In this digital age, one would think that everyone would be typing, texting, and Twittering their memos, letters, notes, and short messages. My own writing benefitted from the advent of the word processor. For years, even into my adult years, my writing suffered. I was ineffectual in communicating my ideas and thoughts because, as hard as I tried, my fingers could not keep up with the flow of thoughts in my mind. By the time I recorded one point, three more had already came, went, and were lost. Now my fingers fly across the keyboard at 80+ words a minute and my fingers, finally, can keep up with the flying thoughts and ideas.
However, despite my unbelief, there are those out there who still handwrite! When I meet with attorneys, notes are taken on a legal pad. Attending meetings with district personnel, I've noticed that no one uses a laptop to take notes. Again, the ubiquitous legal pad is the tool of choice. Agreements are hammered out in longhand first and signed, only to be processed into more formal documents later. I'd even venture to say that if each of you look at all the written communication that you produce, you would find that the majority of it is in handwriting. It follows, then that if handwriting still plays an important part in how we communicate with others, it's important to make our handwriting as legible and neat as possible.
In my post on stereotyping, I noted that others judge us through built-in filters that may bias their opinion of us. Although given a bad reputation, stereotyping is a built-in ability that allows our brains to catagorize what we see, hear, feel, and experience into general categories so that we don't have re-evaluate each thing or situation that we encounter: We've been there, done that, and this is what it means. One of those stereotypes that exist for most humans is that bad handwriting is equated with bad ideas, poor thinking, sloppy habits, and failure. As a result, the person who has not taken the time to develop good, legible handwriting finds themselves at a disadvantage in our completitive world.
A good example comes from the old self-help program, "Where There's A Will There's an 'A'". The creator of that program told a story of action research he had done at his university. In it he gave his students the required end-of-course test that included essays in the familiar blue books. He gave a number of books to his wife, who simply re-wrote the students' essays in neater and more legible handwriting. He, then, word processed the same books. When finished, he presented the students' blue books to his graduate assistants to grade. Later, after the passage of time, he included his wife's re-copied blue books in the next batch that the assistants graded. Finally, even later, he included the word processed essays with another batch of blue books. The result was that the students' original blue books received the lowest grades. The wife's re-copied and neatened versions recieved higher scores than the originals. Finally, the word processed papers received the highest scores of all. This is interesting, since not one word was changed in any of the books, only the legibility. His conclusions led him to include the importance of legibility on classwork and tests to those who purchased his program and advised them to take all tests with erasable ink so that corrections could be made neatly.
Some of the benefits of legible handwriting include:
- Clearer thought processes for the writer - No longer having to struggle with the "how" of writing (i.e., how to form the letters), the brain is freed to work on idea formation and composition. The result is better written compositions.
- Easier reading and interpretation for the reader - The reader no longer has to interpret sloppy pen strokes to figure out what is being said and is able to concentrate on the evaluation of the writer's ideas.
- More receptive audiences to the writing - At least one study has shown that easy-to-read documents result in an audience that is more receptive of the ideas that the document presents.