Could we forget how to write?

Posted on June 23rd, 2012 @ 08:49
Filed Under Reflections, Writing | Leave a Comment

I stumbled upon that article today through another blog I’m following:

Could we forget how to WRITE? The typical adult has not scribbled anything by hand for six weeks

In a world where we increasingly tap out our thoughts, messages and reminders on a keyboard or a touchscreen phone, the traditional note or letter appears to be becoming redundant.

The research, commissioned by online stationer Docmail, revealed that the average time since an adult last wrote by hand was 41 days. But it also found that one in three of us has not had cause to write anything ‘properly’ for more than six months.

As far as I’m concerned, I write things by hand almost everyday, first because of my job (after all, most teachers still write comments by hand on papers they have to grade), second because I’ve been busy for a solid year or so with preparing for a national competitive exam, and once you’re on D-Day in the exam room, there is no computer for you to write your draft on… so you have no choice but to work on mock subjects by hand at home. And let’s not forget taking notes on books I read.

That said, I also do a lot of activities on my PC. Typing this post. Typing my stories. Writing e-mails. Chatting on Gtalk. Posting on forums. Anything goes. So, on the other hand, my writing is just as digital as traditional. I remember musing here, too, in the first months of this blog’s existence, about my writing bump (it has become more proeminent again thanks to years of going back to college, thanks goodness—hey, I do like my writing bump! It’s a symbol!).

Computers and writing software, among other things, are not necessarily bad. They have their uses, a lot of uses, and I wouldn’t want to revert back to a time when I didn’t have daily or at least weekly access to one. Being able to send messages so quickly, to type pretty fast as well, in my case, is often a matter of convenience. I’m aware of the growing needs for quick communication, and I wouldn’t say that in many cases, writing a note by hand would be too slow a process: why resort to it when faster means are available?

Indeed, forty per cent of people claim that when they do have to write it never needs to be neat, so they stop trying.

And one in three said they used to have smart handwriting but that today their style is much scruffier- the same number would get someone else to write for them if it had to be smart and presentable.

This is what bothers me: “they just stop trying.” Because so many people just “stop trying” when it comes to many, many things, not only writing. I’m sad to say that I see that everyday in my classes. People don’t bother anymore, children don’t bother anymore. Handwriting doesn’t seem such a great loss, alright; problem is, it’s not only handwriting. Sometimes I can’t even decipher the papers I’m grading, and I can tell that the pupils having produced them actually didn’t really care for anyone to be able to read them. That’s the kind of loss I’m mourning. To me, the ability to write isn’t just only a matter of convenience and communication: it’s a tool of power. And I don’t like seeing my tools of power being diminished. Bad handwriting, well, alright, I can deal with it. I just wouldn’t want to deal with the prospect of people not even trying to learn to write anymore, “because it’s useless, see, I can type it directly on my keyboard”.

The startling long-term conclusion is that future generations may end up entirely dependent on keyboards to communicate.

Food for thought: what happens the day power gives out, and our nifty keyboard-powered devices don’t work anymore? Being unable to use a mere pen and paper, in such circumstances, would then be a real hindrance, wouldn’t it?

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