strange and ancient symbols.

Here’s an interesting article at about “the slow death of handwriting”.

I’ve been writing all my fiction longhand with a fountain pen for a month now, and I enjoy the process a lot.  My body had to adjust to the mechanics of it again (especially my wrist and fingers), but now my hand is used to holding a pen once more, and I write about 1,000 words a day with ink.  My writing output hasn’t suffered in the least, and as an added benefit, I’ve started sending (and receiving) old-fashioned paper letters again.  There’s a certain pleasure in getting an envelope with a personal, handwritten letter in the mail.

What about you?  Do you still write longhand–for professional reasons (as a teacher, doctor, or writer), for correspondence with computer-challenged family members, or simply for personal enjoyment?

29 thoughts on “strange and ancient symbols.

  1. El Capitan says:

    On your recommendation I picked up a trio of the Pilot Varsity fountain pens. 98% of my writing, either business or pleasure, is done using a keyboard, but I don’t want to let my (alleged) penmanship to completely lapse.

    The fountain pen almost requires cursive script. My chickenscratch printing, barely legible with a ballpoint, is made 10 times worse with the Varsity.

    I’m going to search eBay for an old handwriting primer and force myself to do the repetitive exercises. My poor handwriting has always been a source of chagrin, if not outright embarrassment, but I’m not so set in my ways that I can’t repair it!

  2. Xavier says:

    Yep. I still write procedure and nurses notes longhand. I refuse to be taken in by computerized nursing.

  3. Sirus says:

    I write my papers for college longhand, then copy over to my computer. I write much faster when I can’t get distracted by the internet, and I’m less prone to time consuming revisions while I’m just trying to get a draft done.
    It does get some strange looks, though

  4. Jason says:

    I picked up a fountain pen the other day, not a disposable, but not expensive either. Iridium tip, uses pelikan cartriges. When it flows, it flows well, but, to beat all, I can’t seem to figure out how to “keep” it primed, or to prime it easily (if thats the term). Is there a good way to get ink flowing fast when I need it?

  5. Horatio says:

    I can’t read my own handwriting anymore. If I had to write anything longer than a paragraph, it would be illegible…

  6. irish red says:


    From a patient’s perspective, I would much prefer typed medical notes. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of the wrong dosage or procedure because of a mistaken handwriting interpretation.

  7. LittleRed1 says:

    I take research notes in longhand. It’s faster, and I don’t have to have my computer around to look up information.
    I still write letters in longhand, except for those in German, because of the differences in German and American cursive. And I learned the hard way to use ball-point or gel ink pens during the rainy season. If a letter gets drenched, water-based fountain pen ink vanishes.

  8. ajdshootist says:

    Marko i love fountain pens and i loved writing and drawing etc then i had four strokes over an 8 month period and now find that my writing fades after about one line and looks like a spider crawled across the page after walking though an ink well so i am so jealous of those who still can enjoy the pleasure of a good pen,am now left with 2/3 parker 51s and a watermans from the 1930s now 4yrs later i am still trying to get my writing back so i keep on trying and hopefully it will come back.

  9. Weer'd Beard says:

    My handwriting is HORRIBLE, so if I can, I type. It’s much faster too, as if I write as fast as I can type nobody can read it.

  10. williamthecoroner says:

    You shake them. With the cap on.

  11. Diane says:

    I do take notes longhand at work – I often say I can’t think well without a pen or pencil in my hand. For personal purposes I maintain two journals in longhand. At the moment, I’m partial to Staedtler’s Triplus Fineliners – smooth, fine line and they won’t dry out for days if the cap is left off. I’m partial as well to one particular Pilot rollerball finepoint.

  12. Teri Pittman says:

    I do three pages of journaling each morning. I rotate between an old Schaeffer and two Esterbrooks. I’ve used fountain pens at work too. They are perfect to pull out when someone wants to borrow a pen from you. They take a look at it and hand it back. My handwriting isn’t great but I don’t care. I just enjoy using my pens.

  13. boomvark says:

    At my job, we’re required to keep hardcopy logs. In black ink, no less. We could get away with printing–some of our Powers That Be might even prefer it–but everyone in the department opts for longhand.

