Jotting down a shopping list, writing a birthday card, taking down a phone message, completing a form at the bank … handwriting is part of our daily lives. It is on show to others and may be used to make judgments about us.
Writing has a very long history. It began as simple pictographs drawn on a rock, which were then combined to represent ideas and developed into more abstract symbols. Just like our writing today, early symbols were used to store information and communicate it to others.
In recent years, modern technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate through writing. However, despite the increased use of computers for writing, the skill of handwriting remains important in education, employment and in everyday life.
Learning and using handwriting
Time devoted to the teaching and learning of letter formation in the early years will pay off. Legible writing that can be produced comfortably, at speed and with little conscious effort allows a child to attend to the higher-level aspects of writing composition and content. This is important when assessments are based on written work, particularly in time-limited written examinations, which remain a major form of assessment for many formal qualifications. Without fast and legible handwriting, students may miss out on learning opportunities and under-achieve academically.
Beyond formal education, most employment situations will involve at least some handwriting and many require the communication of critical information (e.g. medical notes, prescriptions).
Thus, handwriting with pen and paper still has an important role from early childhood through our adult lives, but more and more, people are shifting from paper to electronic modes of communication. Interestingly though, many personal computers now have handwriting recognition capability so that handwriting as means of interacting with computers is becoming more pervasive. It seems, therefore, that even in this modern age, handwriting remains an important skill for communication.
Why handwriting? A personal view
Oscar, who is studying for his A levels, had had problems with legibility of handwriting for some years. He has been given permission to use the keyboard to write his exams. However, for him this does not solve all his problems (see below), although it may make his scripts easier for the examiners to read.
The process of handwriting promotes clear thought and natural structure. Being so close to the page means that translation of thought has less opportunity for deviation.
When typing I find I compulsively re-read my work on the screen and the ability to edit is sometimes paralysing, Although computer work can allow for more complex structure, it is often too complex and has many complications for timed conditions.Oscar, aged 17 years