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Matt Von Pinnon, Published September 20 2009

Von Pinnon: Does penmanship matter in today’s frenetic world?

I open and reread the letters every so often.

They sit in a desk drawer at home.

There’s one each from my two grandmothers who are no longer living.

Neither letter says anything especially profound, but I’m occasionally drawn to them nonetheless.

It’s the penmanship.

Graceful. Elegant. So unlike most other writing I typically see.

Each word – each letter – was handcrafted just for me. It embodies the values of their generation, when all the little things mattered. I can almost picture them as little girls in their one-room schoolhouses practicing their strokes over and over as the teacher walked the aisles observing every little detail, hands at her back.

So it was with great interest to me that schools are increasingly abandoning the teaching of cursive writing, or penmanship.

A recent Associated Press story detailed how more and more U.S. schools are limiting the teaching of cursive writing in favor of using that time to teach more typing and general computer skills.

In fact, beginning in two years, the writing part of a prominent national test will require eighth- and 11th-graders to compose on computers, with fourth-graders following in 2019.

Of course, that trend away from handwriting has long been in the works, starting with the introduction of the typewriter.

Two years ago, the College Board found only 15 percent of students taking the writing portion of the SAT exam wrote in cursive, the rest in print.

That 15 percent who wrote in cursive is bound to decline even further as more kids communicate via text messages. After all, e-mail is so yesterday.

There is some evidence that writing in cursive helps develop muscle control and better hand-eye coordination.

More importantly, perhaps, writing in cursive forces us to slow down and think about how we best try to convey our thoughts. When words and letters are easily written or disposed, as in today’s world, they lose their value.

I don’t consider myself a fuddy-duddy, and I don’t believe in form over function, but there is something special still today about a handwritten note or letter.

Save them while you can. They’re becoming rarer by the day.

Two new radio shows start

Beginning Monday, Forum reporters and editors will be part of two new weekday programs airing on 970 WDAY-AM.

The “News at Noon” is a new one-hour program from noon to 1 p.m. featuring a mix of local and national news and commentary. Erick Johnson from WDAY Radio will host, and it will also include news from WDAY-TV reporters in the field.

Then, from 1 to 2 p.m., “Sports Talk” will feature members of our sports staff and WDAY-TV discussing the latest sports news, scores and water-cooler talk from our region and beyond. Callers are encouraged to call in and debate the issues.


Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum.Reach him at (701) 241-5579, or,if you want to make him smile, send him a handwritten note.