Hand-Written Correspondence

As I was writing and addressing Christmas cards one recent evening I was thinking about an exchange on our company’s in-house social networking platform. The question “Should schools continue to teach cursive?” was posted for general comment. At this writing ninety people have responded over the course of about a week, myself included. Many respondents pointed out that the need for writing in cursive was disappearing except for the occasional need to sign a document such as a check or an application. Many others wrote comments to the effect that that hand-written correspondence has a timeless value that transcends its seeming obsolescence, and they decried the decline of this skill.

I asked my wife, a first-grade teacher, for her thoughts. She said that there is precious little time in the school day to teach cursive.

Camille Trentacoste, a colleague who is as technically literate as any I know and fluent in digital communication, posted this comment: “The study of handwriting and letterforms is part of the study of language. For some learning styles, writing words by hand is one of the most helpful reinforcements of learning available. Fast copy typists transcribe character for character without letting meaning slow them down, but when you write thoughtfully by hand, you spend time living inside each character, word, and sentence. Besides making a pretty thank-you note, careful calligraphy is a unique way of interacting with a text.”

In writing a note in longhand on a greeting card, a piece of notebook paper, or a postcard, I am making a connection to the recipient that electronic communication, and even typed-and-printed communication, can’t make. Just as Camille pointed out that “[writing] thoughtfully by hand, you spend time inside each character, word, and sentence,” I would say that ink laid down by hand on paper embodies my affection and esteem for the recipient. I write a note to a friend or family member in another city or state, and in few days that person holds the paper and the ink. They have received my affection and esteem in a way that electronic or typed-and-printed communication could not have transmitted it to them.

Too weird? Too sappy and sentimental? Perhaps. For now I hope to continue working toward my goal of sending one piece of personal hand-written correspondence by mail each week.

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