The Writing’s on the Wall

I admit it.  I hate change.  Well, some change.  Not all change.

I didn’t mind when carbon paper became obsolete and photocopiers were available everywhere.  Try typing a 10-page Will with three carbons and no typos.  It was a secretary’s nightmare.

I didn’t mind giving up my manual typewriter for an electric one and “oohed” and “aahed” at the futuristic “Selectric” typewriter displayed in the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.  We learned touch typing —  not “thumbing” as I call texting.

I didn’t mind when smaller calculators were invented.  They were much easier than the almost 100-key Comptometer, or something like it, which I learned to use in high school – by touch!  Looking back, it was one step away from an abacus.

I learned Pitman shorthand and didn’t like Dictaphones at all because most lawyers who used them, didn’t know how to press pause when they were thinking, so you always had a lot of dead space during dictation which was maddening and very time consuming.  Fortunately, my favorite bosses all liked to dictate, so, as a legal secretary, my shorthand skills were used quite a bit.  After all these years, I still find shorthand an invaluable asset.

I’ve seen lots of changes in my almost 60 years, but I guess one thing that bothers me is the inevitable disappearance of cursive writing.  Yes, handwriting.  I remember reading a COSTCO poll which asked its members whether cursive handwriting should be taught in schools.  Cursive writing is second nature to me so I was shocked that the question was even asked and even more stunned when so many people didn’t think it was necessary.  I even asked a few younger family members about their views and two thought it was pretty much obsolete but one, a school teacher, believed it should still be taught in school.

A recent article in the WSJ said that Indiana schools will no longer be required to teach children cursive writing.

As I’ve written before, young people know “keyboarding” and “texting.”  With the inevitable extinction of cursive handwriting, I still think it sad that future generations will never receive a handwritten love letter in the mail.

This same generation will never experience handwriting a paragraph in writing class, as I did, in the 4th grade, meticulously forming each word perfectly only to reach the last line and make some stupid mistake causing me to start all over again, but feeling oh so proud when the task was eventually accomplished and I received an “A” in penmanship.

I wonder if I would still remember the spelling rule, “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when sounding like ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh” if I had typed it instead of handwriting it 50 times after spelling something incorrectly in my 5th grade.

I spend much of my time on the computer now, but I still have the callus on the middle finger of my right hand which I’ve had since kindergarten.  I remember my mother taking me to the doctor and hearing him tell me that it would go away in a few weeks.  Well, 55 years later, it’s still there, a reminder of years of cursive handwriting.

I know I have to eventually find someone  who’d really like my collection of elegant fountain pens and blotting paper otherwise they’ll all be sold on eBay for the cost of shipping or given away at a garage sale after I’m gone.

Who would have thought, certainly not I, that you could deposit a check on your phone?  Get money from an ATM without signing a withdrawal slip?  Get cash back using a debit card?   Although I’ve succumbed to online banking, I still write at least a dozen checks a month, court pleadings still require a signature, as do Wills and real estate transactions.

I still like sending greeting cards and thank you notes through the mail, and I still love receiving them and recognizing the signature of the sender without looking at the return address label.  It’s personal.  It’s special.  It’s individual.

But, I’m afraid, at some point, a person’s “signature” will truly become obsolete.  I guess I’m just not willing to leap that far into the future.  No, not quite yet.

In fifty years, if we all go the way of Indiana, future generations will probably be assigned a number, use our fingerprint, DNA, retinal imaging or some other yet-to-be invented technology to identify each of us.  It may be efficient, but it won’t be pretty.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • joe bloggs

    As soon as I escaped the clutches of Sister Mary Immaculate et al. I developed my own personal style of cursive, which, were you to see it, you would still find quite legible– that is, the letters look SOMETHING like the “Palmer Method” lettering shown illustrated. For us to abandon cursive and only hand-write in block letters is a deprivation to children of a way to find their “voice,” so to speak, once they age out of primary school. (Altho I DO wonder why all the girls I knew all seemed to have the same “girly-girly” handwriting– you know what I mean.)

  • Ron

    Not only can I not write in cursive well anymore, I have lost the ability to print in anything other than capital letters. I have also found that my spelling has gotten worse because of spell check. I think we have lost more than just the ability to write in cursive, we have lost the ability to communicate in letters. At one time being a man of letters was a mark of distinction. Some of my favorite books have been letters, the two volume set of letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Ronald Reagan’s letters to Nancy or his book A Life in Letters

  • Roger Ward

    For medical reasons, just about all of my writing now is in block letters (it’s slower than cursive but more legible.) It’s a disappointment to be unable to create the flowing script that I once did.

    Many years ago, I bought two Japanese scrolls with writing on them. As a westerner, I was not aware of the beauty of the calligraphy, I just thought they looked nice. When I gave them away (to a Japanese), the recipient said that he was very honored and that he often stopped to look at them on his wall, just admiring the beauty of the lettering. I wonder if the Japanese people are seeing a similar loss in their writing, now that computers are a way of life?

  • Gabrielle LaFargue

    Ms. Salazar,

    Even as I’m typing this reply on a computer, I am nontheless an avid calligrapher, as well as a docent at a one room schoolhouse (Fairbank, AZ, a federal government bureau of land management facility). The connection is that I would love to give your pen collection another life and purpose as part of the 4th grade program I teach at the schoolhouse where the children learn early 20th century schooling. This, of course, includes penmanship and the evolution of writing instuments.

    We would love for you to donate your fountain pen and blotter collection to our school.

    Sincerely, Gabrielle LaFargue

  • David Walker

    So sad Leona but true. And just as one’s signature will become obsolete…so has one’s word.

  • Nancye

    My cursive writing “went” in college trying to take notes so fast. Then in the working world, having to write up orders in retail, pretty much finished it off – what was left of it. Now, I can barely sign my name on the bottom of a check. Too bad !!!

  • Will Swoboda

    I guess us older folks can’t imagine this happening but I guess this is progress. Me personally, I think it’s better to know it than not. Who knows, maybe in the future you could tell somebody off in cursive and they won’t even know it. I do believe that Drs. Should have to write all things in block letters. We’ll get by.
    Your friend in Baltimore.

  • Shaune

    Recent studies show that cursive handwriting helps the brain. My students are required to submit all class work in cursive, as well as a large percentage of their homework. I refuse to allow cursive to die out!

  • Ed

    Unfortunately we live in an “effortless” society. Anything that takes time and effort, as certainly cursive writing does, is considered obsolete and inefficient. I agree, good penmanship, as well as grammar and language are becoming things of the past. It’s sad.