Handwriting has become such a lost art that even the jokes seem out of place – especially now that doctors type out their prescriptions.

Now don't you feel like you know him better?

And while our modern obsession with typing has made us more efficient and comparatively legible, the cost has been considerable.

Yesterday after the raid on MP Craig Thomson’s house, his lawyer, Chris McArdle said above all it was the Thomson’s “handwriting” that would prove his innocence. That’s a startlingly simple method of trial, given how sophisticated crime investigation methods have become.

Way over at the end of the scale, handwriting is also very intimate. A love note, for example, has infinitely more power than a text message or email, even when the sentiment is the same. 

Type, “I love you” and print it out. Then get the person for whom you hold affection to write it down and I guarantee that each “note” will elicit a different type of feeling. 

You could put that difference down to the curves of handwritten letters, but not everyone has brilliant penmanship, and only wankers say stuff like that.

That feeling you get from handwritten letters is probably more to do with the fact that when you’re handwriting something, your full attention is focused on the task at hand. And we can barely say that about anything these days.

Handwriting is also bespoke, and that makes it a craft. Pens don’t come with spell check, sure, there’s White Out, but you can tell when someone has used that. When you write a letter you have to think before you write. Being able to spell is also a major plus.

Novelist Philip Hensher said handwriting has helped us shape our humanity. And his new book The Missing Ink mourns the loss of the link it provides especially between our history and education.

Handwriting has ceremony. Do you remember how it felt to get your first pen? Some people were given pen licenses that initiated them into the rite. An experience that was not without pain and humiliation, depending on where you came in your class.

We had a nostalgic conversation in the office yesterday remembering our first pens. Mine was a BIC in blue, but I always coveted my dad’s Staedtler. Others remember the Parker fountain pens, calligraphy pens, the fabulous five colour pens and the smelly pens. Once you start the list becomes endless.

But whatever you do, make sure that list is handwritten.

And if you can’t find your pen, follow me on Twitter: @lucyjk

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • Elphaba says:

      08:17am | 25/10/12

      Yep, my handwriting is pretty terrible.  If I concentrate (like writing in a card), then it improves dramatically, but if I’m jotting down notes or a shopping list, you’d need one of those CIA code breakers to decipher it. 

      Bloody computers…

    • Matt says:

      08:26am | 25/10/12

      Spare a thought for us lefties for whom writing is a chore. Down with smudged writing, weirdly-tilted paper and cramped hands, and huzzah for the mighty QWERTY!

    • John says:

      09:00am | 25/10/12

      Maybe you should move to a country and language that writes from right to left.  Then it will be all the righties who have this problem.

    • scott says:

      09:07am | 25/10/12


      For centuries lefties have suffered unfair discrimination in a world designed for right-handers

    • Jeremy says:

      09:51am | 25/10/12

      Most pens don’t smudge, so it’s only a problem on hot, sweaty days or whilst using a pencil. I do, however, still write with my wrist curled round in a strange fashion with my hand quite closed and the pen nib pointing back towards my palm.

    • TimB says:

      09:54am | 25/10/12

      You’re all mutants.

      And we all know what the Emperor of Mankind thinks of mutants.

    • Pattem says:

      01:45pm | 25/10/12

      @John, if Lefties got sent to a foreign country that would show you up as bigoted and intolerant.  We make up approx. 10% of the population, which means were are not so small a minority group as others.  You have to accept us for who we are and look beyond your prejudices - clearly to show that you are a tolerant individual.  We are no different to anyone else…we are just left-handed.  You have to accept and tolerate our unconventional practices.

      @TimB, I am deeply offended by the ‘mutant’ comment.  Are you saying that there is a gene for Handedness and that in Lefties it is abnormal?  If Lefties were mutants surely all the hand-tying behind the back could not amend/correct the ability to write in a right-handed manner.  I mean, it’s a genetic predisposition, you know!  We just want our Basic Human Rights observed wink

      Lefties have rights too, you know.  Not sure if they’re called Rights or Lefts?

    • Peter Thornton says:

      09:00am | 25/10/12

      My handwriting is not good, but I do occasionally send handwritten letters. Normally thank you letters or letters of bereavement. Good stationary is essential. Unfortunately my stocks of such are depleted at a rate incommensurate with completed correspondence.

    • G says:

      09:18am | 25/10/12

      As a soldier, I write alot of letters, and receive alot in return. I love being able to sit down and read long letters, smell the pages, and keep them in my zip-lock bag for re-reading when time permits.
      Write her a letter Gents! There’s catharsis in taking the time to express yourself on paper, and the returns will be well worth it!

    • tez says:

      09:53am | 25/10/12

      I have kept all my 18 year old daughters hand writen letters for when she was dancing in Paris 20 years ago they are a treasure that I will give to her boys one day.

    • Louise says:

      11:56am | 25/10/12

      That’s’ lovely, G. And you’re right.

    • P. Walker says:

      02:33pm | 25/10/12

      G, if you do write alot (sic) of letters alot (sic) of the time, can you please correct aword (sic) now and then.  Do not try to invent new words byjoining (sic) them.
      There is no such word as alot, another one used badly is thankyou.

    • Smashmellows says:

      04:26pm | 25/10/12

      @P. Walker, you are toss pot.  Goodbye.

    • xar says:

      01:00pm | 25/10/12

      I remember how it felt, it hurt, and it continues to hurt, and it hurts my son so bad he barely has functioning hand writing and it takes him two hours to write a small paragraph as neat as he possibly can…and even then your typical grade 3 child would be neater. Yet again I will point out to a punch writer that there is a wider perspective in this country and not everyone functions the same. So no, I don’t think handwriting is superior, I don’t think your messages count for more because you happen to not find it horribly painful to write by hand and I don’t think you somehow care more because you use a pen rather than a printer.

    • Audra Blue says:

      01:19pm | 25/10/12

      I have very girly writing with multiple loops on all the letters.  I was told once that means I’m a secretive person. 

      Score one for the handwriting expert.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      02:20pm | 25/10/12

      Only the dishonest & morally bankrupt have trouble deciphering my handwriting…. such as my boss.

    • Steve says:

      03:40pm | 25/10/12

      As you say “Being able to spell is also a major plus”, I thought I’d pull you up on this, “Some people were given pen licenses”.

      In this case, ‘pen license’ is a noun, whilst ‘given’ is the verb. Therefore, the correct spelling is ‘licence’ with a ‘c’, not license with an ‘s’. License with an ‘s’ is for when it is used as a verb.

      Score one for the intricacies of the English language.

    • the forger says:

      03:56pm | 25/10/12

      who copied my handwriting?


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