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What Happened To Handwriting?

antique elderly handwriting cursive

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50 replies to this topic

#1 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 09:14

Recently I've been getting/seeing notes from whom I assume to be quite elderly people (I assume that simply because they're 'thank you for buying' notes from online antique vendors). I've gathered quite a collection of them, and the beauty of their handwriting - no doubt quickly written, most often with regular ballpoints or even pencils - amaze me. 

 

Then I remember the handwriting of my peers and they have the grace of Twilight prose in comparison to Evelyn Waugh. 

 

Did people from the 1960s and beyond have more writing under their belt? But I remember doing quite a lot of writing myself as a schoolgirl, as typed material weren't allowed until university. Penmanship classes? But I had them too. Fountain pens...? They're just pens, it's not like they magically transform handwriting. In all my (scant) years, I haven't actually seen handwriting from any of my peers that made me say, "wow, that is beautiful" (it's mostly 'this is illegible, I don't think this is in any known alphabet'). But I see them all the time amongst the antique vendors.

 

Does anyone know the reason why? Do antique vendors just all have beautiful handwriting...? Or is this a generation thing?


Edited by GabrielleDuVent, 22 February 2014 - 09:17.

Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


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#2 Bananabender

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 09:51

As a three score and ten year old I can say that from grade two we were forced to write with a steel nib and ink well. And were forced to hold the pen correctly . Left handers were not allowed ,literally.
Our script ,level on the blue line with capitals to the red line ,I think,was as important as the spelling .God help you if there was a blot on the paper. I even remember the teacher who had all in the class petrified that they would make a mistake which meant the strap. Sister Mary Agatha
It meant we took care and were more precise.
Thank you Sister Agatha.

#3 RMN

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 10:22

I too learned with dip-pens, and we started with special nibholders that forced your fingers in the appropriate grip.

 

I think what differs over the years is that the curriculum has become loaded with more and more subjects we want our little ones to learn, and so less time stayed for skill classes. I remember the endless lines we had to copy. And again if the result was not up to par. We did not get the strap or things like that, but I remember having to stay after classes having to copy extra lines. For months on end, until finaly teacher patted my shoulder and complimented me on finally getting it well.

 

Even now I write fairly legible and do not have the "doctors scrawl".

 

So I think the difference is the time spend on the subject, and the vehemence with which failure was encountered.

 

 

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#4 AFountain

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 11:02

I learned to write in the '60s and have to say that my handwriting is terrible. I've always envied my grandparents and their generation their beautiful cursive.  Even though we had penmanship (The Palmer method) and much practice time, my handwriting was always cramped, uneven, and never flowed. 

 

Over the years of taking notes - many, many notes - in class, it got even worse.  I ended up using my own very fast combo of cursive and printing that worked for me but is not easy for others to read.  Now, I type much more than I write which hasn't helped matters much.  When I take my time, I can print very nicely but I don't even remember how to make some cursive letters.  I've been checking out some of the resources in the forum and plan on working on my cursive writing - until recently, I didn't think it possible to change my handwriting at this point in my life.

 

The younger people at work have handwriting that's even worse than mine.  I always figured that it was because schools have replaced writing with keyboarding.



#5 Apprenti

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 14:04

I'm still at secondary school, and my handwriting is quite neat. Of course, I'm learning spencerian, so that helps but, more importantly, I put the effort into writing neatly and consistently. Some people in my class write so poorly they have to take exams on a laptop, and that's really sad to me.

Which is why I think it's so important to make the effort nowadays. If we don't, no one will, and pens will become a thing of the past.

And that would be really sad.

#6 Paddler

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 14:54

I think poor handwriting is largely due to lack of attention. My father called this "idle mindedness".

 

I was taught to write with a pen in the mid-1950s. My class was the first in that school to be given Sheaffer cartridge pens instead of dip pens. We had penmanship classes twice per week, but our writing was critiqued at all times. Today, I can write well if I am mindful of the task at hand and concentrate on "crafting" the text rather than thinking ahead of myself and just dashing something down. This sloppy writing is taught to children when they are required to take notes incorrectly.

 

Notes should be merely goads to memory. If you must write a speaker's words verbatim, there is something very wrong going on - especially in this age of electronic text. If a teacher expects students to write his lectures verbatim, he is just trying to bust their chops.


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#7 henkm

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 16:10

It can't be purely generational. My dad, vintage '47, had a gorgeous handwriting. Not necessarily easy to read for youngsters but with a very attractive and regular flow to it. My mother, one year his junior, doesn't write cursive at all and her print is rather unspeakable. They are from different geographical areas though.

