Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

PENMANSHIP....The headline on this Newsweek article talks about "good penmanship," but the text tells a subtly different story:

Beauty seems to be less important than fluidity and speed. [Vanderbilt University professor Steve] Graham's work, and others', has shown that from kindergarten through fourth grade, kids think and write at the same time. (Only later is mental composition divorced from the physical process of handwriting.)...."Measures of speed among elementary-school students are good predictors of the quality and quantity of their writing in middle school," says Stephen Peverly, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University's Teachers College. "I don't care about legibility."

Hah! Take that, Mom. I may have been the despair of my elementary school teachers in the penmanship department, but now Science™ tells us that "Beauty seems to be less important than fluidity and speed," just like I always thought.

Though, in fairness, I have to admit that not only is my handwriting not very legible, it's not really very fluid or speedy either, so it's not like I come out of this smelling like a rose. A good part of the reason, I suppose, is the peculiar way I hold a pen, which my mother and my teachers spent years kvetching about to no avail. And I have to admit, looking at it in a photo, it looks hellishly awkward, doesn't it? But I've tried the "correct" way of holding a pen, and I've just never been able to get used to it.

And now it's too late. The only think I care about is the quality of my keyboard, not the quality of my handwriting. And soon we'll all have bionic arms and direct neural connections to digital paper anyway, right? To go along with our flying cars. Or so I've been told.

Kevin Drum 2:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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So how do you hold chopsticks?

Posted by: capitalistimperialistpig on November 10, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, don't you mean pencilmanship? That is a pencil in the photo.

Or do you normally attach a rubber eraser to the tip of your pens?

While I realize this is perhaps a trivial oversight, it grates on my nerves nonetheless.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 10, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure I won't be the only one to say this, but I'll be the first: Be grateful you're not left-handed.

Posted by: RSA on November 10, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Where's Austin Palmer when you need him?

Posted by: degustibus on November 10, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a rightie who holds my pen in the same manner as lefties. It looks like Kevin might do likewise. The result in my case is very bad handwriting and a lot of smeared ink.

(I'm not sure how chopsticks enter into this, but I hold them "correctly". I don't think this skill has any relation to penmanship.)

(And the pencilmanship thing isn't just pedantic, it's wrong. Penmanship refers to handwriting, not the type of instrument.)

Posted by: Adam on November 10, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Holy crap! That's exactly how I hold a pen. I always thought it was because I'm a lefty. In case you're wondering, my penmanship and fluidity aren't stellar either.

Posted by: Manu on November 10, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Kevin, it starts with the way you hold the pencil. Looks like you are preparing to stab someone with it rather than compose a sentence.

BTW, is "proper penmanship" still given the emphasis in today's classrooms as it was back when I was a kid in the early 1960s? Seems like keyboarding skills should get the primary focus now.

When I care to think about it I can still crank out a mean Palmer method, just as the nuns taught me so many years ago.

In fact, a coworker once told me that I wrote "like a Catholic school girl." Since I'm a guy, and the coworker was a Teamster, and we were standing on a loading dock at 3AM, I'm still unsure whether or not I should have been flattered.

Posted by: Rob_in_Hawaii on November 10, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

My father was told at a young age that his penmanship looked like "chicken scratchings". I have a few of his hand written college papers [Cal '38] in a box. Not only are they easy to read, but beautiful to look at. Watching him write, you could tell that he had practiced.

I have noticed that eating utensils are also suffering the same as pens, [and pencils] in peoples hands. Some of my friends hold their utensils as if they were trying to escape.

Posted by: bobbywally on November 10, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you will be getting no direct neural connectivity until someone delivers that jet pack I was promised in the 60's.

Posted by: bmaz on November 10, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

So how do you hold chopsticks?

This was going to be my question exactly.

In China, you'd probably starve to death, and be removed from the genetic pool.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 10, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

I recently had a major revelation about my own handwriting: All of my coworkers who are more than 5 years younger than myself complain that my handwriting is terrible. Then one of my older coworkers, a woman in her sixties, pointed out that my handwriting wasn't bad. It was cursive, and the younger employees didn't have much experience writing it, so they didn't have the pressure to figure out how to read it, either. And she's right, none of the employees with gray hair and bifocals seem to have any trouble reading my handwriting.

