Some more thoughts on handwriting

There has been a recent uptick in interest on this subject and since I have been practicing my script recently, I thought I’d add a few more comments. Not that I am not as worked up about the legibility of student handwriting–of my last 180 or so students, maybe two or three have been nearly unreadable. The rest have been fine (though where the onus falls for the ability to read student hand writing is a concern, but is something that is a symptom of a larger cultural change). My concern is on the more widespread and lasting fallout from a decline just in how often people write by hand.

Recently I have taken again to script. There is no real reason for this except that I want to enforce some measure of patience on myself and want to be able to switch to script at my leisure (though I also joke that with every new technological communication, I am going to take another step backward. Next up: Gregg Shorthand).1 So far, so good. I remember all the letters, and can usually remember how to string them all together in a recognizable way. Even better for my vanity, my script is borderline neat and attractive, though I think that I could use a finer pen for better results. But there is a problem (though not enough of one to stop me from penning the first draft of this post in script at five in the morning).

You might think that writing in script would result in more measured composition, thereby improving the overall quality of the writing. Thus far, that has not been the case. Perhaps it is because I still need to actively focus on my letters else I lose them, but when I write in script, I almost always have to hold several sentences in my mind as my hand works to catch up. As a result, instead of composing more thoughtful, measured prose, the composition takes place at the same speed, but then new thoughts run in with the old, and some of the original, fitting expressions, words, and whatnot all fall away because I cannot record them fast enough.

This brings me back to the basic categories of typing, print, and script as they pertain to composition. I find that print has a few advantages, including being the format most amenable to scribbles, arrows, and lines (only because there isn’t really a good way to pull apart a paragraph the way Tony Stark pulls apart schematics with his computer). Moreover, for me, print is roughly the speed of my composition or a touch slower, just enough to make me consider my words, but not enough to noticeably slow the composition. As noted above, script lags behind composition, but I must admit that I have only been working on writing in script for a few days, so perhaps with additional practice the speed will come up. Then there is typing. There is nothing wrong with it, except that typing feels more like vomiting words than like writing. Sometimes things written that way come out fine, but I feel like I have less ownership over the words if I lean on the grammar check, and less control overall if they come out too quickly–particularly because words get skipped and thoughts left incomplete.

The difference may only exist in my head. This much I readily admit. Nonetheless, I am much better pleased by my writing if I do an initial draft in print that I then edit as I type it up. There is a method to my madness, and I think that finding a method that works for you is one of the most important parts to writing. Until I am shown evidence to the contrary, I am partial to my own method–and even then I will continue to make my own way (provided that it continues to work, of course).

Any other methods or thoughts?

1Actually, I do want to learn Gregg Shorthand.

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