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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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The End of Handwriting

While computers and the Internet have made English the global language, they have also just about killed cursive or handwriting today. Some 41 states do not require students to learn cursive. The focus is totally on the computer keyboard.

Let me admit upfront that I handwrite each week’s column, and then, my longtime assistant types the column for me to edit. That is definitely old fashion, but while I can type emails, I never have become proficient in typing columns or even snail mail letters. The result is that the flow of information from my brain through the pen to the yellow legal pad, for me, is much faster than my trying to type each column.

As I checked with family members, there is no doubt that from Florida to New York cursive is becoming a lost art. When I asked about signatures, my son said to me that he types so much that he can, “barely sign” his name.

Beyond computer keyboards, texting also moves people away from cursive. Then, there is voice to print where printed texts are generated from speaking into a computer program which transforms the speech into text.

There is another factor in the electronic Internet transmission of the text. The U.S. Postal Service has experienced a tremendous decline in mail volume over the recent years. From 2008 through last year that volume dropped by over 16 percent. And turning to this year, the mail volume has dropped by some one billion pieces through June of 2011. Now, some of that decline can be attributed to electronic billing.

There is no doubt that the loss in mail volume is directly linked to electronic messaging and electronic billing. Based on today’s technology, young people are playing games and texting. Notes are not taken on pads. They are put into computers. From the days of John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence, more and more young people are growing up without an understanding for their signature. It will be interesting to see, from a legal viewpoint, how “signatures” will be handled in the growing electronic age?

In my research for this piece, I found that, even those children who are still being taught cursive, the writing has become more sloppy and difficult to decipher. In addition, young people who use cursive write inconsistently.

With all the negatives, we all must realize that the immediate future will see a growth of printed text through the use of keyboards whether through a computer or other electronic device. And I cannot help but wonder where will we be in twenty five years?

There is no doubt that electronic signatures will be developed, and we may even see more voice to print. If that is the case, writing and typing could all be in the past just like cursive?

Stay tuned!

Robert McMillan Website: www.bobmcmillan.net