Having worked around academia for long enough to have seen the decline and fall of western penmanship, I have to say I can read almost anyone's handwriting, no matter how unattractive, as long as it's regular in form. But if I have to guess what a letter is supposed to be every time I run across it, I have problems.

Posted by: R. Scott Buchanan on November 10, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'll add my voice to the choir of lefties who holds their pen the same way (my handwriting, incidentally, is atrocious -- but very fast).

Posted by: David Schraub on November 10, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding hand position University of Chicago neuropsychologist Jerre Levy has found that the 2% of right-handers (and 50% of left-handers) who hold their pen/cils in an inverted position have the language centers of their brains on the same side as the writing hand, instead of on the opposite side as most people do. Apparently, genes control this "ipsilateral" (as opposed to "contralateral") brain configuration, just as genes control handedness itself.
As to the importance of speed versus legibility in handwriting: the speediest handwriting counts for naught unless anybody can read it. Therefore, handwriting requires high legibility along with high speed. An earlier article by Steve Graham (in the May/June 1998 issue of the JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH) found that the highest-speed highest-legibility handwriters join some, but *not* all, alphabet letters making the easiest joins, and skipping the rest and that these highest-speed highest-legibility writers also tend to use print-like letter-forms for many letters whose forms "disagree" between printed and cursive styles.
For more on this and other matters of handwriting, consider a visit to Washington-area handwriting specialist Nan Jay Barchowsky an Aberdeen (Maryland) resident who maintains a web-site at http://www.BFHhandwriting.com or to my own Handwriting Repair web-site at http://www.learn/to/handwrite .

Posted by: Kate Gladstone on November 10, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

If I wrote that way, my wrist would get exhausted and the back (top) of my hand would start to ache.

How the hell do you do it?

Posted by: MNPundit on November 10, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

One thing I wonder about, given what the article states, is if it makes any sense to teach schoolchildren keyboarding skills instead of handwriting skills when they're young. I don't know at what stage of skill typing becomes faster than handwriting, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't fairly immediate, since it objectively takes far less time to find and press a key than it does to draw an entire letter.

What is the problem with switching to keyboarding as the primary emphasis? Is that children need to know how to write by hand first for some other reason?

If, as I suspect, children could learn to type faster from the get go than they can handwrite, and if, as the evidence would suggest, speed of writing and thinking are conjoined in children at an early age, doesn't it make sense to push for early training in keyboarding?

Posted by: frankly0 on November 10, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Remarkable! So many comments here reveal interesting thoughts about handwriting.

One is the misconception that left-handers are at a disadvantage. I have taught many left-handers who write well.

Two is keyboarding. Handwriting is just as important to learn well. Consider how much school work is done with a pencil. Visit a classroom and you will see.

Three is keyboarding again. E-mails can be rude or worse. Sympathy for the death of a son? Handwritten notes make an impact in the business and political world where a "thank-you" could mean a promotion, vote or contribution.

Posted by: Nan Jay Barchowsky on November 10, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

One is the misconception that left-handers are at a disadvantage.

Misconception? Consider the difficulty of writing with your left hand resting on the wires of a spiral-bound notebook or working through the rings of a binder, sitting at a half-desk built for right-handed students, with a pen that bleeds just a bit too much ink, so that it smears under your hand. Oh, I must just be doing it wrong.

Posted by: RSA on November 10, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

@Nan Jay Barchowsky

Perhaps for an older generation but anyone say, 25 or under probably wouldn't feel much of an emotional impact from a handwritten note as opposed to an email.

Heh, also I learned how to type in 6th grade and discovered I was a natural. I could type about 70 words a minute from the beginning on those Apple IIs--now I top out at about 110.

Posted by: MNpundit on November 10, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Not only do I hold my pen(cils) in a similar manner, I also tend to use my fork in either hand. It's something I never noticed I did until a girlfriend's mother pointed it out in high school.

About the only thing it's useful for is when I'm eating in tight quarters--I can swap utensils to make some room, sorta like when George Harrison and Paul McCartney shared one microphone since Paul's left-handed.

Posted by: JB on November 10, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

So there must be alot of people extremely grateful for CAD software.

Anyways, hopefully Kevin doesn't hold his spoon and fork that way too.

