The Effect of Technology on Writing

I read two interesting articles today on the effect technology is having on writing skills, and I thought I’d pass them along.

Whither Handwriting?

First, schools are apparently teaching cursive handwriting later than they used to, and placing less emphasis on it than they did when I was a kid.

I would be OK with dropping penmanship as a required school-taught skill, insofar as that means writing in cursive. I stopped writing in cursive as soon as I moved to high school and my teachers stopped requiring it. I write in all capital letters, and have done so for such a long time that I’m super slow when writing in cursive. I fall into the pattern that the article seems to describe: short of note-taking, all of my writing is done via an electronic input method such as keyboard or touch screen.

Note that I’m not advocating not teaching kids how to write. The ability to write longhand is critical, but I don’t see that writing in cursive really is. I would be OK with dropping cursive writing altogether, other than perhaps as an artistic endeavor, perhaps replacing it with shorthand. I’ve always thought it would be neat to have learned to write in shorthand for note-taking, but never gone so far as to learn how.

Digital Writing Renaissance

The other article dealt with the skill of writing, suggesting that the current generation use writing as a form of communication far more frequently than past generations have. I write fairly frequently and find that my behavior has mapped to what the author suggests: I typically write to a known audience of more than one person (and in the blogging case, a unknown number of unknown readers). I do use social networking sites, and also write small updates there on a daily basis. I can see how these activities might be looked down upon by some people as degenerate forms of writing, but I would disagree that this is the case.

While many people are pretty careless writers where spelling and grammar are concerned, let’s face the fact that many people who aren’t great writers probably wouldn’t write as often as they do without these low-ceremony outlets. And there’s nothing stopping people who would like to write more correctly in those environments from doing so. As far as I can tell, that’s a win-win situation, and I hope it continues.