In the UK there is a growing interest in maintaining standards of handwriting in schools, seen by the introduction of handwriting and letter writing classes into the curriculum last Autumn in both primary, and secondary schools. In addition to GPS (Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling,) schools of all levels are focusing on the importance of neat legible handwriting in a child’s studies, encouraging them to know the difference between joined and un-joined handwriting styles (for essays, or labelling graphs for example), and the skill of being able to write quickly, and legibly.
After my parent’s meeting with my childrens’ tutors this month, I can verify how important good handwriting is to them. This focus on handwriting ability contrasts significantly with developments in the US. There, much less attention is paid to cursive handwriting than before, and more on word processing.
As the National Handwriting Association points out, handwriting can be many things. It is an art form as much as it is a functional tool that allows one to express their ideas on paper. To some, it is as important a means of personal expression as the way they dress. Despite our move towards a virtual world of pixels, instant messaging, and voice recognition technology, the skill of handwriting is as significant today as it always has been in the world of education, work, and life in general.
Regardless of the timesaving apps we have all become used to on tablets, smart phones and other devices, a percentage of medical prescriptions are still handwritten, personal cheque books are still in existence, and we still write inside greetings card. The importance of good, legible, quick handwriting cannot be underestimated in exam performance, or for note taking at meetings. Even where personal computing and the human art of writing overlap (handwriting recognition technology) the ability to write well has never been so important in this hybrid world of communication.
Handwriting, and the worlds of typography, calligraphy, and graphic design are branches of the same tree. They are interconnected worlds that emulate and mirror each other. It was Steve Jobs’ love of calligraphy that spurred him to create Apple’s extensive range of ornate fonts. Whole industries revolve around the human need to write including postal services, paper production, forestry, printing services, to name a few. Our fascination with writing instruments that allow for our best handwriting has never waned. Pen and pencil manufacture is a fashion industry that attracts collectors like the connoisseurs of fine wine. Even our current Prime Ministers’ faux pas of getting ink on his face during a speech showed his love affair with traditional writing implements.
The National Stationery Week’s Get Britain writing campaign uses some alarmist headlines to nudge the British public into putting pen to paper. “Letter writing and writing by hand is under attack as never before” the campaign cries. What is evident is the level of PR around the stationery industry as a whole. There’s hardly a day when a magazine or newspaper doesn’t link some stationery related promotion to their business section. These might include reviews of the 10 best mechanic pencils, or the “must have” colour coordinated pens and notebooks for the fashion conscious student, or office executive. Bloggers and tweeters chase the latest designs, and innovations, in the stationery world as if it were Hermes’ latest collection.
So what has all this to do with the world I’m involved in as a card publisher? Everything actually. Education packs will shortly be available to members of the Greetings Card Association (GCA) encouraging them to work with schools – the aim being to get our young sending cards, and keeping the card industry alive.
GCA members, our Chairman reminds us, are in the business of spreading love across the Universe, and we have to engage with the next generation to help raise the industry’s profile. The more confident children are in their ability to write, and the more aware they are of the significance card sending has in people’s lives, the more attention will be given to this retail sector.
Without sounding totally pathetic, it is people’s willingness, and ability, to put sentiments on paper, that keeps many businesses alive and I’d be the first to admit how important that is. My own motive in encouraging you to write cards is more closely linked to the feel good factor it generates, both for sender and recipient alike. Card sending shows you care, and is a great way to reconnect with friends and family. Keeping e-cards where they are best placed – in our spam folders – would be a positive outcome too.
Are you still a writer by hand or do you jump straight onto your laptop to express your creativity?