Posted by: Me_again on November 10, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

But, if you can't read what is written, you don't know what was trying to be said. As a former secretary, I had the ability to read the absolute worst handwriting; and, there was a lot of that. However, I have lost that skill as I have aged. I still think writing so other people can read what you wrote is important. I recently had a handwritten note from my supervisor that someone had called me with the number written on the note. I still do not know who called--let alone know what the telephone number was. I only hope that person called back and we already talked. However, it is conceivable that he/she is still sitting around waiting for my return call.

Posted by: Mazurka on November 10, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

R. Scott Buchanan: You are right. Young people cannot read cursive writing.

I learned that a few years ago, when I brought an old book I bought on eBay to a family gathering. It had a wonderful inscription on the inside of the cover about the previous owner who was a missionary to India who “went down to a watery grave on the S.S. Egypt.” It was found in her trunk that was delayed back in Boston.

When I showed the inscription to my 18-year-old niece, she couldn’t read it. She had not learned cursive writing in school. I had no idea! (Older adults should use cursive writing as a secret code for messages that they don’t want younger people to read.)

Posted by: emmarose on November 10, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Any other lefties hold their hand completely above the line (towards the top of the page) so as to see where they've been writing?

I also think the cause of southpaw legibility isn't helped by pushing the pen (no smeary graphite, thx) across the page. Seems like it would tire the hand faster than pulling it.

So, do lefties have a natural advantage in languages written right-to-left?

Posted by: ThresherK on November 10, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

You hold your pencil like a girl. Specifically, like my 15 year old daughter. I'm done trying to reform her, won't start on you.
Anyway, my name is all the cursive I can do without slowing down and thinking about how to form each letter. And my name isn't all that legible.
What's the difference between learning cursive vs. learning printing? Seems like if anything, the difference would be between handwriting and typing/keyboarding, not the particular form of hand written expression.
Anyway, never learned to type. Not too bad at hunt & peck, but if I could type 80 words a minute, that would outstrip my thinking skills. I think of new things as I type and work out my thoughts in an actual visible way - screen or paper. Any speed I might gain by typing faster would likely be outweighed by the rashness or poor expression of my ideas.

Posted by: sal on November 10, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin--like you, I have held the pen or pencil the wrong way since childhood. I got poor marks for penmanship way back when, when it was on the report card along with deportment and other such things that I needed to improve.

At some point in my early teens I reformed. I started by writing like my father, who had a fluid open style; since then I've become more angular. If you work at it just a little, writing can be a pleasure. And think of it as a social skill--writing legibly means you're writing not just for yourself, but for others as well.

Posted by: Henry on November 10, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

One is the misconception that left-handers are at a disadvantage.
Misconception, my ass! Everything in this world is made for the ease & convenience of righties. Paul Mc Cartney's left=handed guitar is just one example. Obviously he had to learn on a standard one, yet he went to the expense of having leftie models made. Must be there was a good reason for this since he didn't get rich until after he learned to play it well.

Here is a quick little experiment you can try. Put a pair of scissors in your left hand. They are absolutely impossible to operate that way, but if you buy a pair designed for left handed use, they are almost as easy for a rightie to use left-handedly as a normal pair are to use with the right.

As for my handwriting, It has always been good as long as I practiced often & consciously slowed down. Whenever I wrote as fast as I could think, it was always unreadable. But for some reason now, I can no longer write legibly, though my printing is still pretty good.

I have learned a lot about stuff I didn't know here also. Now I know, for example, why my kids print rather than use cursive - they were never taught.

As far as skipping learning to write manually, give me a break. I'm not in the habit of carrying a keyboard everywhere I go. Yet everywhere I go there is the possibility I will need to write something, especially when the batteries go dead or the power is out. Works the same for being able to do math w/o a calculator. Geez! What a bunch of geeks! ;)

BTW. For those who don't know, Blue Girl has been offline do to a computer crash, but plans to be back in a few days. C'mon back, Girl! We miss your 'saucy' commentary.

Posted by: bob in fla on November 10, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of products for left-handed people:

Years ago, when I was a substitute teacher for our city’s high schools, I used to bring “problems” with me that the students had to solve by asking me questions, in case the teachers did not leave a lesson plan.

