Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Not Quite Write Handwriting Experts Lament Poor Penmanship

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Not Quite Write Handwriting Experts Lament Poor Penmanship

Article excerpt

TODAY'S THE birthday of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, and it's National Handwriting Day.

That's no coincidence.

Hancock wrote large - but he also wrote legibly. Would that we all could. St. Louis calligrapher Patricia Dresler says: "Handwriting is a form of communication. Bad handwriting is like mumbling." Costly mumbling. Experts say bad penmanship results in: A yearly loss of at least $200 million to American businesses from misfilings, bookkeeping errors and incorrect phone messages. More than 100 million pieces of illegibly addressed mail in dead-letter files. Illegible information on medical records that totals about 58 percent. A death a day because of wrong medications or wrong doses, an estimate made by the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists. Dresler believes that anyone can learn to write legibly with a little retraining. The first thing to do is to change the way handwriting is taught in the schools, Dresler says. If it's taught at all, it's taught in two phases. In the first two grades, children learn to print in mostly vertical ball and stick forms. Then, about third grade, they learn what we call "cursive," which, translated from the Italian, means "running." Most of us learned cursive writing from the Palmer method, a slow and decorative style fraught with letters looped together. It comes from copper plate engravings of the 17th century, not letters that were designed for handwriting. Many of the looped cursive letters have little or no relationship with the original letter shape. Think of G and the cursive G, and Q and Q. Think of how much alike the upper case F and T look and how ornate the S is in looped cursive. Dresler is part of a movement of educators, parents and handwriting experts who favor simplifying handwriting in a style called italic, modern italic or simple italic. Experts say this form is 99 percent legible, even when written very quickly. The letters are the same in both "printed" and cursive forms; they can be joined if it's convenient, but not at the expense of time. Dresler says it takes more time to form most loops than to leave an air space. …

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