Disappearing Ink

The rise and fall of handwriting.

Disappearing Ink

“Don’t forget to write” was once a commonly-expressed sentiment among friends parting ways. But in the age of the personal computer, Blackberry and iPhone, people don’t just forget to write, they have forgotten how. Not only are most adults loath to spend time on handwritten correspondence, they have long since lost the ability to produce legible cursive script—assuming they ever learned it at all.

Those lamenting the decline of handwriting will want to read “Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting” (Melville House), a new book by best-selling author/copy editor Kitty Burns Florey, who might be cheekily described as a “woman of letters.” Filled with quirky facts and compelling asides, “Script & Scribble” takes a long look back at the golden age of American penmanship, while also examining the steep, sudden decline in handwriting, which has been almost entirely displaced by the much-less-romantic practice of keyboarding.

Feeling nostalgic, I recently took the opportunity to step away from the computer and interview Florey about the history and current state of handwriting, and to ask whether her penmanship stands up to scrutiny at book signings.

How did you get the idea for “Script & Scribble”?
I got the idea when I came across an article in the Washington Post about how keyboarding is taking over in schools and how there is not much emphasis on handwriting anymore. First, I was amazed to hear typing called keyboarding. I had never heard that term before. I was also horrified that this was happening.

Then I thought about it and said to myself, What do we need to handwrite for? We all work on the computer now, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing that handwriting is being phased out.

Eventually, I started to believe it would be a good subject for a book. And I managed to persuade my publisher that this was a good idea—something that people could get interested in and possibly excited about. And that is happening. People feel very strongly about this, on one side or the other.

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