I always started with the one about the guy who invented the left-handed pencil, because it drove the wise-guys nuts. After they started getting frustrated and nowhere in trying to figure it out, I would look for a pencil in the teacher’s desk. Then I would scribble a little on a piece of paper and, maybe, erase a few lines. Next, I would roll it in my hand and finally declare, “This is a right-handed pencil.” Then they were really exasperated with me.

Eventually, someone would figure it out. Usually, it would be a quiet person who had paid attention to the questions and answers.

Posted by: emmarose on November 10, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

As a lefty, that grip looks quite familiar.

Spiral notebooks are fine, you know if you flip them over and start from the "back". Delivery people who want me to sign the form held on a clipboard look askance when I take the form out, turn it upside down and then sign. It really is a pain sometimes being left handed. If only the nuns had hit my knuckles for a few more years instead of giving up so soon.....

Driving a stick shift was a pain until I drove one in Ireland and England. At last, pedals and shifter in the correct positions.

It's a sinister cabal by righthanders. How gauche. Nicht rechts aber links.

Posted by: TJM on November 10, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

My brother is a lefty, and left-handed scissors were hard to find when we were kids. When he was 6 or 7, though, my mother found a bunch on sale somewhere and bought them all.

For the rest of my childhood, those damn left-handed scissors were the only ones I could ever find. I eventually learned to cut paper with them (albeit poorly).

Posted by: mwg on November 10, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

"The only think I care about is the quality of my keyboard, not the quality of my handwriting."

. . .and sometimes the quality of the thinging is the most important think. That, and etiding.

Posted by: MartinL on November 10, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

I can't recall what grade I was taught script (as opposed to printing), but I thought it was fourth grade. How fluid can one's writing be when you print?

Anyway, I switched back to printing in college because it was the only way I could read my own handwriting.

Posted by: Rich on November 10, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, Let's pile on. Kevin is holding his pencil the wrong way; back to grade school for you.

Content without penmanship is useless.

Posted by: James on November 10, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

The problem for American schoolchildren, to some extent, is the tradition of cursive -- which makes American handwriting in the classic style look, um, grandmotherly.

Italic, italic, italic.

Posted by: ahem on November 10, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

What's a "pen?"

Seriously, I write so little anymore that my hand muscles have withered. My arthritic 80ish Mom's writing is better than mine.

Posted by: Matt the on November 10, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

I ran across the brain studies that showed that writing with a "hook" (i.e. inverted position) indicated that one was writing with the hand on the same side as the language centers (as oppsoed to the eidatic/drawing centers), in "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. No doubt her discussion was based on the work Kate Gladstone is referencing.

So I am led to believe that your brain, Kevin, is even more idiosyncratic.

Posted by: Lindata on November 10, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't write if it wasn't legible, because then I didn't finish the thought.

When I was being taught penmanship, honestly, I mostly thought it sucked rocks. We had to hand in all assignments in longhand, not typed.

Which was a real bummer, because I couldn't only write a little bit before hurting my hand, and always have preferred to type. On a computer, but I even used my dad's manual typewriter when I was a child.

Posted by: Crissa on November 10, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

You should have been beaten to a pulp until you learned how to hold a pen correctly! Bloody liberals trying to subvert everything that is DECENT and PROPER! FOR GOD'S SAKE, WHAT'S NEXT?!?!

Posted by: Reactionary on November 10, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

You know why I love computers?

Because I can finally write as fast as I think. I used to have pretty good penmanship (though NOT ANY MORE!!) but I never could write as fast as I needed to.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 10, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

If you had to score 200 fifth grade essays in a day like professional scorers do, you'd think legibility was pretty darn important.

If you can't read a word, you have no idea if that child just came up with the most original simile ever to describe Grandpa's smile, or if she's merely scribbling a cliché.

Posted by: KathyF on November 11, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

I don't write much anymore, except on checks - I hate check cards, or when I'm doing math. I haven't yet found a computer program that writes math in a natural way, except for very simple math. One problem I do notice is that when I've been away from math for a bit, writing can be hard at first.

Posted by: capitalistimperialistpig on November 11, 2007 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

I live in a historic area of New England where there is an 18th-century inn that keeps its guest log open to the public in the lobby. Reviewing that stunningly beautiful penmanship from centuries past has me convinced that this country is indeed going to hell in a hurry.

