The End of Handwriting

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Should people stop writing by hand? Would that affect people in a good or bad way? Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at how handwriting influences people and culture.

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

When was the last time you used a pen or pencil? Did you write a list of things to do? Did you sign your name on a legal document? Did you draw a picture? Other than that, a lot of your writing was probably on a computer or smartphone. A small British survey in 2014 found that on average, people had not used a pen or pencil to write in 41 days!

Voice 2  

People write on paper much less than they used to. But is this a good or a bad thing? How is this change affecting people? Today’s Spotlight is on the end of handwriting.

Voice 1  

People have been writing for thousands of years. Writing began with making marks on a flat surface like a rock or clay stone. This took a lot of effort. It lasted for a long time. Then people began to use paper and liquid ink to mark the surface. When this happened, it was easier to write and send messages far away. But it was also easier to lose or destroy writing. Then pages of paper were collected in the first book. So, people could write more. Ballpoint pens let people write faster and more neatly. In fact, the whole history of writing is really people’s attempt to find ways to write faster and more clearly. In this way, computers and smartphones are just another step forward in writing.

Voice 2

But have people lost something important as they stop writing by hand? Many people think writing by hand is more interesting and personal than using a computer or phone. People write using interesting forms of letters and numbers. Each person’s style is a little different. In fact, writing can even be different based on your culture.

Voice 1  

Imagine writing the English letter “t”. If English is your first language, you will most likely first write a line up and down. Then, you will make a line across, nearer to the top of the first line. However, if you are from a country like Japan, China, or Taiwan, you will probably use a different method to make an English “t”. It is common for people there to make the line across first. Then, they will make the line up and down. The line across will be closer to the middle. Adrienne Bernhard believes this difference in writing gets lost in typing. She wrote for the BBC,

Voice 3  

“Text messaging has added to handwriting’s increasing sameness. Print is boring. Handwriting is interesting. Computers cannot show changes a person has written in the text. There are no pictures drawn on the side of the page. There is none of a person’s special character shown in hand-lettered sentences.”

Voice 2  

Writing by hand can also help us learn. Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer are psychologists. They study people’s behaviors. They compared students who take notes on a computer with students who use a paper and pen. They found that students who wrote by hand better understood and remembered what they heard.

Voice 1  

One reason for this may be that writing by hand is a simple act. A computer has other software programs. It can connect to the Internet. Students can easily find other things to do. They can visit a website or check social media. But, there is nothing they can do with paper and pen except listen to the teacher.

Image by felixioncool from Pixabay
Voice 2  

Virginia Berninger is a psychologist at the University of Washington. She studied children when they wrote and typed. She took pictures of their brains as they wrote. The children who wrote by hand were able to produce more words more quickly than children who typed. They expressed more ideas. Berninger found that children’s brains showed more activity while writing rather than typing. Handwriting improved the children’s ability to think.

Voice 1  

It is because of this kind of research that the country of France continues to teach handwriting. In France, people see handwriting as an important part of French culture. But it is also an important part of the learning process. Viviane Bouysse is a French school official. She spoke to The Guardian,

Voice 4  

“For a long time we attached little importance to handwriting. But in 2000, we began to build on work in brain sciences. We understood that writing by hand was a key step in brain development. It is not just writing a letter. There is an element of dancing when we write. There is a kind of song in the message. This adds emotion to the text. After all, that is why emoticons were invented, to bring back a little emotion to text messages.”

Voice 2  

And yet there are many people who feel that the end of handwriting is no problem. They believe that typing on computers and phones is just one more step forward in technology. Anne Trubek is the author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting. She wrote for the New York Times,

Voice 5  

“The changes of the digital age may be good for writers and writing. Students learn to type on the keyboard very quickly. So today’s young students may become better writers. Keyboards are a great help to students with some learning disabilities, as well as students with poor handwriting. These students are often marked lower than those who write clearly, no matter what they write.”

Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay
Voice 1  

And it is important to remember that some studies on handwriting and brain development are not always as clear as reports about them may show. It is good to enjoy writing by hand. But we should not let our love for something blind us to the truth. Trubek continues,

Voice 5  

“People talk about the death of handwriting as if it is death of culture. But the goal of education is to prepare students to become successful, working adults. Typing on a computer is clearly more useful than handwriting. There are few places where handwriting is required. And there will be even fewer places by the time today’s children leave school.”

Voice 2  

What do you think? Is writing by hand important in your culture? How often do you use handwriting in your own language? You can type your answer on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “The End of Handwriting”.

Voice 2  

Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

How often do you use your hand to write? Do you think handwriting is important? Write your answer below.

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19 comments
  • Yes, I use everday handwritten ,
    Ithink handwriting is important Especially in the school instead of devices.This benefits them health.

  • I usually use handwrinting to make buy’s list, or to write my schedules or things that I need to remember during my day.I write when I am studying English; too.I think it is easier to memorize words or expressions when you can write them.In my opinion, handwriting is important because many times you can’t count on digital devices .And when you use the paper ,you can express your emotions more clearly

  • The most important thing is get a clear communication no matter what the way it be done. So, all kinds of writing is important and should be encouraged.

  • Honestly, I am used of taking notes by handwriting in my notes book everyday. Even my life is more and more fulfilled by technical equipment (like smartphones, laptop, PC ect) I still love handwriting. I also love write birthday cards for my friends, my husband by myself. Dont know why but I think that handwriting can help me show my emotion to the receivers (even my handwriting is not really good :))

  • i always use my phone to write anything’s but i think it’s so important to write by hand because it’s part of writing development .

  • In my opinion the handwriting is better than typing ,I think it’s more emotion and in the other hand is good for our hands due to
    when we write in our hands so we make excrsie of a little muscles in the tips of fingers.Ofcorse typing is important todays but we should reback to the handwriting and learn it for childrens.

  • So I haven’t written regularly by hand before I read the article, I always type or take notes on a computer or smartphone because of the useful and convenience of it. but I don’t deny that handwriting is important, especially the memory while I am learning EL

  • A few weeks ago I decide to used handwriting for take notes in English because I need remember how to say a senteses in English and I need to learn how to write that senteses. So I thinkw handwriting is very important when we are learning a new lenguaje.

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