Handwriting is a lost art form or why I’m glad I learned to dot my I’s and cross my T’s

Vintage Spelling Test Book - 1981 - Jessica Doyle

So, I hand write letters to people and post them in the mail and rarely seem to receive a letter in return. And that’s OK. Perhaps, I’m one of the last hand writers left on earth. My grandmother used to write me back though. But she passed away a couple of years ago. Her handwriting was elegant and old style and it made me smile when I opened a letter from her to read. And, I notice as the years progress my own mother’s cursive handwriting is taking on that same scrolling form as is my own.

I tend to print in all caps though, and avoid cursive, as it’s slower to create and more cumbersome to lay down. My own handwriting is fast and deliberate; the letters flow seamlessly into one and other first forming sentences then paragraphs and pages and hence, volumes of journals.

While I lived in Vancouver from 2001 to 2005 the only medium I used was ink; more specifically Pilot G-tec C4 pens. I settled on that pen for writing after trying out a stupendous amount of pen brands. I spent that four years of my life purposefully writing and drawing in only ink. I wanted to eliminate the use of pencil and become adept at using only pen and ink on paper. At it’s height, it was all consuming; and emptying dry on average two pens per week. That is a lot of writing and drawing in this day and age.

I have saved ALL the greeting cards and letters anyone has ever written/sent to me over my lifetime which are all tucked away into a few shoe boxes. Writing is a lost art.

I think I’ll turn handwriting letters into a business… wait, I already did that. Each order I send out gets a handwritten thank you note attached to it. I even hand address the envelopes. This practice keeps my handwriting in good form.

Handwriting of artist Jessica Doyle - letter to ficticious person

I have even gone so far as to begin writing fictitious letters to fictitious people (pictured above) and am pondering a new art form that would involve writing letters to you. It would cost you. Would you pay for a one of a kind hand written letter posted in the mail especially written to you from me?

And I can remember in the early nineties, a college instructor which I can’t be sure who but their words stuck with me: hand crafted items and hand painted or hand drawn images will be in demand in the very near future as many folks are loosing their ability to hand create items from scratch with the increasing advent of digital technology and to just hold on; in other words, struggle to survive the incessant 1990′s and early 2000′s obsession with cheap mass produced goods. And, I survived. Did you?

Do you hand write letters?
Do you expect to get a letter in return?
Do you print in small caps, caps and/or write cursively?

I posted a Facebook update and was ever so surprised at the response it received.

Handwriting discussion on Facebook with Jessica Doyle

The opening photo is a shot of a page from a Spelling Test booklet from 1981. I would have been 8 years old. Yes, I’m one of those people who saves memorabilia. And Nuno your letter is being written this weekend!

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19 thoughts on “Handwriting is a lost art form or why I’m glad I learned to dot my I’s and cross my T’s

  1. I think a business of hand written letters has a very good potential. I still try to write important, personal notes and letters myself even though my hand writing is horrid. It always has been. It runs in the family, like diabetes and blue eyes. This fact lead to me hating writing growing up, and it, combined with my inability to grasp the complexities of spelling in the english language, led to my complete embrace of digital medium for writing. I have grown accustomed to my chicken scratch handwriting now though and think it has an expression and style all it’s own. Granted a very difficult to interpret style, but still it’s a style =)

  2. I’m also a “handwriter” and pride myself on my good penmanship. My students often comment on it. I send out snail mail quite regularly, but can’t tell you the last time I got something handwritten in return.

    I recently heard that most elementary schools no longer teach cursive, but instead, keyboarding. So sad.

    Keep up the good fight Jess!

  3. I hand write a lot. I love writing letters and thank you notes as well. Making lists for my business is my favorite. Hand writing it helps me think more about what I am writing and doing as opposed to typing.
    I do write in all caps and sign my name is cursive. I have my fathers hand-writing and I am very proud of that fact that I get a little piece of him with me every day.

  4. Rev I wish I was writing this now instead of typing on my phone
    So anyway, back in the day when I was blogging and do videos of a story, I mailed out postcards with parts of the story written on the back…
    Sometimes contradictory, or from a different character’s perspective. It was obscure and few people caught on what I was doing. Most went to Argentina due to a weird series of events that led to my blog story getting mixed up with goings ons there. I had ambitious ambitious plans consisting of postcards, letters, videos mailed etc. So yes its a cool idea, and I’ve had similar thoughts

  5. I always wanted a beautiful handwriting, but was never happy with it. The strange thing was, that I used to get a lot of praise for my handwriting! Took shorthand in school, became rather good at it and used it in my work for several years. That did bad things to my handwriting.

    In recent years I took a course in calligraphy, because I really wanted to be able to write beautifully. I’m left-handed, and the teacher said it looked like I was holding a surgical instrument and not a pen! Ha! Ink is always bothersome when you’re a southpaw :)

    I’ve received 1 handwritten letter in these six years I’ve lived here…

  6. I have handwritten letters and had pen pals since I was in third grade. I also make my own handwritten thank you notes. And I’m still avoiding digitizing the journaling on my scrapbook layouts. It makes more sense to me to hand write those ideas. I’m trying to preserve memories and I like the idea that years from now, someone may go back and read those entries and talk about my handwriting they way you’re talking about your grandmother’s. My own writing is a mix of print and cursive, and the faster I am writing the loopier it gets. As I peruse other people’s layoust and blogs I often find myself with handwriting envy. I admire the small caps/block style.

