By Katie Sue Ambellan

We were so excited when the record finally arrived. My partner, Greg, a huge fan of the band, The Gaslight Anthem, had special ordered their album Handwritten months in advance.  As we sat listening and perusing the vinyl-exclusive lyrics insert, we noticed something strange–it was typed.

We had a laugh about it, wondering how hard is it, really, to write it out?  Were the lyrics ever “handwritten” at all, or were they really just hammered out on an ipad or typed up on some laptop?

How often do people use pens these days anyway?  According to Slate’s Julia Turner, not that much.  Sure, we write notes and postcards from time to time, but in her article, The End of Pens,  she asks about the last time we filled a page of lined, college rule paper with  “unbroken lettering, trying to express an argument or make a developed point? When was the last time you used pen and ink for writing, and not just for jotting?”

For most, it’s been quite some time, and that fact is the subject of  British novelist Philip Hensher’s latest book, The Missing Ink.  With some chapters drafted entirely by hand, Hensher’s book reads as half obituary, half rally cry.  As Turner puts it:

In an age of texting and notes tapped straight into tablets, we are rapidly losing the art and skill it takes to swiftly write, with a pen, a sentence that is both intelligible and attractive. The time devoted to teaching handwriting in elementary schools around the globe has dwindled. Hensher opens his book with the plaintive question: “Should we even care? Should we accept that handwriting is a skill whose time has now passed? Or does it carry with it a value that can never truly be superseded by the typed word?”

The book explores the lost art of handwriting and offers up some fascinating historical tidbits, stressing that handwriting innovations are designed to improve the speed and legibility of human communication. Though electronic communication can be much faster than slow hand, in my opinion, there are somethings that just look better when done by hand.

Business like Trader Joe’s have a sign team at each location that hand paint all of their in-store signage, artists often create new type faces by drawing up the letters on paper first, and some zine makers even create full magazines that are entirely hand written.  And let us not forget about love letters.  In case you’re reading Greg, even though I’m typing this blog post up, I’d still take a handwritten love letter over a typed up email any day.

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