“Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, and written words the symbol of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same speech sounds, so all men have not the same writing.” — Aristotle

Stop for a minute and think…  When was the last time that you put pen to paper to write someone a letter?  Written a heart-felt “thank you” or condolence card to a friend?  Purchased nice stationery to correspond with a family member across the miles?

In today’s day and age, we’re more likely to pull out our handy-dandy smartphone to send a quick text or log onto our laptop to type a quick email.  Here’s where technology may help by making communication faster, but who’s to say that faster is better?

Put yourself on the receiving end.  Do you remember the feeling of opening the mailbox to find an envelope addressed with familiar handwriting amongst the stack of bills?   When recognized, even the worst of handwriting is treasured because of who it comes from.

Elementary schools today don’t seem to be nurturing penmanship past 3rd grade.  As soon as students learn the basics of handwriting, they’re already jumping to focus on learning typing and computer skills.  What happened to the days when students won awards for penmanship?  

The Palmer Method of penmanship instruction developed and promoted by Austin Palmer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries soon became the most popular handwriting system in the United States.  Conceived at the same historical moment as the typewriter, Palmer was responding to what he perceived as the need for an efficient handwriting style adapted to the quickening pace of business in America.  Comparing the process to a “writing machine,” his system emphasized four qualities he saw as essential to good writing:  legibility, rapidity, ease and endurance.

In the past, handwriting was seen as the key to personal improvement and as an important way to understand other people, both those we knew and complete strangers.  From the 19th century onward, attempts have been made to show how a personality is revealed by handwriting.  Graphology, the study and analysis of handwriting, is an attempt to formalize what we already intuitively know about handwriting—that it forms a direct and intimate bridge between two people.  Have you ever wondered why doctors are known for having such poor handwriting?

There’s something to say for the power of the pen…  Research conducted at the University of Virginia in 1989 found that at state schools where bad handwriting was specifically addressed, the pupils had not just improved handwriting but better reading skills, word recognition, compositional skills and recall from memory as well.

Yesterday, January 23, was National Handwriting Day!  It’s not too late to step outside your comfort zone and reach out and greet someone in a way that an email or a text can’t?