a palm M100 and an external keyboard).

Sadly (to me, at least), Anne Trubek doesn’t see handwriting disappearing entirely. Which is too bad if you write like me (or have to work with me!). What do you think? Is handwriting destined to be a niche skill in a few years? Do you prefer to type or hand write? Share below!

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

6 Comments on "Is Handwriting Dead?"

  1. I think handwriting is a skill that everyone should learn. There will always be a time when a note will have to be handwritten, when a form needs to be filled out by hand, and it’s a nice personal touch to write a personal note in a holiday card or thank you note. Maybe a child’s handwriting will never win any awards, but s/he should be able to write something legibly when necessary. Allowing them to “dictate” isn’t teaching them anything.

  2. I hope that handwriting is not dead. Even though gadgets allow people to transfer data without writing, I do not see handwriting dying any time soon (nor far away). Like the above person stated, there will always be forms to be filled out and notes to be given (in our own hand).

    My handwriting does not look like the style sheet above (in fact, as a kid I rebelled against that style sheet). I enjoyed writing, but in my own way. My Dad said that I didn’t write, but that I drew. My letters were my own, and I allowed my personality to come out when I wrote. I basically still have the same handwriting that I had in eighth grade. It is legible, but it is definitely me.

    I am also a person who types quickly and use computers and gadgets all the time, but communication by writing notes is still very important.

    Also, I do not think that children should be pushed into fitting into that style sheet, but to allow them to find their own way (the style sheet as a guide, not the law). When I taught, I wanted them to express themselves, not hindering them to fit into a mold that everyone can’t fit into. If the child in the story did better using another method to communicate, great. I wouldn’t discourage him/her from continuing to write, but some people are better in other areas.

    These are my thoughts.

  3. If you need to fill in forms, why not print, rather than use handwriting? Other than signing my signature, I haven’t used handwriting for anything since I was 12 years old and first able to take typing class in school (this was the pre-computer neolithic age).

    I had to handwrite every essay after 2nd grade in elementary school, which was torture. Once I could go back to printing (in middle school), I did, and took typing, too. I know kids learn “keyboarding” in elementary school now, but a 12 year-old learning how to type in 1975 was pretty rare.

    My kids both struggle quite a bit with handwriting due to disabilities, and once they learned typing and were allowed to use it for school work, a huge barrier was taken away.

    If Neal Stephenson wants to write his novels with a fountain pen, hey, more power to him. But I think handwriting is going to go the way of the quill, blotter, and ink pot.

  4. Thomas R. Hall | December 27, 2009 at 9:11 pm |

    I hope it doesn’t die. One of the main features I use a Tablet PC for is handwriting recognition. When I can use Voice Recognition, I do, due to my RSI issues (typing hurts – a lot). However, I can’t do that in meetings, etc., and it’s often impolite to type in a large meeting – causes too much noise/distractions. With handwriting on a Tablet, I can take notes that can be left as it is written or converted into text automatically.

    Although I type much faster than I can write, I think it still has a place. A handwritten note is a very personal touch and handwriting can show you about a person’s personality as well.

  5. Thomas R. Hall | December 27, 2009 at 9:12 pm |

    Oh, and my handwriting is atrocious, but the Tablet PC handwriting recognition can figure it out most of the time!

  6. I’m interested in natural user interfaces in the area of electronic documents. Slate-PCs (slim tablets like the iPad) are on the rise and many of them are offering handwriting recognition for taking notes. I agree that hand writing skills are here to stay but I wonder if we really shouldn’t be teaching some form of shorthand. If the main use for handwriting now is taking notes, would this not be a more efficient form of written communication? I wrote a blog post this subject here:

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