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Conversations About Handwriting

• Would you believe that the best way to improve children's handwriting is to have them do it lying on their stomachs? That's what Channel 5 in Bismarck, North Dakota claims.

"When we lay on our tummies and do writing we`re getting some weight through our elbows and through our shoulders," said occupational therapist Wendy Graff. "It`s building some of that stability that helps carry over to when you are writing at a table. If you`re standing at a board you are using different muscles to write and more stability is required at your shoulder and your elbow."

If it works for watching TV and playing video games, maybe it's the right position for composing perfect letters. Who knows?

Susan Hanley at NetworkWorld says she's a prodigious note-taker, which is why she was so excited to try out the Capturx digital pen. But, after trying it, she gave a thumbs-down to taking notes digitally.

The upside:

I am addicted to the Levenger Circa notebooks so I love the idea that I can print my own digital paper and use my special Levenger hole punch to create pages that integrate seamlessly into my existing notebooks. I can take my regular binder to a meeting and take notes the way I'm used to doing, but with the digital pen.

When I connect the pen to my laptop, I can seamlessly download my notes to OneNote.  I now have two versions of my meeting notes - one that can stay in the physical notebook and that I can bring with me to all meetings and one on my computer that can be searched electronically and easily shared with my client or members of my team.

The downside:

The pen is much too fat!  My hands are small and the pen is about the size of a white board marker.  The first time I used the pen for two one-hour meetings, my hand was sore for 24 hours.  The second time, I stopped after an hour and switched to a regular pen to give my hand a break!

I just wish it were more comfortable as a writing implement because it has the potential to become as important to me as my iPod!  After my 4 month adventure with digital note taking, I find that I have mostly reverted back to my $2.00 Pentel EnerGel pen.

She also wasn't impressed with the plain ballpoint ink used in the pen, instead of a smoother gel ink. Still, the fact that there is now a digital pen that doesn't require special (and expensive) paper is definitely a step in the right direction.

• An elderly Connecticut woman has been writing letters every week to military service members overseas since the late '60s, according to the Danbury News-Times.

She picks people from her hometown, located in the Northeastern U.S., and begins a correspondence with them wherever they are, even if they don't write her back.

She told the newspaper:

Ventres, an 82-year-old eighth-generation Ridgefielder, spends one week a month, from Monday through Friday, six hours a day, sending news from home, pictures, and words of encouragement to military men and women from her hometown.

"Right now there are 52 on my list, the most I've ever had, " she said.

She uses a pen and stationery she buys on sale. "I won't switch to the computer. Handwritten letters are more personal," she said.

Thirty hours a week of letter writing! That's a lot of commitment to the supposed "lost art."

• You just might be violating the rules of letter-writing etiquette if you don't have a collection of assorted stationery to fit each writing occasion, according to etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts at the Huffington Post.

A stationery wardrobe is important for both the seasoned executive, newcomers to the world of business, and social correspondence. Like clothing, a stationery wardrobe should reflect your personality and include foundation pieces appropriate for all occasions.

Among the pieces of your "stationery wardrobe," she recommends correspondence cards and sheets, fold-over notes and calling cards for social letters and separate correspondence cards and sheets and business cards for professional letters. What exactly would go on something like a calling card? Your Facebook address, of course.

She doesn't address which pens should be used for which occasions.

• Finding an old letter from her late grandfather prompted columnist Renee Moilanen to share her feelings about the timelessness and emotional weight carried by handwritten letters from the past.

The ink on my grandfather's letter is fading, and the edges have yellowed. But I know I'll save the letter forever, until the paper crumbles to dust, because it reminds me of my grandfather more than any photograph or memorial ever could.

The handwritten words speak off the page, and when I read the last line - "I love you Renee" - it's like hearing his voice. The ink might fade, but the words never will.

The whole column, while melancholy, is worth reading.

• The practice of Chinese calligraphy, or at least the pursuit of better handwriting, could be the path to tranquility, as Harry Eyres advances some thoughts on the subject in the Financial Times.

Everything about the way I write bears the marks of an occidental (rather than oriental) approach and education. There is a strange combination of instrumentality and hyper-individualism. Handwriting in the west is regarded as a means to an end, not an end in itself; it’s what you write that’s important, not how you write it. Any way that reaches the goal of intelligibility will do. This allows a freedom that might seem attractive (to many in the east as well as the west), but I am beginning to wonder whether it could be a short cut to expression that ends up impoverishing expression itself.

Having recently returned from Taiwan, where he learned a little about calligraphy, he reckons that striving to return grace and beauty to written words could possibly help us tap into our wells of concentration and meditation.

Calligraphy, or just writing better, might help us find more peace and joy in our lives, which seems a good argument for including it in the syllabus. Sadly it is not one which would ever persuade the utilitarian commissars who control our education systems.

Perhaps he's got a point. After all, putting a really good pen to paper can sometimes feel like a semi-religious experience, right?

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