In Praise of Handwriting

Do you ever look at your notebooks and wish you had better handwriting to fill them with? And do you ever notice that notebooks from the past always seem to be full of beautiful script? If so, you might be interested in this book about the history of handwriting. In this electronic age, it just isn’t what it used to be!

Steeped in the Palmer Method of handwriting she learned in Catholic school, Kitty Burns Florey is a self-confessed “penmanship nut” who loves the act of taking pen to paper. So when she discovered that schools today forego handwriting drills in favor of teaching something called keyboarding, it gave her pause: “There is a widespread belief that, in a digital world, forming letters on paper with a pen is pointless and obsolete,” she says, “and anyone who thinks otherwise is right up there with folks who still have fallout shelters in their backyards.”

Florey tackles the importance of writing by hand and its place in our increasingly electronic society in this fascinating exploration of the history of handwriting. Weaving together the evolution of writing implements and scripts, pen collecting societies, the golden age of American penmanship, the growth in popularity of handwriting analysis, and the pockets of aficionados who still prefer scribbling on paper to tapping on keys, she poses the question: Is writing by hand really no longer necessary in today’s busy world?

Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting

3 thoughts on “In Praise of Handwriting”

  1. After starting to keep a journal about 12 years ago, I became appalled by my ugly penmanship and decided to make a conscious effort to improve it. I was also inspired by my wife, who has a lovely hand (influenced by training in calligraphy). Now my writing looks nothing like it did, and even I sometimes linger over a page I’ve written and enjoy the effect of carefully scribed words marching across and down the page. A couple of years ago I was sitting in a coffee shop writing in a journal (not something I do very often, I might add) and a teenager looked over at me and said, “You have such nice handwriting.” It was one of the nicest spontaneous compliments I’ve ever received.

  2. Florey’s book is great, delightful, and often charming; something wonderful to have in your collection for several reasons.

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    That is a link to a pdf copy of one of the old Palmer Method handwriting books. I’ve tried using a little bit of it to improve my handwriting, its difficult to change your handwriting, but it’d certainly be worth it.
    Palmer wanted to make writing very easy and automatic, because in his day so many records were entirely handwritten. He talks about using your ‘writing machine’, the muscles of your upper arm, to write, NOT the muscles of your wrist, its actually pretty interesting.

    Palmer is considered a great amoung the “Penmen”.

    What I’ve been able to gather about the decline of handwriting is that after the times of Palmer, teachers started forgoing cursive writing because you can have students start block writing at a much younger age, and thus they can start writing sentences and you can analyze their sentence structure, etc, at an earlier age.
    This, I don’t think, has produced a generation of super-grammerians though.
    And now I suppose they might have kids starting with keyboards rather than pens at all, it makes a certain amount of sense, but I don’t know if ‘we’ as a society or even the kids are getting anything out of it.

    Its also sort of odd, we forgo handwrting for normal communication, but people go CRAZY for outright calligraphy.

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