August 9, 2009



The Baltimore Sun this week published a story about the impact of digital media on the U.S. Postal Service and specifically on handwritten letters. The basis for the story is familiar: Handwritten letters, which were already in decline, have all but disappeared now that modern electronics provide so many other means to send messages. The Sun reporter discussed this development, and the recently-announced contraction of the postal system, with young people and with older people. The result was predictable.

I am almost 67 years old, and I can’t recall writing letters by hand. I used to write a lot of long personal letters — I recently discarded most of them — but I wrote them on a typewriter. Still, I have some nostalgia for the handwritten letter, mostly because I recall when my mother wrote letters to her out-of-state friends and relatives. Mom had won awards for her handwriting when that was still considered an important part of a person’s training, and she wrote those letters in a disciplined and attractive cursive. Correspondence in those days did not have the convenience of immediacy, and I recall the excitement when Andy, the mailman — who used to sing when he made his twice-a-day visits — brought a response from Lexington, South Carolina, or some other exotic port.

cursive2-774480Of course, that form of correspondence is still available to anyone who wants to exercise his handwriting skills and experience the anticipation of awaiting an answer. That wouldn’t be me. Like many people in this century, I communicate with people all day long through the various means now available, and I think I get as much satisfaction out of the quick reply as Mom did out of the long-term one.

HieroglyphicsThe Sun’s story and other reports on this topic include remarks from some authorities who worry that increasing reliance on e-mail, text messages, tweets, and whatever program may appear next, threatens to cause our handwriting skills to atrophy. But our kind have lost other communication skills that became obsolete, and we don’t seem to be any the worse for it. Well, we may be worse, but I doubt that our writing skills had anything to do with that.

The Sun’s story is at this link:



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