 

I learned cursive writing in primary, which I mostly still use to this day, though I 'flipped' the lower loop on the f to come out in the right direction for the next letter (I've seen this in others too). Also, I've mostly taken to print capitals. The cursive capitals they made us use have always looked silly to me. My wife calls my handwriting childish looking. It's not exactly irregular but also not at all attractive like dad's.

 

My son now learns to write only in print, for reasons of legibility. I have the impression that interrupting the flow of writing after every letter makes it harder to obtain regularity but maybe I'm just being old-fashioned.



#8 mboschm

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 16:25

There's another thing, which I thing is quite serious. Besides kids not being properly taught handwriting (although until 5th grade I had to go through three calligraphy booklets called Nice Handwriting - Bona Lletra) They're taught ugly, childish looking scripts. I mean, look at this and compare it to Palmer. Some older members have shared memories of them longing to write in adult handwriting instead of printing like little children. We looked forward to printing instead of  joining-up like little children.

 

deures3.jpg


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#9 Mickey

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 16:27

Handwriting followed common sense and discipline out of the public school curriculum. Feeling lonesome, good manners left soon after.


The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries


#10 RMN

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 16:57

There's another thing, which I thing is quite serious. Besides kids not being properly taught handwriting (although until 5th grade I had to go through three calligraphy booklets called Nice Handwriting - Bona Lletra) They're taught ugly, childish looking scripts. I mean, look at this and compare it to Palmer. Some older members have shared memories of them longing to write in adult handwriting instead of printing like little children. We looked forward to printing instead of  joining-up like little children.

 

deures3.jpg

Sorry, but I can't say I find this unattractive writing.

 

Once you italicise this it is not so different from the "normal" script we got taught.

 

D.ick


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#11 Lorna Reed

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 17:08

I started infant school in 1950, and spent hours with copy books, dip pens and ink.

I was allowed to be left-handed, which I think was probably quite enlightened for those days.

My work was not always neat, as the inkwells were always situated on the right side of the desk, so my sleeve

was always brushing across my work.

The spelling of every word was checked, and any incorrectly spelled word was crossed through in red ink,

and then had to be written correctly three times.

I took pride and pleasure in producing a page of neat writing with no corrections.


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#12 GClef

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 18:13

Handwriting followed common sense and discipline out of the public school curriculum. Feeling lonesome, good manners left soon after.

+1...this is one of the reasons I pulled my 15 year old daughter, in the middle of her sophomore year, out of high school, and is now being home schooled.
And, surprise, surprise...she is now working to improve her handwriting!

Edited by GClef, 22 February 2014 - 19:11.


#13 legume

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 21:35

I grew up in California, and cursive writing was sufficiently taught to us in 2nd or 3rd grade. Many other states still do this as well, so it's not like kids don't learn how to write in cursive. The problem, I think, is the attitude students have towards learning it. I, being an impressionable child just assumed that once we learned cursive, we were expected, though not required to continue using cursive. The attitude my peers had was that they were never going to use it, so it was a waste of time. Add in the fact that no one's handwriting looks good at first and many were discouraged from continuing their practice. Years later of course the same people ask when and where I learned to write so well in cursive.  :rolleyes: Whether it's printing or cursive, no amount of school lessons will make your handwriting better, in fact I don't think schools shouldn't expend too much time with handwriting. It's the time and effort you put into it by your own initiative that determines the quality of your writing.



#14 aawhite

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 00:21

I believe it is a generation thing.

 

Many children today are of the computer-age, and physical or virtual keyboard is the new pen. Soon, even this will be obsolete with the latest mprovements to speech-to-writing softwares.

 

If they have to fill up a form, they mostly use a ball pens. My nephews and nieces comment that they like my penmanship. In my opinion, I have a below average penmanship. But, since I use an italic nib and write slowly (say, for Christmas card greetings), they think my penmanship is great. Well, you cannot do that with a ball pen.

 

The other casualty of the computer age is spelling. Most people today rely on spell checkers. When it is time to actually write with pen and paper, the spelling is in many cases below par.


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#15 AFountain

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 01:09

I think poor handwriting is largely due to lack of attention. My father called this "idle mindedness".

 

I was taught to write with a pen in the mid-1950s. My class was the first in that school to be given Sheaffer cartridge pens instead of dip pens. We had penmanship classes twice per week, but our writing was critiqued at all times. Today, I can write well if I am mindful of the task at hand and concentrate on "crafting" the text rather than thinking ahead of myself and just dashing something down. This sloppy writing is taught to children when they are required to take notes incorrectly.

 

Notes should be merely goads to memory. If you must write a speaker's words verbatim, there is something very wrong going on - especially in this age of electronic text. If a teacher expects students to write his lectures verbatim, he is just trying to bust their chops.