  7. HOORAY! Someone else flying the Hand Lettering Banner!

    As a Calligrapher this is something I am passionate about. I’m secretary of the Calligrapher’s Guild in WA (Australia) and must admit that this is a dying artform. For many years being a Scribe meant something, then along came the Gutenberg Press in 1440 and numbers have been dying out ever since.

    Pick up a pen/nib/quill/pencil stub, it’s a gorgeous feeling to make real marks on something – paper, a wall, whatever. Just make your mark on something.

    Great post Jessica. After following your writingssilently for a long while, it was THIS topic which I felt I needed to make comment on.

    Cheers,

    Cindy

  8. I love how you think. I am always talking about this lost art too. The only person who still writes me is my dad and thats because he used to be incarcerated for some time and thats what they do. He has the most beautiful penmanship it looks like a font. He has been home for 10 years and he still writes me letters even though we talk daily.
    I journal daily and I have since I was a teen. I have boxes and boxes of them. I would love to own a handwritten letter from you, and yes I would buy. I would even write one back (smile)
    I remember as a teen having pen pals. We were assigned a pen pal by our teacher and I loved it. I miss the anticipation of knowing a letter was coming in the mail… sighhh

  9. Chicken scratch is most certainly a style Andrew. I’ve never heard someone call their handwriting chicken scratch before though. You should share a sample of it.

  10. I couldn’t imagine a student not learning cursive. Perhaps in future years it will become an elective course in University that students can take.

    And I will agree that you do have nice penmanship. I have a sample of it at home from when I purchased some art from you ;)

  11. I sign my name in cursive for business and banking purposes and sign my name is all caps for anything art related. I have a dual personality?

  12. Do you ever think you’ll pursue the idea again Andrew? i always enjoyed reading your blog back in the day and watching your videos.

  13. Wow, you brought back an old memory – I read all of the Nick Bantok books that wer out about 6-7yrs ago. I loved them. I need to see if I can find them all again.

    I am very proud to say that I am ‘old school’ when it comes to writing. While I love the expediency of sending email and being able to get an answer quickly. I do love to write letters. I love that someone is going to get that envelope in the mail and be able to hold that letter in their hand. Most times I only write letters to those people who I know are going to appreciate them and possibly respond. I have a great aunt who always responds – even though her penmanship is showing signs of her age, a cousin who is an actor who always responds with a handwritten note and a stepdaughter who at the age of 10 loves to write letters. I worked hard when I was growing up to practice my handwriting and went through many fazes trying to shape it into the loopy, swoopy, fat writing that all of the cheerleaders seemed to have. I have a number of different styles that include an all caps version, a 1/2 print – 1/2 cursive version and a full cursive that looks so much like my Mother’s that she can’t tell the difference (due to a ‘few’ forged doctors notes written throughout high school). I constantly try to impress upon my 13yr old how important it is for him to be able to write well.

    In creating and learning new ways to create and viewing others’ work – I have always found that while the digital work is amazing in most cases – I tend to be more effected by the real pen/pencil/paint work that people do.

    Sorry that my comment was so long – as you can tell I feel the same way.

  14. I love writing and receiving longhand letters, but since I don’t take the time, they don’t either. What a great idea for you to start a business doing this tho.
    peace n abundance,
    CheyAnne

  15. I love handwriting and do it often. I am told I have nice writing. I still hand write letters and rarely get a handwritten reply.

    I have kept a journal since fourth grade. That year, when our class had an assignment to write to a penpal in another country, I decided to be different and sent out a composition notebook (to England) asking for it to be kept going. I wrote on the inside front cover asking each person to write or draw something that related to their community or school. I added my address to both the inside front and back cover.

    At the end of seventh grade, the notebook was returned to me from a gal in Rhode Island, who was concerned I might not get it back because of the years that had passed. It was three-quarters filled and had been to seven countries.

    I so want to try it again, but with handwriting and snail mail becoming so obsolete, I doubt many would want to go to the trouble.

  16. I LOVE HANDWRITING!! I feel the same way, there is nothing like sitting down to a beautiful blank sheet of paper and exposing your thoughts and feelings onto it! before I even knew how to spell or write I would just take pads of paper and pen and scribble wavy lines to make them look like writing:) I journaled for years and years and these days have slowed to a stop, but still enjoy writing little todo notes and grocery lists.
    I always send thank you cards and almost always make them myself. Although my handwriting is not nearly as neat and pretty as yours, it it legible;) I dont do cursive as it was just something I could never get into, but I do have a few letters of the alphabet that I choose to still do in cursive as they are easier.
    And I think I may be one of the only people to still sign her full name on receipts and documents…at least thats what I have been told

  17. I love handwriting letters, in fact when I move to Canada in two weeks I am SO excited that I can write at least once a fortnight to all my friends and family in the UK! I have two small nephews who I hope will get a big thrill waiting for the postman. I love handwritten letters because you can hold something tangible, you can feel the weight and texture of the paper and you can revisit them over and over again. Only yesterday when I was packing all my things up to ship across the pond I found a letter from an old friend dated July 2005! Needless to say the packing stopped and the kettle went on while I read it!

    Rona x

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