What of handwriting?

As the disgorging of content from my parents’ house continues, I’ve recently been presented with a large folder of school memorabilia — including ALL my school reports, good work certificates, several notable assignments, an abundance of early childhood creative writings (which I may share in some other post), even a maths exam and some science assignments (what was my mum thinking?!).

Naturally I’m pondering which of these documents etc to keep and which to throw away… Do I really need any of it? I haven’t looked at any of this stuff in over 25 years. Moreover, I had completely forgotten the existence of swimming certificates, dance exam certificates, piano exam certificates. Should I just flick through them now and be done with them? (Or will I get it all out in another 20 years and reminisce one last time?)

I don’t have answers to these questions yet. But I have hoarding instincts, and my thought processes are heading in the direction of: It wouldn’t take a large box to store this stuff, and once it’s gone I’ll never get any of it back again…

But then again, I’ll probably never want to look at it again either.

Nonetheless, it has been entertaining to read what my various teachers wrote about my reading and writing ability when I was young. And the thing which has me most entertained is all the comments from my grade 5 and 6 teacher (I had the same teacher for two years) about how much my handwriting sucked.

Yep, my handwriting.

Early on, my handwriting proved quite popular with the teachers — Always very neat and of a good size… correct formation of letters… blessed with a beautiful style

And then — She has made the transition to pen very successfully… Her handwriting is a pleasure to read

After that it goes downhill. Age 10 — Ellen is a dedicated and consistent worker who only needs to tidy her handwriting… Care must be taken at all times with neatness (and the following of instructions)

And then at age 11 — Ellen is endeavouring to develop her own style of handwriting. As a consequence styles differ from page to page and cause her work to look messy. She must try to decide on a style so that her work can regain the neatness of old.


Seriously, my handwriting is STILL really variable, depending on my mood. A quick flick through my writing journal proves it.

But all this focus on handwriting 30 years ago has made me think about how things have changed. The fact is that hardly anyone other than me has to read my handwriting these days. Birthday cards… the odd handwritten note for a colleague or friend… Er…

And it makes me wonder how much pressure is put on today’s kids to have neat handwriting? It seems they make the transition to using computers in schools so early these days… Do kids still transition to cursive script and then get ‘pen licences’ like we did? How does it work now, when 10-year old students are handing in assignments all typed up on a computer?

And I’m curious to know whether Grade 6s are marked on ‘handwriting and presentation of written work’? [I got a B for all my exploratory efforts.]

It’s fascinating to think about the role of handwriting — and the simple process of writing with a pen — in the modern world. As a writer I have an affinity for pen and paper, and I believe I think better with a pen — all my planning and note-taking is still done by hand. The concept of taking notes directly into a computer seems alien to me.

But still it’s rare that anyone other than me ever has to read my handwriting, so as long as I can decipher it, I guess that’s all that matters. Right?

What do you think about your handwriting?

16 thoughts on “What of handwriting?

  1. Throw none of it away. In 20 or 25 years you may pull it out to reminisce and realize if you’re a writer, Hey, there’s a germ of a story here, and there’s a more than a germ. Give yourself that chance.


    1. True, I hadn’t considered there might be a story idea tucked away in there… Good thought. And it really wouldn’t take a very big box to store it in some dim dusty corner of my house. 😛
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  2. I agree. Keep it.

    As for handwriting…God, I have really, really bad handwriting. No one can read it except me, so I usually end up printing everything. It’s actually kind of embarrassing. (I also have a version of shorthand that only I can read as well).

    It’s fascinating to think that learning cursive may fall by the wayside. I can’t even imagine turning in assignments that were done on a computer — but that’s where everything is headed. I think being able to handwrite is a good skill to have. If only for writing letters (which are also becoming obsolete) and well…I can’t think of any other reason, but it feels important to me…like it’s the last (or one of the last) things us pre-computer people had. I guess I’m afraid of change. But not all change is bad. So, I guess we’ll have to see what happens in the future.


    1. It seems to me there’s a distinction between scrawling notes that only you can read, against neat presentation of handwriting for others’ benefit. It’s the latter that seems to be disappearing. (How often do we shoot an email to someone working in the next office rather than write a note?)

      Having said that, I still handwrite shopping lists and the like, but I know plenty of people who tap them into their smart phones… How long before some people don’t ever use a pen and paper?

      Thanks, Erin!


      1. I think that’s entirely possible. Part of the show Fringe took place in an alternate universe where paper and pen was completely obsolete.