Posted by: global yokel on November 11, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Re: hand grip on the pencil - one of my sons has communication and processing issues, as well as a pretty severe small motor delay. He, too, tends to do weird things with his pencil grip. Kevin, how are you at doing little tweaky fine motor tasks? Besides all of the amateur diagnosis of the regions of your brain, have you ever felt like you had a fine motor delay? Couldn't fiddle with the tiny parts on the model airplane?

One easy fix for you, rather than trying to "change" your grip at this late date (too late, really), might be to get those rubber pencil grips.

Re: handwriting - I am of the last generation to be taught proper cursive, and I always found it onerous. NOw I discover from comments that I am actually just ahead of my time. I switched to groovy printing in about 5th grade (1972), complete with hearts over lower case i. (Dropped the hearts by 7th grade - too sappy and too much work). I've been printing, messily, ever since. I was definitely the first girl I knew to print rather than write cursive - and I remember that there was a style question involved, salted with rebellion.

My handwriting is so boisterous and loose that a receptionist at the blood test place told me to fill out a new form. "Your name is so hard to read anyway, you have to print it clearly so we don't make any mistakes." Sheesh.

Posted by: Leila on November 11, 2007 at 5:57 AM | PERMALINK

One more handwriting comment - 11 years ago I was visiting Lebanon, where my parents had resettled after the war ended. We went down to the old souk in my dad's home town to poke around. A cabinetmaker invited us up to his atelier in a medieval shop building on a small plaza. He specialized in carving Arabic verses into elaborate wood panels, which he finished and painted. He also did a lot of calligraphy on paper just for fun. His age seemed to be around 50 or 55.

The guy began complaining about these kids today (in Lebanon). They can't write Arabic. They have terrible penmanship. The writing of Arabic is about to disappear. Kids can't read Arabic, either, they're illiterate. etc.

I sympathized and I also wondered what was going on that two societies with such different circumstances, Lebanon and the USA, could have the same problems with reading and writing.

Could it be the television? I dunno...

Posted by: Leila on November 11, 2007 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

A friend can write naturally in calligraphy. He actually normally uses a calligraphy pen, but even with a regular ball point his handwriting is artwork. Even he doesn't know how he does it.
I'll stick w/printing & keyboard. Kevin's right, though, that keyboard quality is deteriorating. Keys pop off, get loose/misaligned, etc. I've also noticed mouse quality going down. I'm waiting for the wireless chip in my head that will just transmit my thoughts to the screen. Or the Internet.

Posted by: sal on November 11, 2007 at 7:06 AM | PERMALINK

I have always held a pen that way--except for my year in sixth grade when my teacher, who was into the Palmer method of teaching cursive, made me hold it the usual way. Soon as I left his sight, I went back to my way. My writing is reasonably legible.

Posted by: Jackie on November 11, 2007 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

As an aging retired elementary teacher (who mostly used manuscript as I worked with 4-7 year olds)I now rely on my computer and printer for nearly ALL communication. My handwriting has become nearly illegible unless I focus completely on the task. So even greeting cards get a printed note inside...a part of me is sad about that! Not only do fewer and fewer people even communicate with "letters" of any kind that are not computer generated but now we're not even using our own handwriting...add to that being "plugged in" to some electronic sound device (musical or phone) much of the time and it's no wonder we do not sense a connection to our fellowman...the GOOD NEWS is that it's easier to BOMB people you have no connection to...

Posted by: Dancer on November 11, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Is your handwriting getting smaller? If so, please consider mentioning it to your doctor. Small handwriting is a hallmark of Parkinsons, either spontaneous or age (vascular)-related, and based on my mom's experience, occurs hand in hand (as it were) with deteriorating balance. Balance problems in turn lead to frequent falls, which you don't want to happen.

Posted by: Claire on November 11, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

"tho, poppies grow in Flanders Field"

And, so, far too many were never to write again.


Posted by: bert on November 11, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I personally love the art of the scribe, the flow of the words from the pen, and think of it as a true creative skill. While it is wonderful too to compose at the keyboard, there is a delight to the act of printing and writing words.
P.S.--you're holding the pencil so very wrong! It is painful to observe!!!!