 

You may be right in some cases, but I don't believe that's the case for me.  I learned penmanship 10 years after you and we had consistent practice with the expectation that we write correctly. I don't know if it was the 10 years between our school experiences or some other reason, but we didn't use fountain pens. We were only allowed to use pencil and didn't use ballpoint pens until Jr High.  Regardless, I always found cursive difficult. I'm a perfectionist and no teacher could have expected more from me than I expected from myself and this may be the root of why handwriting was so hard for me.  I was never able to relax and let it flow and as a result it was always cramped, tight, and uneven.  The harder I tried, the worse it became.

 

I also never tried to take down what professors said verbatim, but there were a lot of formulae and technical information that required more than a few words to remind me of the lecture.  It was great when I had professors who wrote on the chalkboard because it slowed them down somewhat, but many used overhead projectors with prepared transparencies and there was a lot of info to get down in a short amount of time.

 

Now, ironically, notes that I take in meetings are done on the laptop since I type quickly and when I do use pen and paper I'm able to take my time and do it neatly.

 

My next project is to re-learn cursive and hopefully I'll be able to relax and avoid the cramped, tight writing of my childhood.



#16 Charles Rice

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 03:01

I have what at best could be considered fair handwriting.  But it amazes me that when those much younger look at it they say it is very good.  I can hardly read theirs.  (I'm no good at any kind of drawing either)



#17 Eastree

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 05:12

(My first post here since 2008 ...)

I see my own path to unspeakably bad handwriting in a cluttered mess of undisciplined lettering lessons in early grades, and a lack of care by teachers later on.

 

I say cluttered because in kindergarten, we learned the classic print lettering. Then D'Nelion in first grade, back to print when I moved to another school district in third grade (where I was corrected from being allowed to use D'Nelion), then into cursive writing in fourth grade. But excepting the occasional large-print 'trace the letters' sheets, there was hardly any attempt at producing decent writing -- merely legibility. This is where the undisciplined aspect comes in. As a point of example, I remember having to write ... something (I specifically do not remember) at some point in the early years of cursive, and the teacher insisting it could not be printed.* I had to ask a classmate how to write a cursive capital G, as at that point I had forgotten. But no worry, as my scrawling was deemed acceptably legible. My work was accepted for that assignment.

 

Further, there was no opportunity to improve handwriting for those of us with atrocious penmanship. In later grades, we would occasionally be scolded about how an i looked like a dotted e, or the r off an o wasn't distinct enough. But it was typically followed up with, "But as long as it's legible, and I think you didn't miss any letters in the spelling ...."

 

On top of all this  was the home factor. My mother encouraged only ever imitation of her own handwriting, which is no more than a series of loose loops, with an occasional turn-back, dot, or cross to make a letter any different. To this day, I habitually imitate her signature when I sign my own name, without so much as a thought. But the fact that "well" appears a series of nigh identical loops on the page when she writes it was enough to turn me away from any efforts at seeking handwriting improvement at home.

 

In junior high school (maybe early high school?) I decided to give up cursive writing, and scratched my words in ugly, unpracticed print. This was reinforced when I took introductory drafting as an elective, and we were forced to write all caps at a specific measured size, with no personal embellishment whatsoever. For the first time in my life, my handwriting was legible -- even if by force. This made me happy, though at the time I did not recognize it as giving up, so I continued to not only just print, but to try writing only in capital characters, if only varying size to differentiate height. Not once since 6th grade had I been corrected on my writing style. My printing became nearly illegible in my need for expedience, but I just went with it, convinced there was no hope for regularity and legibility in any other option.

 

As an adult, I didn't even think much about my penmanship for years. And then I tried -- even after joining here -- the easy approach (which I think is another major problem: people are less willing to seek time and effort, rather opting for a quick fix and settling for disappointing results).

 

But I have run far afield of a point: Things have become lazy in education, and at home. In many areas I have seen parents happy when they can recognize what their child was tryign to write. Schools don't enforce writing drills so much. And one unmentioned point is typing is so taken for granted, than the ability to write is not much considered.

 

As much as I would have hated it back then, I now regret not having to write pages of repeated shapes until they were correct, then encorporated those shapes into letters, and repeating until it was correct, and so-on. I regret not having to slowly and carefully re-write certain areas of difficulty in my single-digit years until my Rs were crisp, my Ts and Is were differentiated, and I knew enough of the correct way to develop my own hand beyond that point, rather than being left with an untrained hand as my mark.

 

*Firstly, it's sad that the teacher had to insist rather than making sure everything had always been in cursive. Secondly, it's an easy demonstration of the mixed bag of writing types that were lazily allowed to scoot through in students' work.



