Sunday, November 15, 2009

The despise of handwriting

In the midst of the controversy over Gordon Brown’s handwritten letter to the mother of late soldier Jamie Janes, one point seems to me to have been missed, and that is the status we now give to handwriting.

For most people nowadays handwriting is less and less frequent. We write by hand only to sign documents, or when in a rush, or for trivial notes and jottings. We handwrite postcards from holidays, birthday and Christmas cards, and notes for shopping.  We might scribble a quick note to explain an absence from school or to excuse a child from PE. But for anything important, official and serious, we word-process our thoughts or arguments. And those who don’t themselves do that, know very well that that is what they do. Formal letters are always printed, neatly set out and formatted. That is what marks them out as important, weighty and official. Anything less - a handwritten note - is of course unworthy of such important communication.

But there are others who see things differently. They are well read and educated, they went to university or work in various kinds of administration - the official sort of people. They know something that perhaps most do not realise, or at least fully appreciate: that typed and printed letters, however tidy and official they may look, may not even have been read by the person whose signature appears on them. They also know that a handwritten letter, far from being a rushed response, is a personal act of attentiveness, which has taken the writer time and consideration. For them, a handwritten letter is a clear act of kindness. It is personal and considered.

But unfortunately, for most people, the handwritten note no longer indicates care and attention, but rather the opposite: "What a scandal: he couldn’t even be bothered to type it out."

3 comments:

berenike said...

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(with a silhouette of a fat pope)

shadowlands said...

Very true, and sad too. I think I might start handwriting to people again, just to remind them I am a real life person, without spell checker installed(mind you, I don't even bother using that application much these days, being of the opinion'they'll know what I mean') haha!

Patricius said...

What shows that there is still some humanity left in this country is the way The Sun's take on this episode backfired. The common response I've heard is "I don't think much of Gordon Brown but he was showing some compassion"