        Also, on handwriting being an art form — I used to love looking at my ex-mother-in-law’s handwriting – she (actually, the entire family) was from the Czech Republic and they were taught cursive a bit differently. That was really neat to compare mine with hers (I also used to analyze handwriting. That’s really fun, too!).


        1. Oooh, I love Fringe! Ive only seen three seasons though, and I watched an ep from season 5 last night and it’s all sooo different. Must fill in the gaps and SOON.

          But I digress.

          You used to analyse handwriting?! As a hobby or as a profession? How interesting.

          And your comment about Czech writing and Julie’s about French have really got me thinking some more… I wonder if we’re all even taught English lettering the same way?


          1. Yeah, it’s an amazing show. I’m on season 4 right now.

            Yep, I analyzed handwriting as a hobby. I had considered doing it professionally, but there didn’t seem to really be a call for it outside of law enforcement. But it was fun! And apparently I was pretty accurate, too (to this day I’m always running through people’s handwriting without even thinking about it — bad habit, I know!).

            I wonder the same thing about being taught English letters. It’s fascinating stuff.


  3. Keep it. One of my fondest memories from my childhood was when we were moving and my mother came across a box of her old school assignments. Naturally, mine had been kept too, so there was a really great few hours where we just sat and compared how she had been to how I was. You never know when that little box might make new memories.

    As far as the handwriting goes…I think it’s a dying art, honestly. I’m 26, and in school I was only required to learn cursive for two grade years before we could write however we wanted. Because it wasn’t pushed, mine is terrible unless I really focus. Trying to remedy that!


    1. I LOVE that idea of making new memories just by taking out the old ones. Thank you for sharing that. (Ack – now I’ll never throw anything away…)

      And yes, alas, the art of handwriting would appear to be disappearing. Because why does it need to be neat if no-one else has to read it? I think we handwrite only for ourselves these days.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!


      1. It was my pleasure. I come from a nostalgic, reminiscent family, so we keep everything! One of my most treasured possessions is a “fishing box” filled with odds and ends that my great-great-grandfather once used on a daily basis. There’s nothing in it really useful, but it’s very special to me.

        I feel like handwriting is a form of personal expression, myself. I see a lot of handwriting, and I’ll tell the truth and admit that I often make snap judgments about a person based on their script. Neat, orderly handwriting could mean a very organized person, or a very rigid person. Messy, sloppy handwriting could mean a busy person, a disorganized person, or someone who just doesn’t care.

        After realizing how much I read into people based on just that, I decided to take control of what mine says about me. Even if I don’t notice a thing else about someone, whenever they have beautiful handwriting it’s always this moment of “Ahhh, wow…”, kind of like seeing a waterfall, or the view from a mountaintop.


        1. I agree – seeing beautiful handwriting makes me stop and look too. And I’m usually quite a bit envious.

          You’ve made me quite curious to see an example of your handwriting now…

          It’s lovely to keep small trinkets of personal significance. I keep bits and pieces too, mainly for the memotries they conjure up, rather than any particular usefullness.


  4. I think that they move students to computers too quickly. Why not expect them to master something like handwriting? When I look at the signatures of my grown children on checks and other documents, their names are completely illegible. My favorite thing about receiving letters from my mother, grandmother, and father when I was in college was to follow the lovely swoop of their handwriting. In France, I love to take pictures of the handwritten signs and the handwritten menus on chalkboards because handwriting is definitely an art form there.


    1. But signatures are something else entirely, are they not? If they’re too legible (which mine is, actually) they’re too easy to forge…

      And I agree about the handwritten signs and chalkboard menus — even here they can be really fabulous. But there’s something about the french language…


  5. I’m with the other commenters here. Keep what you can. I have kept certain essays, drawings, and stories written by my kids because they’re this unique snapshot of their lives at the time they created that stuff.

    Handwriting has always been important to me, ridiculously so. As a young kid just learning to form my letters, I was almost obsessive about getting it just right. I think it has more to do with the visual aspect of it more than being perfect at it. To this day, if I’ve written something and I can’t stand how it looks, I have to fight the urge to toss it out and start over. Yes, I’m that weird. 😉


    1. It certainly has been fun going through all my old schoolwork. Especially the really early creative writing attempts. There’s one I wrote in about grade 1 or 2 from the perspective of the family bunny rabbit. It’s hysterical.

      I need to see your handwriting now! Do you rewrite shopping lists if they’re aesthetically unpleasing?


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