    I go back and forth between fountain pens and a Fisher Space ballpoint, depending on various factors.

  14. mts says:

    I write in notebooks all of the time. I’ll keep a log of mileage, billing, and payments received, then transfer them to the database later. I still make handwritten bills on-site from a pad.

    I’ll write out letters, a lot of blog posts, and everything else. Things I send on, I type into a word processor. My writing is passable, but printed type prevents people from using the old excuse “I couldn’t read what you wrote,” even if I print in block letters that look a lot like a typed page. I’ll sign them with the Phileas. And ever the dandy, I actually use stationery. When someone gets a letter from me, it’s wearing an Armani suit.

    I’ve gotten fountain pens again for writing longer than quick notes, and though the physical process has been a fun thing, the medium points of the Varsity and Phileas make my handwriting, and especially printing, look like I’m writing with a Sharpie. I’m sure I can find a Phileas fine point, somewhere. Is there a non-water based ink cartridge out there for a Waterman? By the way, I always use fine point ball point pens, too, so it’s not just from the new use of fountain pens.

    The Varsity has been quite a conversation piece, along with a bunch of “ooh, let me try’s.” I gave my blue and purple Varsity’s away to someone who was enthralled by the idea of a fountain pen, so consider the love of the tool passed on to one other person. And I’ve found a lot more fountain pen users that I noticed before.

  15. Brian Dale says:

    I still write in longhand: I keep a journal with a fountain pen and do most of my other writing with Pilot G2s.

    A girlfriend gave me a decent Parker a few years ago that I still use. I bought some Pilot Varsity pens last year on LawDog’s recommendation. They’re good, cheap fountain pens like the Parkers and Sheaffers that I used to find for a few bucks. I’d like to pick up a Lamy Safari; I missed out on the Rotring Core when they were easy to find.

    Alas, poor handwriting! I know it, Horatio. Mine has always been that way. My gorge rises at it.

    Teri Pittman, you’re braver than I am. I’ve lost far too many pens at work to offer to lend a fountain pen even as a challenge to the would-be borrower.

    For the group’s enjoyment: I still take copious notes, in longhand, in my computer software classes. {/aspiring curmudgeon}

  16. Marko says:

    I can highly recommend the Lamy Safari. I have a Vista (see-through version of the Safari) with a fine nib, and it’s second only to my Parker “51” in smoothness.

    A Safari/Vista will only run you about $25 online, and they’re probably the best value in fountain pens on the market.

  17. Vaarok says:

    I’m left handed. I’d rather write 130wpm with both hands than drag the heel of my hand through graphite or wet ink trying to scratch my ideas down in a format that’s hard to do anything with besides retranscribe into a more useful format.

  18. pax says:

    I hate handwriting.

    I hate doing it myself. It is slow, it is laborious, and it is messy. I am left-handed and I have never in my entire life used a pen that does not smear. Don’t tell me to use a different writing technique, because there simply is no comfortable way for a left hander to keep her hand entirely off the paper as she writes. Crooked wrist, straight wrist, it doesn’t matter. It hurts and it’s no fun and I don’t like it.

    I also hate reading other people’s writing. I haven’t read a single word you’ve placed in longhand on this blog. Your writing might be objectively beautiful, but my eyes rebel. I squint and my eyes water. It’s slow, inefficient.

    I learned to type on a manual typewriter, complete with the need to count off the spaces to center a line for the header. Then I used an electric typewriter. Glory be, an “erase” key! It didn’t work well, but it was there. Then I used a WordStar program on a mainframe at school, and finally at home we got WordPerfect program on a PCjr with a daisy-wheel printer — I was in heaven! I’ll never go back…

    Why, once the wheel has been invented, would people insist on traipsing around on shank’s ponies?? 😀

    The computer revolution was the nicest thing that ever happened to written communication.

  19. Tam says:

    I’m left handed. I’d rather write 130wpm with both hands than drag the heel of my hand through graphite or wet ink…

    I am left-handed and I have never in my entire life used a pen that does not smear. Don’t tell me to use a different writing technique, because there simply is no comfortable way for a left hander to keep her hand entirely off the paper as she writes.

