Monday, 28 February 2011


I saw Shark's handwriting again today. I admit, for a while, I've been trying not to look. I think I have been hoping it would simply get better, then I need never say my opinion. But I'm unable not to look any longer. I saw it deliberately today.

I tried not to blurt out what really went through my mind. It would have sounded unforgiving and a little cruel. Your handwriting is terrible! Look Squirrel, you cannot just put down a capital T whenever you feel like it! Shark, put those ascenders where they should be! Why are they creeping off down the page? Tiger, show me your handwriting. Show it me. Now.

Handwriting is a difficult one, isn't it? I do so little of it, in practice, and certainly nothing extended. Who does? But still, it seems to occupy a ridiculous place of value.

So I talked about how people judge things about each other. How handwriting seems to occupy a special place. People will understand and sympathise if you struggle with maths, or spelling, or say you're not much interested in chemistry and prefer physics. But they won't have any sympathy with you if you show them terrible mixed up handwriting, especially not as you grow older. They'll judge you, negatively, immediately. And let's not even begin that assessment they'll make about your feminine values when they see the spikiness of those letters.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger look at me, like this is an entirely new idea. So I have to continue. I say, maybe people think, if they see your handwriting, they're seeing a little peep into you. Your values, your personality, your opinions, your thoughts, the way you see yourself in the world, the value you place on your communication with others. Maybe your handwriting even conveys your spiritual self. I think it does round here. The elegance of your hand conveys the purity of you. A sloppy, messy, scruffy hand? Well, you have to improve your worth.

So I told Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, to be aware of this hazard. How people probably judge handwriting in the same way as they do scruffy clothing, tangles in your hair, the dirt line around your neck. They probably make assumptions about you; your social status, your level of education, your values, your personhood.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger listened intently, and said, That's stupid. How can anyone look at handwriting and know what someone else is like? Then they wanted to see my handwriting. I thought, that's not the point of this little talk. I want your handwriting to improve, not mine. So I tried to wriggle out of it. But they persisted. Then I copied out a whole paragraph from a book.

We all looked at it. I'm not in a position to judge my own handwriting. But Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all agreed about its impact. Maybe things will turn out alright, because they all suddenly agreed to work harder at their own.


Kelly said...

I am ambidextrous, but write left-handed. My handwriting was beyond bad; so was Bruce's. I took shorthand to take my notes in college, but my handwriting deteriorated anyway. So,I use this program with my boys; it's the only handwriting program I have ever, ever seen that I like. It's italic and the series of books is just wonderful, in my opinion, easy to use, interesting, inexpensive. I'm going to try to post a link.
italic handwriting

Handwriting is particularly important in North America because most university exams are still hand-written, so it was something I felt they had to do reasonably well. And they all do have legible writing. I like the italic system because it is so simple, moves directly from printing to joined-up just by adding the connectors (not two completely different systems)and for boys, especially, works well (not quite as much fine motor agility). And, yes, I retaught myself to write with it, and my handwriting is actually good now. I don't know if there is any hope for Bruce....

Loz said...

I'm not even going to get started on the importance of what you have said..suffice it to say that I am thrilled someone has the same ethos as I.
I had a similar conversation with my son, his handwriting was terrible, all spikes and random capitals everywhere. Thankfully he too has now seen the importance of having legible handwriting, even in this age of computers spellchecker and such like. He works really hard to improve it.
Great post! :)

Laura S said...

My handwriting was dreadful as a teenager, and someone suggested trying calligraphy as a hobby, which did improve it. Something the artycraftygritlets might enjoy?

ladybirdcook said...

my children's teachers complain that my children don't hold their pens right. So, we found out what holding pens right is. Turns out that my children's parents can't hold their pens right either. We're having a family-wide attempt at learning to write at the moment :-/