My handwriting is atrocious.
It wasn’t ever good, or nice, but at least it was legible. Now, even I have trouble reading back what I’ve written if a few days have gone by.
I blame computers, of course. I’m old enough to remember when we had secretaries at work who did the typing. Everything had to be hand-written and legible enough to give the secretaries a fighting chance of reading and transcribing it. They did have rudimentary word processor software, but they were the only people in the team with computers of any description. Even when our team got another computer, we had to take turns using it. And the writing-handing in-typing up-reading-correcting cycle continued for some time.
So handwriting was important. If you couldn’t write legibly, the whole process of checking, proof-reading and correcting took longer, and with fifteen people feeding work to two secretaries, that would be a problem.
But over the years we all got computers, we all started typing our own stuff, and the secretaries left. And whilst we got better at knowing where the keys on the keyboard were, the importance of writing things down so that someone else could read them diminished.
I attend a lot of meetings, and I write extensive notes (as well as bad handwriting, I also have a bad memory), but the only person who ever has to read those notes is me. So it’s not important any more to write in way that other people can read – if I can interpret my scribbles and weird abbreviations to produce notes or minutes, that’s all that counts.
Does it matter? I still admire elegant, clear handwriting in other people, but is this something that will progressively die out? Yes, it’s still taught in schools, but once the students have got their handwritten exams out of the way, how often will they resort to pen and paper for communication rather than the keyboard?
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a “things were better in the old days” rant, however it may sound – I try not to do those. I genuinely ask, “does it matter if this skill eventually disappears?” So long as people know how to write so that they themselves can read it, is that all that’s important?
After all, I’ve “written” 400 words in this post, all perfectly legible, and you wouldn’t have know about my handwriting if I hadn’t mentioned it.