My Handwriting, My Self

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

Related Post Roulette

14 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    Good luck. I heard on NPR that school districts around the county are dropping cursive in favor of keyboarding, a continuation of the dumbing of America.Report

    • Kim in reply to Scott says:

      Keyboarding’s a lot quicker and more useful. I can communicate with many more people using a keyboard, in a lot shorter amount of time…
      Also, it puts dysgraphics at much less of a disadvantage…Report

      • Scott in reply to Kim says:

        With that logic we can drop teaching math as we can just use calculators. Besides you don’t always have a keyboard in front of you.Report

        • dhex in reply to Scott says:

          cursive is hella useless, son.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Scott says:

          They’re not equivalent. As I tell my students on the occasions when I’m teaching, math is a different way of looking at the world. There’s a completely different notation that goes with that way of looking at the world. Just as we start with “See Spot run,” we have to start with arithmetic, then fractions, then functions, then fractions involving functions, and on and on. In some sense, doing all your arithmetic (and higher — Mathematica is better at symbolic derivatives and integrals than you or I will ever be) with a calculator means jumping directly to word problems. Printing and cursive and keyboards are all suited to text; we still lack any sort of keyboard equivalent to doing math notation at the level of, say, basic calculus as quickly and easily as we do with paper and pen.Report

  2. Murali says:

    I have never really experienced the problem you describe. For most of my literate life (the period of time when I could competently read and write) I was able to read and write in 2 languages: English and Tamil. I don’t see my habits in one spreading to the other. Tamil is written in separate letters and has no cursive form. I tend to write a bastardised cursive when I write casually in english. Maybe its just a matter of time and possibly the age at which you learn to write either language. I learned to write english maybe just a year earlier than I learned to write tamil, the latter of which I learned to write in primary school.Report

    • Kim in reply to Murali says:

      Do you think in both languages? Do you switch between them in midthought?Report

      • Murali in reply to Kim says:

        I rarely think in tamil except to refer some familiar household items (mostly kitchen utensils, food names etc) For example, I almost never think of ladles and youghurt by their english names. Some other things which don’t translate well I think in Tamil too. But otherwise, the voice in my head speaks in English.Report

        • Kim in reply to Murali says:

          Interesting. I’m pretty sure for cooking terms I tend to flip languages readily (ghee it is, not clarified butter, no matter the recipe). It’s tahini, not sesame butter. not that I could speak the language if you paid me…Report

  3. LWA (liberal With Attitude) says:

    When I got my first job as a student architect, in 1981, my mentor (a 70 year old Beaux-Arts trained architect) had me spend the first 6 months just running errands, and in off moments, practicing my architectural lettering.

    Between that and my admiration for calligraphy, I have spent quite a bit of time designing my own handwriting, practicing every day on making my letters just so.

    The death of handwriting, like many an analog practice, is highly exaggerated.While it is not needed or useful for the majority of what we write, it holds an important niche for its ability to communicate not just with the letters themselves, but by the entire graphic form.

    Just as there are people today doing handmade crafts of every conceivable type, writing by hand will be with us for generations.Report

  4. kenB says:

    I had a similar experience after studying Russian in college. I had long since stopped writing in cursive on a regular basis, except when it came to writing checks — someone at some point had taught me that cursive was the only appropriate method for them. But that fell by the wayside after my first year of Russian, because “p” automatically became “n”, “s” became “c”, “r” became “p”, etc. The actual substitution was the only effect that bothered me — my handwriting was and is so poor in any case that details such as the particular slant or curvature of a character are hardly worth worrying about.Report