Posted by: consider wisely on November 11, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's more of a test of whether you're more interested in pleasing your 3rd grade teacher or in communicating via writing. Which is itself a test of intelligence.

So the guys writing in cuneiform were stunted by their language? What does that say about Chinese vs. Roman characters? Pretty different systems.

Posted by: B on November 11, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty sure your thumb is humping your pencil.

Posted by: B on November 11, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

A topic I know something about!
Firstly: Penmanship is essential! Kids neglect it at their peril, as there is now a written essay required on SAT tests, and poor handwriting=low score, regardless of thought quality. I own a store that sells, along with very useful pencil grips of several designs, handwriting workbooks. They are the proverbial hotcake.
Secondly: I am left-handed. While I sell scissors in my store, I do not sell left-handed scissors. "Suck it up" is our store philosophy. We get lots of distraught (right-handed)parents whose little darling will be marred by having to use right handed or universal scissors. Welcome to the right-handed world! All the computer/registers in my store are set up left-handed however. You should hear my righty employees squawk!
Thirdly, I write backwards, with my arm curled across the top of the paper. This was thought to help lefties slant their letters the correct way. It took me years to figure out that fountain pens weren't insanely stupid design, they just weren't designed for me. That is true for many things, I have at last discovered. Anything I think is poor design I have to re-examine, and realize that it is well-designed for right-handers. Digital cameras are my latest bete-noir. There is no left-handed model.

Posted by: John MacDougall on November 11, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

In the mean time, it being Armistice Day, how about something - a word or two maybe just a teeny bit less self-involved about the millions, civilian and combatants alike, who perished in WWI?

One day on the Salient produced more causalities than the whole of our losses in the Viet Nam War.

Posted by: MsNThrope on November 11, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, thanks for writing about this. I write like that too and I had the same experience of my mom and teachers unsuccessfully trying to get me to change. I trace this handwriting position back to attempting to imitate the printing of a girl in my third grade class. I'm sure she had no idea of her power and influence.

Posted by: DZ on November 11, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

It is a good thing you weren't interested in becoming a surgeon.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on November 11, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe you're using such blatantly sexist language. It should be referred to as penpersonship.

Posted by: SC on November 11, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

I have two children - one right handed, one left handed. Both hold a pen and pencil the same way you do. When they were younger, we tried, to no avail, to correct the it. What's even weirder is that I, a lefty, not only grip a writing instrument the correct way, but do not bend my hand around while writing, and have excellent penmanship. My husband, on the other hand, is a natural lefty who was forced to write with his right hand as a child. His handwriting is illegible and he has to write in print as a result.

Posted by: Lynne on November 12, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

That penmanship is being killed off by computers is no more than ironic justice. Bad penmanship is a tell for Asperger's syndrome, and without Aspies you probably wouldn't have computers. For years they got treated like morons because of their scrawls; now penmanship gets relegated to the basement with Latin.
Don't mistake an affectation for an intellect.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 12, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

One strong proof of speed versus quality is physician handwriting.

I asked my uncle, a physician, about it. He said that medical school was to blame. Students have to take a lot of notes and be very fast and very accurate. The result is that quaility of the handwriting goes all to hell. Several other doctors I've asked have all agreed with this.

When I take my time, I have a very good cursive. The key is taking my time. The problem is that I often don't have the time to take. I've been printing most of my writing since I was in grad school back in the early 1970s. I let one of my professors compare my printing to what my handwriting looked like when I wrote quickly. The comparison was in writing the answer to a question on a test I had taken. (He had asked why I printed instead of writing in cursive.) He recommeded printing.

Calligraphy is worse. I'm a lefty and the most common way for left handed people to write is to do the letters backwards, starting at the bottom or the end of the letter and work back to the beginning. Even books on "Calligraphy for the Left Handed" take this approach.

Posted by: Lew Wolkoff on November 13, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Not all books on calligraphy for lefties require the back-end-first approach: at least one of the best books ("Insights into Left-Handed Calligraphy" by Betsy Rivers-Kennedy) lists this as *last* among the five approaches offered therein.

Posted by: Kate Gladstone on November 16, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Great work, well researched

Posted by: propecia on May 25, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK



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