Monday, January 25, 2016

Sign Write Here!

 When it came to the best way to begin this post which belatedly (by 2 days) celebrates both National Handwriting Day and its inspiration - John Hancock, the handwriting, so to speak, was on the wall.
Or at least, on a piece of paper torn from my Composition Notebook.

The folks at the Writing Instruments Manufacturers Association (WIMA) created this
holiday in 1977 to celebrate penmanship.  
For obvious reasons, John Hancock’s January 23 Birthday offered up the most appropriate date.
There is that slight dispute as to the actual date of birth, depending on which calendar is used – the modern-day calendar (January 12) or the Gregorian calendar (January 23).
What’s not in dispute, however, is that John Hancock’s floridly-penned name that topped the list of the Declaration of Independence signers is synonymous with “signature.”

For the record, “handwriting” is “writing done by hand, especially the form of writing peculiar to a particular person.”
What’s peculiar about my handwriting, as seen above, is that it is a blend of both print and cursive forms, for which I owe my sixth grade Penn Wynne Elementary teacher Miss Peterson sincere thanks.  She allowed us that year to choose between the two. I gladly chose print, though in time it took on the fluid movement of cursive.
I labor when a true signature is necessary.
It is the only time I write in cursive.

I thought a lot about handwriting before I put pen to paper, then fingers to keyboard.
·         There were WIMA’S celebration exercises to consider,
·         criticism of the Palmer Method by which my parents learned to write,
·         research on cursive writing and how it increases dexterity and verbal expression,
·         the 2016 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest,
·         criticism of the Common Core standards that don’t include handwriting,
·         and what our handwriting says about us.

Each of us, of course, has our own unique handwriting.  Characteristics include:
·         the specific shape of letters (round or sharp)
·         regular or irregular spacing between letters
·         the slope of the letters
·         the rhythmic repetition of the elements or arrhythmia
·         the pressure to the paper
·         the average size of letters
·         the thickness of letters

Some liken our handwriting to a fingerprint.  I liken it to voice. 

For instance, here’s a sample of my Father’s hand:

Here’s a sample of my Mother’s:

Both were Palmer Method devotees.  I’d know their writing anywhere.

My sister’s hand smacks of calligraphy.

I love when I suddenly come upon a card or saved letter or book inscription that bears their writing or their signatures.
It’s as if they’re speaking, only visually, and once again they’re standing beside me.

And that got me thinking to how we sign our names today when texting or emailing or digitally communicating.
Is it possible to create that identifiable visual voice, that signature that tells the world who and what we are, that somehow connotes our peculiar singularity?

Once again I was lost in thought, Googling my way through the possibilities.
There’s the actual handwritten signature we can scan and copy.
Or the fingered scrawl the Square app invites.
We can add a photo, an icon, a symbol.
We can vary the font, its size, its color.
We even have the means to create our own emojis.
Like Zorro we can draw three lines to form a Z.
Or maybe, a telling quote beneath our names is all we need to let the World know us?

Here’s hoping many of our TeachingAuthors readers will share their signatures in a posted comment.  I’m downright curious.

And meanwhile, Happy Belated National Handwriting Day!

Esther Hershenhorn
“The sun doesn’t stop shining because people are blind.”


Carmela Martino said...

>>Is it possible to create that identifiable visual voice, that signature that tells the world who and what we are, that somehow connotes our peculiar singularity?<<
I love this idea, Esther. I'll have to think about it.
Meanwhile, thanks for sharing all this great info, and the lovely writing samples!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Another handwriting article popped up in my Facebook feed today: "Here's Why Writing Things Out By Hand Makes You Smarter" ( It says, in part, "The benefits of handwriting — though it’s a disappearing skill — have been documented by lots of educational psychologists, who have found that handwriting engages parts of the brain that typing neglects, especially areas associated with memory formation. For these reasons, the arguments go, kids come up with more ideas when they’re writing in cursive versus typing."
Handwriting also seems much more personal, as you show by your family's notes, which I enjoyed--thank you!

Caroline McAlister said...

C. S. Lewis wrote all of his manuscripts with an old fashioned pen he dipped in an inkwell. He hated the sound of typewriters because he said he couldn't hear the sound of the words he was writing when he typed. Also, stopping to dip his pen in ink became an important part of his writing rhythm. I think that whether you are composing on a keyboard, or by hand, in printing or in cursive you need to develop habits and rhythm that work for you and help you develop your own distinctive voice. Verlyn Klinkenborg's Several Short Senteces About Writing has some nice ideas for how to analyze syntax and word choice in a piece of writing to get a feeling for a writer's individual "rich and diverse ecosystem." Sorry to have gone on so long, but I'm really interested in handwriting and writing technology.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I so appreciate your sharing the links and Tolkien Back Story, JoAnn and Caroline, and your stopping by, Marti.
I think we're all on the same page, so to speak, as to the value of writing by hand!
I'm glad this post struck a responsive chord with our readers.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I know that Paul Fleischman used to write each of his books by hand. He would write and rewrite one page all day long, until the rhythm was right, even if he wasn't writing in poetry.

I, too, Love coming across a piece of my mother or father's handwriting, or knowing a phrase was written by my son, my husband, my sister, my nephew. Each has its distinctive style, and though you can gleen that style from their writing, one word, such as "love" says it all in handwriting

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing, April - especially that insight re Paul Fleischman writing and rewriting a page until he nailed the rhythm.