Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

I'm Writing as Well as I Can

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

I'm Writing as Well as I Can

Article excerpt

THIS is National Handwriting Week, and I'm celebrating with a new convert to the art of penmanship - my son. It began more than a year ago, in November. One day my youngest son came home agitated. He bickered with his brothers, played his music loud, and wouldn't study.

This boy was usually a homework fiend. Since moving in with me, he had done homework and little else. Not yet in middle school like his brothers, he struggled to best them anyway. His papers came back from school marked with sterling grades and glowing comments. But this day he couldn't settle down. In a moment of solitude, driving to his parent-teacher conference, I wondered what could be eating him.

When the teacher showed me his report card, I knew. Set in the midst of an otherwise flawless string of A's was a single C, in Handwriting. My son was a wonderful student, she said, except for this. She said the problem was common these days.

On the way home, I told myself it didn't matter. With word processors, nobody writes much anyway, and who cares if a signature is legible?

But I knew it mattered. As a teacher of type design, I spend my days convincing future writers and editors that the way words look can make a difference. Illegible scrawls and typos make people sound dumb; messy resumes cost them interviews. Every semester I convert a few, like the once-skeptical woman who returned to my office recently to announce that a big-shot editor loved how her new resume looked and offered her an internship on the spot.

And unclear handwriting? Few things waste more professional time or cause more expensive mistakes. In my classes, we talk about publishing, where handwritten job specs are the rule. Typesetting houses follow the old saw, "Garbage in, garbage out." You write legibly, or your order gets botched. Guaranteed.

My sons hear my stories repeated like incantations: How my grandmother won a prize for penmanship. …

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