#18 ndw76

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 05:37

Thai students are taught cursive as a part of learning English. They all learn cursive at about the same time they learn the alphabet.
But they are not taught how to hold a pen properly, how to sit properly, nor how to write; as in how to move the pen around the page. All they are taught is what it should look like, not how to do it.
As a result, since almost all data retention is done through handwriting they associate learning with pain and try to avoid it.
From my own experience in Australian schools I think the west has the same problems.
I want to teach my daughter to enjoy the act of doing the work as well as the end result.
Please call me Nathan. It is a pleasure to meet you.
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#19 GabrielleDuVent

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 05:38

(My first post here since 2008 ...)

I see my own path to unspeakably bad handwriting in a cluttered mess of undisciplined lettering lessons in early grades, and a lack of care by teachers later on.

 

I say cluttered because in kindergarten, we learned the classic print lettering. Then D'Nelion in first grade, back to print when I moved to another school district in third grade (where I was corrected from being allowed to use D'Nelion), then into cursive writing in fourth grade. But excepting the occasional large-print 'trace the letters' sheets, there was hardly any attempt at producing decent writing -- merely legibility. This is where the undisciplined aspect comes in. As a point of example, I remember having to write ... something (I specifically do not remember) at some point in the early years of cursive, and the teacher insisting it could not be printed.* I had to ask a classmate how to write a cursive capital G, as at that point I had forgotten. But no worry, as my scrawling was deemed acceptably legible. My work was accepted for that assignment.

 

Further, there was no opportunity to improve handwriting for those of us with atrocious penmanship. In later grades, we would occasionally be scolded about how an i looked like a dotted e, or the r off an o wasn't distinct enough. But it was typically followed up with, "But as long as it's legible, and I think you didn't miss any letters in the spelling ...."

 

On top of all this  was the home factor. My mother encouraged only ever imitation of her own handwriting, which is no more than a series of loose loops, with an occasional turn-back, dot, or cross to make a letter any different. To this day, I habitually imitate her signature when I sign my own name, without so much as a thought. But the fact that "well" appears a series of nigh identical loops on the page when she writes it was enough to turn me away from any efforts at seeking handwriting improvement at home.

 

In junior high school (maybe early high school?) I decided to give up cursive writing, and scratched my words in ugly, unpracticed print. This was reinforced when I took introductory drafting as an elective, and we were forced to write all caps at a specific measured size, with no personal embellishment whatsoever. For the first time in my life, my handwriting was legible -- even if by force. This made me happy, though at the time I did not recognize it as giving up, so I continued to not only just print, but to try writing only in capital characters, if only varying size to differentiate height. Not once since 6th grade had I been corrected on my writing style. My printing became nearly illegible in my need for expedience, but I just went with it, convinced there was no hope for regularity and legibility in any other option.

 

As an adult, I didn't even think much about my penmanship for years. And then I tried -- even after joining here -- the easy approach (which I think is another major problem: people are less willing to seek time and effort, rather opting for a quick fix and settling for disappointing results).

 

But I have run far afield of a point: Things have become lazy in education, and at home. In many areas I have seen parents happy when they can recognize what their child was tryign to write. Schools don't enforce writing drills so much. And one unmentioned point is typing is so taken for granted, than the ability to write is not much considered.

 

As much as I would have hated it back then, I now regret not having to write pages of repeated shapes until they were correct, then encorporated those shapes into letters, and repeating until it was correct, and so-on. I regret not having to slowly and carefully re-write certain areas of difficulty in my single-digit years until my Rs were crisp, my Ts and Is were differentiated, and I knew enough of the correct way to develop my own hand beyond that point, rather than being left with an untrained hand as my mark.

 

*Firstly, it's sad that the teacher had to insist rather than making sure everything had always been in cursive. Secondly, it's an easy demonstration of the mixed bag of writing types that were lazily allowed to scoot through in students' work.

 

First off, welcome back!

 

It's interesting how mixed schooling can produce bad(?) handwriting. I moved around the world as a small child, but my penmanship lessons were entirely in the US. 

 

I also thought that maybe people nowadays pay less attention to aesthetics... I do remember practising Fs and Ts in my spare time, long after primary school, because I could not get them to form properly enough to appeal to my eyes. 


Tes rires retroussés comme à son bord la rose,

Effacent mon dépit de ta métamorphose;

Tu t'éveilles, alors le rêve est oublié. 

 

-Jean Cocteau, from Plaint-Chant, 1923


#20 HDoug

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 09:11

It's a generation thing. Handwriting isn't taught as much now, and because it's not used much in communication between people it is less valued. You can be a superior student of exemplary character with the handwriting of a mentally deficient criminal. In former times a superior student would have to have good handwriting. 

I'm an old guy but had very crappy handwriting in my youth. The handwriting thing is a fairly recent skills acquisition project. 

 

Doug







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