Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Death of Penmanship (and Penwomanship Too)

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Pen and paper

So, I was having a debate with tha wifey, Karen, about whether my daughter should write a BIO about herself, documenting her exploits over the only 11 years of her life for a local area neighborhood festival she was performing in. Write a BIO, as in, y’know, with a pen and notepad. It was starting to feel like a scene out the '80s, so I objected and gave the cliché tech geek response: “Like, what’s the point of her writing out a BIO with this foreign object, a pen, when we have all of these laptops at the crib where she can simply put finger to keyboard and edit the thing properly, MS Word-style.”

Learning how to cross T’s and dot I’s? Whose brilliant idea was that (if you were born after 1990)? Ask anyone born in the '90s — which is not me — about the merit of writing in cursive, and you might get ridiculed. Or worse, Lebronned (and Weinered). Getting Spitzered is a thing of the past because he now has gainful employment at CNN. Maybe paying for the s**t has its upside as does enrolling in “couples therapy” after Brothellian trysts.

Anyway, my daughter was banned from using her laptop for a week, as a consequence of her pre-teen daughterly indiscretions, but that wasn’t my point.

I think my point just simply reflected the themes of the many Canadians who couldn’t care less that there’s a postal strike happening right now (with all due respect to the families of postal workers). How many times per month do you actually snail mail stuff to people? I mean, really. And because your cursive might be poor, oh '90s baby, do you ever wonder whether you’ve effed up the postal code, due to your horrible penpersonship, and then the wrong person at the wrong address just received your half-baked love letter to this semi-anonymous woman you're courting, who’s since moved on and is now rockin’ it with the Senior Copywriter at the ad agency she now works at?

I have no clue as to what the cost of a postage stamp is now or who’s been lionized on these new 2011 versions. Another dead white guy? Some hockey player? Who knows. It’s just not something I spend too much time pondering (especially given current NBA and NHL championship TV schedule conflicts with real-life issues).

My point was not so much that public-school pre-teens should be propped up on tiny laptops, Tiger Mom-style, typing and inputting everything they feel, see or hear for future academic or literary efficiency. It was that they should be inputting 98.69 percent of what they feel, hear and see (and then they can reserve that 1.31 percentile to “cursive practice” or whatever).

The only people we reasonably allow to continually inscribe their chicken scratches on various forms of foolscap with impunity are doctors and professors. Is there a class in medical school where burgeoning hospital talents learn the fine art of writing stuff down with the intent of it not being legible or remotely recognizable? And some of these tenured profs I had — the notes I used to get back on my essays in undergrad featured some of the lousiest penpersonship ever witnessed by human eyes. I get an A, and they should get a C-. It was poultry scratching gone amok! These same professors needed to eliminate the rooster scuffings masquerading as writing and use the editing tools available within MS Word, encourage students to track their changes while they edit and zip the freshly edited files back in PDF format. Party like it’s 2009 (or 2011), y’know.

If you still do write (on paper), what exactly are you writing? There’s no way you can tell me you're penning love notes to faraway hotties (its just simply more efficient to troll for hotties on FB and Twitter, you Weiner).

This is the extent of my handwritten contributions to 2011, to date:

Apple juice
Whole wheat bread (Country Harvest or Wonder Bread brand)
Baby carrots
Corn
Potatoes
Apples
Bananas
Strawberries
Grapes
Mozzarella cheese
Milk
Yogurt
Fish
Poultry
Brown rice
Herbal tea
Pasta

Multiply times six months.
Then serve.

Listen, most of what you're typing is filled with questionable codes, acronyms and new-school shenanigans, most of which comes in at under 280 characters. So deal with it. Handwriting is a lost art, that’s sadly been replaced by gibberish abbreviations and initialisms like OMG. Don’t even get me started on how Internet slanguage is spiraling way out of control. I’ll save that for another post….

As penpersonship goes the way of the Atlanta Thrashers, done, I continue to write. grocery lists. I type, therefore I am. I'm torn. My penmanship gets wonkier over time and pales in comparison to the penwomanship of wifey. I'm new school, but trapped in the past. Old school is new school, so whip out them ballpoint pens. And might it make sense to have said '80s writing utensil match your new Perry Top-Siders?


Dalton Higgins is a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and national magazine award-winning journalist. He is Canada’s foremost expert on hip hop culture. In addition to writing numerous articles for Canadian and US print and on-line magazines, he is the author of Hip Hop World (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi) and co-author of Hip Hop (Thomson Nelson) and Much Master T: A VJ’s Journey (ECW Press). As a broadcaster, Dalton has hosted his own TV show and has appeared as a pundit on every major Canadian network. You can visit Dalton at his blog. His most recent book is Fatherhood 4.0: iDad Applications Across Cultures (Insomniac Press).


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