We Need to Talk Part II – You’ve Got Mail

the art of handwriting

Handwriting is composed of intimate qualities, which extend beyond the simple function of stringing a series of symbols together to form a word. It inherently carries idiosyncratic nuances—a typographic fingerprint, reflective of the writer. For this fact, writing constitutes a form of art, but one whose very existence is being challenged by this new and changing era.

Our fingers can type the same words exponentially faster than they could write them, and in a society with a high premium placed on efficiency, writing by hand would seem futile and time consuming. What we gain in efficiency, though, we lose in artistry. The most a person can hope for now is for an actual signature on the bottom of a typed letter. 

Some even fear the mere notion of writing by hand, let alone reading it. It is much like the evolution of telling time—from sundials, to numerical clocks, to digital clock radios and now cellphones—it has gotten easier and quicker to tell the time of day, but being able to read a circular clock with a minute and second hand shouldn’t instill anxiety. The same goes for the written word.

My anxiety comes not from type being our main mode of transcription, but rather it being the only one people know how to read and write. I enjoy the ease of effortlessly pecking my fingers across a keyboard, as I am doing so to write this article. I do also though, write letters, and transcribe my notes by hand, and write down my to-do lists on paper rather than simply employing the pocket sized personal assistant, Siri, to remind me. 

Language is a precious yet unappreciated gift of and to society that we day in and day out dumb down and devalue. The transcription of language on a grand scale is a mark of societal evolution as well as a distinction between cultures. Historians look at the way people wrote and communicated in order to deduce how they interacted with one another, what they believed, as well as to interpret the traditions they upheld. We cherish old written manuscripts, letters and notes of decades past with similar regard that we hold paintings by the masters. When historians look back on our generation, what we lend to the history books shouldn’t solely comprise of Facebook posts and archived text messages.

write a letter you've got mail

 We should pick up a pen for more than to scribble a few nondescript loops  at the bottom of a bill or at the grocery counter. We should remember the beauty in actually writing. The means in which a person strings their letters together embodies and immortalizes  in ink not only the voice of the writer, but also the psychology and character of its creator. These markers of authenticity shouldn’t be subjected to an obsolete existence at the hands of the homogenized typographic options of Microsoft Word. We are unique creatures with the unique ability to communicate in a myriad of different ways, and pen to paper writing should not be deemed vintage and relative to our view on typewriters or carriages-romantic in a sort old fashioned way, but an impractical and antiquated ritual. 

So, I have a challenge for all of you; it is to write a hand written letter. Yes actually hand write it. Don’t type it out and select the fancy script font, find some paper and a pen and write a letter to anyone of your choosing. The only requirement is that it is written. 

There is something so much more intimate in actually tangibly gliding your pen across paper, propelled by your thoughts and emotions. There is something entirely more evocative about seeing an “I love you” written in the hand of the person who spoke the words rather than the standardized font of a text message or email rendered through a < and a 3. 

Seeing someone’s handwriting is like a personality fingerprint. In regard to what you write; it can be as small as a whimsical haiku, or perhaps pages upon pages of prose. My request is that we make an effort to salvage this precious piece of our social interaction, and regenerate the art of the written word.


Photo credit via the knot.com & Pinterest.


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