Handwriting and Headlines: The death of an art

Published 3:44 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

In the past few years, there seems to have been increasing numbers of headlines about handwriting. Part of the reason is that with computers, cell phones, iPads and laptops we have replaced handwritten notes and letters with email, text messages and the like.

Headlines are intended to get our attention and to provide an idea of the contents that follow. When a headline in The Guardian, an online publication, proclaims “The Tragic Death of the Handwritten Note” it’s a compelling invitation for the reader to proceed.

That particular article cited a recent study showing that people aged 25 to 34 hardly even use a pen.

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It underscores concerns of parents, teachers and business leaders that cursive writing is important but is not being emphasized at home or in the classroom. What will happen in the years ahead if a new generation relies almost exclusively on the Internet to convey communications to family, friends and business associates?

In an article in Harvard Business Review in 2013, John Coleman wrote that “Personal handwritten notes grow rarer day by day.”

Coleman also reported that the Wall Street Journal “… lamented the lost art of the handwritten note.”

A noted calligrapher and author, Margaret Shepherd explored these concerns further in her book The Art of the Handwritten Note, published 16 years ago. She advocates the teaching and learning of cursive writing so that it does not become a “dying art”.

Some states have reinstituted cursive writing in the public schools. Others have dropped the requirement. Tennessee made headlines in 2015 when the State Legislature passed a law requiring the teaching in the public schools.

The headlines are almost certain to continue, and the debate will be ongoing among parents, teachers and business leaders. As newspaper readers, are we likely to reach this conclusion in the years ahead: “Someday we old folks will use cursive writing as a Secret Code”?

William H. Baker, a Claiborne County native and former Middlesboro resident, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu