Tag Archives: Penmanship

Penmanship: It’s a goner

My day is almost over, but before “I lay me down to sleep,” I want to offer this minor regret about the craft I pursued for 37 years.

My handwriting has gone straight to hell.

I was blessed with good penmanship as a child. I got good grades from my elementary school teachers who used to actually¬†grade students’ penmanship. My parents both had exquisite penmanship. I have in my possession a stack of letters Mom wrote to one of her brothers in the late 1940s. Her handwriting was impeccable.

I came of age with that kind of handwriting. I was inducted into the Army in 1968 and wrote letters home constantly. Dad would share them with friends and other family members.

I came home from the Army in the summer of 1970, re-enrolled in college in January 1971 and started taking mass communications classes.

I became a reporter, which required those of us in the profession at the time to learn how to write rapidly. I had to take copious notes from subjects I would interview. When one has to write like that so frequently, it stands to reason that one’s penmanship is going to suffer.

I finished school, got started in journalism. I kept writing quickly. My handwriting kept deteriorating.

Now? It’s shot all to hell. My wife needles me good-naturedly about it on occasion. She remembers my good penmanship.

Yes, I know that penmanship no longer is even taught in school these days. Children operate handheld “devices” to communicate. Many of them can’t tell time by looking at an old-fashioned clock dial.

My handwriting got so bad that I actually fantasized about some judge issuing a subpoena ordering me to turn over my notes. Hah! Go ahead and try to decipher this scribble, Your Honor!

But I do regret that I no longer can write with precision.

Mom and Dad no doubt would be unhappy with this admission.

Where has my penmanship gone?

I made a startling discovery the other day as I picked up a pen to write a short note to someone.

It was that I am losing my ability to write … as in cursive writing, with pen and paper.

This is the Mother of Revolting Developments.

There once was a time when I had excellent penmanship. I think I inherited that skill from my parents, both of whom wrote with pen strokes that were things of beauty. I have in my possession letters that Mom wrote in the late 1940s to my Uncle Jim. Her handwriting was exquisite then and it remained that way until she died in 1984. Same with Dad, who was a bit of a wanna-be artist when he was younger; his handwriting reflected his artistic skill.

My sisters’ handwriting remains quite good.

Mine? It’s gone to hell.

I blame it on two factors.

One of them is the profession I chose to enter upon returning from the Army in 1970. Journalism is murder on penmanship.

Journalists spend the bulk of their day with a pen and notebook, scribbling furiously what they see and hear. You’re on the phone with a source, gathering information. The source is talking to you rapidly. You have to write just as rapidly to keep up. For the most part, the same process plays out when you’re talking in person to a source.

You can guess, then, what the scrawl looks like. It’s unintelligible to anyone except the author. A standing joke in the media business always has been to dare a lawyer or a judge to subpoena your notebook to enter as evidence in a court proceeding. Good luck trying to decipher what it says.

My handwriting skills deteriorated slowly over the 37 years I worked in daily journalism, a fact that never was lost on my wife — who to this day chides me over the loss of my handwriting skills.

The second thing that occurred was the introduction of the Internet. Yep, I’ll blame the rest of it on telecommunications technology.

I’m writing these words on a computer. I write almost everything now by punching keyboards. Send a note? Email.

The death of my handwriting isn’t yet complete. I can still sign my name, which is something a lot of youngsters reportedly no longer can do. I also can manage a legible note, but it requires greater attention and concentration than ever before.

Technology is a wonderful thing — most of the time.

It’s not so wonderful when it contributes to the decline of once-rudimentary skills.