Writing by Hand

Do you remember spending hours learning how to print letters? Then to transpose said letters into the more elaborate cursive? At my parochial school, we even learned something called D’Nealian, an evil amalgamation of print and cursive (evidently it made the transition easier). And for what purpose? To sacrifice it all at the advent of digital communication.

I adore handwriting. I refuse to believe the time I have spent perfecting my particular manuscript has been lost under an avalanche of Helvetica and Times. I think handwriting is beautiful, an art form of its own, but it turns out the value is more than aesthetic:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

I would add that handwriting also has attained a new function. So rarely do I see anyone’s handwriting anymore, that when I do, I am presented with something sacred about that person. Not an analyst. Just a mystic.

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