    What they said. The first time I actually felt a pang of sympathy for our new President is when I watched him take pen in hand and awkwardly hook it around to sign the bill in front of him. Barack, I feel your pain.

    This is a sharp divide, and one of the few places where it really is a right-hander’s world: Everything from fountain pens to soft lead pencils to spiral- and 3-ring notebooks to the manner of writing the words themselves seems designed to actually torture the poor southpaw.

    Some people apparently love writing in longhand. Some people apparently love getting whipped while their mouth is stuffed full of a ball-gag, too. Hey, it’s a free country…

  20. BRB says:

    Hey Southpaws,

    I remember this lesson from the fifth grade:

    Square the bottom edge of the paper to the edge of the desk nearest your gut. ( I don’t think she used the word “gut”, however) If you are right handed, point the lower left corner of the paper at your tummy; if you are left-handed point the bottom right corner of the paper at your tummy.

    Right-handers will feel like they are writing uphill, and the lefties downhill, but in both cases your hand is below the line you are writing.

    I am right-handed, but it looks like this might work for you lefties.

    I am keyboard-challenged; I write much faster than I can type. I think a lot slower than either.


  21. Tam says:

    The problem with that for lefties (I was taught that, too…) is that no matter which way you tilt your paper, if you hold the writing stick in the proper manner, your hand is in the way and you cannot see what you are writing.

    This is why both the President and I do that awkward-looking hook-hand maneuver; it allows us to see the marks we are making.

    As a coffee mug I once owned read “Hire the left-handed. It’s fun to watch them write.

  22. […] Tam, in the comments of Marko’s post. […]

  23. Roberta X says:

    I hand-write quite a lot, including my paper-based task-tracker; and I prefer a fountain pen. My cursive writing was never good, until I learned Chancery “cursive,” which is more like italic printing than joined-up Spencerian or Palmer cursive. Chancery is fast and legible.

    …Copying Morse, I’ll use a pencil or ballpoint and standard block letters, ugly but utilitarian.

    The only “cursive” I use is my signature, a scrawled ideoglyph that encodes the motions that once formed the letters of my name.

  24. Don Meaker says:

    ANOTHER lefty president? What is this, 9 now? Gives meaning to the notion that anyone who gets elected must be brain-damaged.

  25. Velma says:

    I’ve been keeping a journal by hand for about twenty-two years now, and I tend to first draft a lot of my fiction and essays that way. Fountain pens, with extra-fine cursive italic nibs, and a half-script, half-print writing style with a very small x-height and long ascenders and descenders. (“Tiny, precise, and graceful,” if you’re just glancing at it; “tiny and too stylized to read” if you’re not me and you’re trying to read a lot of it.)

    Jason, you may want to flush your nib with lukewarm water with a drop or two of either dishwashing liquid or ammonia, to see if it needs cleaning. Also, different inks have different flow qualities. (Private Reserve Tanzanite Blue, for example, is often referred to as the Ex-Lax of inks. Waterman Havana Brown flows well from most pens, as well.)

    MTS, Noodler’s makes an assortment of waterproof (they call them “bulletproof”) inks, but you’ll need converters for them.

  26. Marko says:


    you have the smallest cursive script I’ve ever seen, but it’s highly legible, and definitely graceful.

    Oh, and that “51” loves Parker Quink. It looks more black out of the “51” than it does out of any of my other pens, regardless of nib sizes.

  27. mike w. says:

    No longhand for me. Writing the old fashioned way is a pain when you’re a lefty.

  28. Stretch says:

    Police work required extensive note taking. Always printed because;
    my script is no very legible and defense attys. *spit* will ALWAYS question your notes.
    I could fit more on a page with print.
    When working computer help desk continued printing for much the same reason except defense attys. *spit* were replaced with ISO2000 quality control specialist. *SPIT and other bodily fluids*.

  29. Anonymoose says:

    I was never properly taught how to write, a problem I am slowly fixing. However, I can’t see myself shifting over to the pen for any task where a computer is handy. I’ve been typing on computers almost since birth.

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