I learnt to touch-type sometime around Grade five. The vast majority of my writing is on the computer, but I still like handwriting things sometimes. In fact, there are times when I actually crave it, and I feel a need to pick up a pen and just write something.
Kids these days, I believe, are probably learning to type at a younger age. It is essential, surely (maybe not at that age, but in their lives it will be an essential skill) but so is good handwriting. I’ll not be the first to lament the declining value placed on handwriting – I’m sure I’ve read and heard plenty of people reflect on this subject before – so, instead, let’s celebrate what handwriting there is to celebrate.
At work, in the pharmacy, I see a lot of different handwriting from different people: my colleagues, doctors, and nurses. Sometimes, too, the writing of patients and customers, when they bring in lists of items/medicines they need. As a pharmacist, I do greatly appreciate neat, legible handwriting, but some part of me is always just looking at the characters themselves.
I don’t know how to describe what makes handwriting beautiful. How do you, for example, succinctly express what makes art beautiful? Perhaps something that makes you smile when you look at it? Maybe something that “speaks” to you? Or something that speaks of the character of the person who created it?
Elegant, flowing cursive is often beautiful. I’ve found I have an affinity toward handwriting that features very rounded characters – whether it is cursive, or each letter stands separately. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s easily readable or not. (One doctor I know has very circular writing; each word is a chain of o’s with barely perceptible variations in each link to differentiate them into letters.)
Sharp, angular writing can still be pleasant to look at too, particularly when it conveys a certain energy or vibrancy. I also notice how hard or gently someone presses their pen onto the paper: the same pen, wielded by different people, can produce bold strokes or timid lines. This also contributes to the personality of someone’s writing.
My own writing is not very neat. Well, if I know that other people will read it, or if I’m writing something for others, I’ll make some effort to write neatly and legibly; but if it’s for my eyes only, then it is more of a scrawl, and, if I wasn’t so acquainted with my own words and thoughts, I’d probably struggle to read it too.
I think, also, that my writing tends to be rather inconsistent. Some people have neat, consistent writing; others have consistently messy writing. I don’t think mine falls in either category, but I have noticed certain recurring quirks:
- My k’s tend to look similar to my h’s
- If I’m not careful, my a’s and c’s can be mistaken for e’s
- I’ve never been very good at writing nice-looking s’s, even though it is the first letter of my name
- My n’s and u’s sometimes look similar, and are sometimes quite flat (particularly n’s)
- The dots of my i’s often trail into the next character (sometimes making the next letter look a bit confusing), and the crosses of my t’s almost certainly will too
By no means would I say that my writing is pleasant to look at, but it pleases me to be able to look at it, and know that it is undoubtedly mine.
I enjoy writing by hand, whether it is something significant or personal like a letter or a card, or even if it’s something inconsequential like a to-do list or post-it note. Sometimes it’s more satisfying to write in pencil too: it feels different to writing in pen and, of course, the visual result has a different quality to it.
Sometimes it feels more “raw”, almost as if I can be more unrestrained in my writing, knowing that it could all be erased if I wished. Maybe, too, I write with more abandon in pencil, having a (literal) grasp of how much lead (i.e. graphite) I have left, and freed of any concern for wasting ink (and having to throw out more useless plastic).
I will admit, though, that I can be a bit biased or easily swayed: if I like the person, I’m more inclined to like their handwriting. Similarly, if I can make some connection between the written characters and the character of the person who wrote them, then it becomes more personal still, and I couldn’t not like their handwriting. I’d like to think, though, that I’m not overly critical of others’ handwriting anyway.
Actually, I don’t think there’s any handwriting that I dislike or find to be outright unpleasant (even the ones that are hard to decipher). Besides, it’s something so individual – how could I critique something like that? Maybe it really is like art: a humble, commonplace art, sometimes conveying a simple message, sometimes communicating something deeper – not just in the words, but in the shape of the letters too.