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The Why's Guy

Penmanship dies a digital death

I can't write.

My epiphany arrived over the holidays — not exactly the gift a journalist hopes to receive for Christmas.

I'm sure Mrs. McCarthy, my 10th grade English teacher who loved her red pen, is enjoying a good chuckle.

I shared the topic of this column with a colleague and her response was succinct.

"I guess it will be a short one."

Sure hope the boss doesn't read it.

But all is not lost. I can still put a sentence together. Noun. Verb. That's easy.

I can even turn a clever phrase — on a rare occasion.

What I can't do is write, by hand, with pen and paper. The realization came as I added notes to Christmas cards. When I checked what I had penned, I couldn't read my handwriting.

"Merry Christmas" could easily have been "Maury Clussmare."

And it was only card No. 3. After No. 10, I knew it was useless to continue.

I've never had good handwriting, an affliction bestowed upon most lefties by right-handed teachers. But it was always legible.

Not any more.

I suspect the handwriting's been on the wall for a while, but I just couldn't read it.

The culprit is obvious. The keyboard is killing my cursive. My printing is taking a pummeling. The muscles I use to write are dying a slow death, withering away day by day.

I bet it's happening to you too.

When was the last time you wrote anything by hand? Just about everything in our world is done on computers now. We peck away at keyboards 24/7.

At home. At work. Anywhere there is WiFi.

Click, click, click.

A check?

Bills get paid online.

A letter?

E-mail and texting rule personal communication.

Taking out a mortgage? Beware — signing all those papers at closing could land you in the hospital. Just filling out the application all but guarantees carpal tunnel syndrome.

Writing by hand, especially in cursive, has gone beyond endangered species status. It's all but extinct. Not only have I lost the ability for the muscles to form the letters, I can't remember how to make many of them. A capital Q? Forget it. Capital G? No way. Cap Z?

Not in this lifetime.

A friend mentioned her daughter's school doesn't even teach cursive. At first I was surprised, but then I saw the logic. Why should it?

The keyboard is king.

But we can't just point our fingers at the keyboard. We've aided and abetted the process by becoming a world of wimps.

We can't brush our teeth without firing up a battery-powered toothbrush. We have to have power hand tools to drive screws and sand wood. Want to spray for insects, kill some weeds? No need to use a bottle with a hand-powered spray pump. Now they have sprayers that run on batteries.

Who among us doesn't have a garage-door opener?

Kids used to play baseball, football, tag, hide-and-seek. Now they play video games.

We've traded muscles for machines.

I'm amazed that I can still sign my name. But even that has been skewed over the years, creating new problems.

I'll never vote by absentee ballot. I have no doubt my ballot would get tossed if I did. It happened in 2006, when Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee's absentee ballot was disqualified because his signature didn't match the one on record at the elections office. A member of the canvassing board called it a "common occurrence."

Elections officials, bound by the letter of the law, could never match the "Kyle J. Kreiger" from my 10-year-old voter registration form to the signature that would accompany my ballot. And I couldn't complain.

Even I would ask, who is this "Kjli G. Knaijen."

Times staff writer Kyle Kreiger writes about the serious and silly with one question in mind: Why? He can be reached at kreiger@sptimes.com. To read previous rants, click on his name at the top of this column.

The write way

For an animated tutorial on how to write in cursive, go to www.handwritingforkids.com/handwrite/cursive/animation.

Penmanship dies a digital death 01/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 11:20pm]
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