“Disappearing Ink”


Among the other disappearing virtues from my childhood is decent penmanship. We were drilled on handwriting throughout elementary school. First we were taught to print in a block style on wide ruled paper. Then, just when we had been given a chance to master that, they sprung cursive on us. Cursive was not intuitive and the large chart at the front of the classroom demonstrated the correct way to form each letter. Interestingly, the capital Q shown above was required when I was in school but seems to have disappeared.

I have dreadful handwriting. I like to think it is genetic. My father was a commissioner and had to sign hundreds of bond certificates. He actually had to testify that, despite how it looked, that really was his signature. My maternal grandfather had nearly illegible handwriting. I never made the transition from block print to cursive, and my writing is some kind of quirky, but unreadable, blend of the two. Fortunately, I was able to read all the handwriting of my students, no matter how dreadful, since I had practiced by having to read my own!

Unfortunately we were graded on penmanship. My failing grades were consistent throughout school. I failed both penmanship and deportment. Deportment. There’s another term I am happy to forget!

14 thoughts on ““Disappearing Ink”

  1. I think there was a short period during my school years when my writing was legible. I miss a pleasant script, not just the uppercase Q but especially Z (upper and lower) which have all but disappeared


      1. Almost mandatory by the general prevalence of illegibility. I wondered if it was a safety net, “no, that is not what I wrote” as a legal defence. My scribbles could be read in many different ways


  2. Nissa spent her grade school year learning how to write legibly the Paulinian way. St. Paul schools teach them the slant and the way letters are written. I didn’t learn writing that way but I could say, I write well by hand.


  3. You are right. With technology, handwritten notes are the least important with the students. At least they can still write their signature and not just mark it with an X. 🙄


  4. For a while I studied Farsi, and I was struck at the similarities between out cursive and their script. Students today won’t be aware of what we have in common. (I always thought it was strange that a capital Q should look like a 2.)


  5. Penmanship and deportment – I would most certainly have failed both! We also had handwriting lessons at school, initially large rounded letters using the ubiquitous (at the time) Marion Richardson script, and at some point shifting into ‘joined up’. I never mastered the latter and to this day will frequently print, which I can do just as fast as joined up. I’m using the terminology used around me at school then. Now it is very different here. Children learn cursive from the word go. My parents both had lovely handwriting albeit each with a different style. My children all struggle as I did. I do admire a good hand, and wish I could produce something which looks pleasing. These days I type whenever possible.


    1. For a time the Oregon schools experimented with italic handwriting. That confused everyone. My mother had lovely handwriting, so does my husband. I actually took handwriting lessons for a few weeks, but decided to stick with my scrawl.


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