Should we go back to writing longhand? Should we light homes with candles instead of electric bulbs? Should we bring back frisking down to the river to do our laundry just because it is more bucolic and sappier than using our washing machine? And why not revive the horse and buggy, Amish style, in order to stop climate change?
Alena Hall, and after having taken a course on writing short (I am being sarcastic) has penned (I hope) “9 Reasons not to abandon the art of the handwritten letter.” (Huffington Post, 01/11/2015.) The post is thought-provoking, challenging and wrong on all 9 counts.
In spite of the above –tongue-in-cheek and all- I agree with her and I am in favor of handwriting, all the way. It is a subject very close to my heart. When I take out my fountain pen to sign, or take a note, or write a phone number down, I relish the amazed look and gaping mouths of those around me.
Also read: How our vocabulary gives away our age
I am certain that the over-fifty folk out there will concur with me. My task now is to convince the under-fifty crowd that longhand writing, putting pen to paper, still has a place in our technology-ridden life.
I do not believe in graphology, the art of interpreting a personality through the study of handwriting. Some graphologists dare tell people what the future has in store for them, not only about their personality flaws. Some companies hire experts on graphology as aids in employee recruitment.
We know that no two persons have the same way of writing by hand. Thus we sign (“to ratify or attest by hand”) documents, and experts can tell whether a signature is genuine or a counterfeit, a forgery.
Ask five persons to copy a few well-known lines (“Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent…”) of script. Later ask them to type and print the same quotation using Times New Roman, 12. This is the acid test of the type vs. script dilemma. The hand-written words will all be different. The machine-typed lines will be exactly the same.
When using script, even block letters, people have different slants, word spacing, size, pressure, line spacing, and margins, straight or wavy lines, which reflect their personal being, character and personality, unique and unmatched. All the above on a computer becomes uniform and the same, no matter who types.
We cannot reverse to writing by hand, no matter how much we adore it. Of course in a big corporation we cannot hand write documents, memos, letters, and notes, in this “day and age.” It is not true that writing by hand makes us happier, creates lasting memories, or makes us feel good, as Alena Hall wants us to believe. As I handwrite about 6 foolscaps per day, I should be the happiest, and I am not.
Alena quotes Emily Dickinson “A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” Emily died in 1886, and what she wrote can be applied to emails as well, or even to texting.
I want to end this post with a final note of optimism and break a lance for handwriting documents. A handwritten letter is never an impersonal “Times New Roman type.” The handwritten letters, wavy lines, spaces between words, are part of us. We are sending the recipient a human and warm part of ourselves; a hand-made shield to keep away the chill and coldness of the world and society. A handwritten letter, enclosed in a handwritten envelope, cheers the recipient because she can, most of the time, know who the sender is, and can appreciate the effort made.
Handwritten letters, or poems for that matter, are part of us and remind us that all is not lost yet, that humans have not given up the art of being human, the art of caring for others by sending a part of ourselves simply by pressing a pen onto a piece of paper and forming letters that are uniquely ours. It reveals even the gender of the writer. Times New Roman will never do that.
Of course, letters of condolence must be handwritten because they are more appreciated by the family members of the departed one. Such letters show a warmth and caring no email ever can. They are part of the etiquette that still rules social intercourse.