FILE PHOTO: handwritten notes in a notebook. Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

Last week’s column about cursive writing prompted some conversation and reflective thoughts between a good, well respected friend and me.

We agreed that cursive writing skills should make a return to school curriculums. A very good point was made during our conversation that I had not thought of when writing the previous column. I wished I had thought of it myself, but figured a follow up column would suffice to clear the subject from my ADD mind.

Not only is writing in cursive a lost skill, but so is the ability for many to read other’s cursive writing. Depending on the clarity of the scribbles, I would agree that some writing styles are harder than others to decipher. I’ve decided that if we all switched to cursive and stick shift cars, we could cripple an entire generation!

A former boss of mine admitted to having the worst handwriting in existence. We teased him frequently about it and he was a good sport. Documentation in healthcare has shifted to an electronic format called EMR (Electronic Medical Record). This is a good move in his case. I recall sitting at the nurse’s desk passing a chart around to see who could interpret the doctor’s order or progress note.

I have a theory about why doctors have traditionally been known for such poor handwriting. Everything used to be written in a paper chart, including prescriptions to carry to the pharmacy. We have all seen some of these writing samples and might have worried how the pharmacist would accurately fill the order? My thought is that the medical profession may have scribbled their hieroglyphics on purpose to be only comprehensible to them, in case of malpractice claims. I originally thought it was due to their busy schedule and always being in a hurry to get to the next patient. Could it be that when on the witness stand, they could interpret those enigmatic words any way they wanted, to avoid a negative verdict!?

If you have performed any amount of genealogical research, you may have seen old documents for births, marriages, and military service, etc. Despite the deteriorated condition of these records, the handwriting in cursive is very different from how we write and difficult to read. A combination of style and writing instruments are contributors to this confusion. As I stated last week, my handwriting is much clearer when I cursive in pencil versus pen. I cannot imagine the labor of writing a letter or document with a quill pen, dipping it into an ink well, over and over, just to complete the task.

When my grandson Braxon read last week’s column, he texted me that he has received no formal instruction in school regarding cursive writing. I told him not to worry, I will sit him down and teach him some basics. A 23 year-old nephew of mine dropped in for a visit just yesterday with his new fiance. As we discussed my column, they both stated that they do not write in cursive and do not know how to read other’s cursive handwriting with any degree of competency. Examples like this are common.

The solution my friend used to ease her worry that her posterity would not be able to read her handwritten journals is effective yet laborious. She spent an entire winter season sitting at her computer and translated/transcribed all of her writings into typed form for printing and distribution.

That reminded me of the box of notebook journals in my basement created by my fastidious mother. Daily entries about the weather, who got married, who died or how the farm work was progressing, filling up inexpensive spiral notebooks (she was too parsimonious to buy an actual hardbound journal at Deseret Book). Her handwriting is very good and I can read it easily. But, I am betting my kids and grandkids would not be able to do so. I love writing and reading, but I do not have the motivation or energy or time to do what my friend accomplished. If they ever ask, I  think a better bonding moment may be that we sit down together with a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and I’ll read some of those journal entries to them.

Many reasons exist to reinstitute cursive writing and reading skills: Signatures on official documents, researching historical documents, and of course, increased brain connectivity as quoted in last week’s column. Which would you rather have tucked in a desk drawer for memory’s sake … a printed email from your grandma or a handwritten birthday card from your mom? Or maybe both? I know what my answer is.

To all of you who hold onto the art of cursive writing and are able to read it…and to my good friend who inspired this column and embarked in a Herculean project…I say…JOB WELL DONE!

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