Sunday, June 12, 2011


I just handwrote three thank you notes to friends who had been kind enough to remember my birthday with gifts sent in old-fashioned bubble envelopes, the address handwritten on them. One of my oldest and best friends had sent a handwritten letter along with five cards featuring her art. Then one of our former au pairs visited a few days after my birthday and gave me an old-fashioned fountain pen and another stack of cards. I decided that events were conspiring for me to take the time to write elegant thank you notes with that fountain pen. I hadn’t written with a fountain pen in more than a decade. It felt odd and easy at the same time; after all, I grew up learning how to write with a fountain pen. Who had what kind of fountain pen in grade school was a big deal. Penmanship was a big deal. Now, after writing three notes, my hand hurts!
I also realized, once again, holding my friend’s letter, how much I miss her handwriting, and anybody else’s for that matter. A person’s handwriting is such an expression of personality – when you see the envelope, you know who the letter is from. It’s like a person’s voice: you know who’s on the phone before they even announce their name. Thankfully, I have shoe boxes full of the most important correspondences of my life but sadly, even though some of those correspondences continue to the present day, I rarely add anything to those collections anymore. All correspondence has now been relegated to my email inbox where everybody’s message looks the same.
Do you still write by hand, at least once in a while?


  1. I write by hand to very young or very old friends. They seem to appreciate the letters. I also think I write differently by hand than when I type. First drafts flow easier with the right pen. And I can sort out any moodiness when I write by hand (typing just doesn't touch that).
    Thanks for an thought provoking post. I would like to pen things more often.

  2. Oh how I love handwritten cards and letters! I agree with you about seeing a person's personality in their handwriting.

  3. I miss handwriting, too, particularly my Mom's. It was truly of another age. I have a couple of handwritten recipes from her that are absolute treasures.

    I draft all of my creative writing pieces and blog posts in pencil and only later transfer to the computer. There's something about the way my brain thinks on paper versus on screen...

  4. What an odd coincidence, but I just received on Friday a lovely handwritten thank you letter. I stood admiring it for quite a while. You're so right it's such an expression of someone's personality and emotion! You've given me the inspiration for my next blog...thanks!!

  5. I especially love seeing my mother's handwriting on many recipe cards I have. It always startles me a bit, too, when I notice that her handwriting and mine are so very similar. I still end handwritten notes to a number of people and enjoy finding one in my mailbox. They're the ones I open first. Let the bills and the junk mail wait!

  6. My handwriting's never been worth anything! In fact, in order to be legible, I had to block write and do that with a backward slant!
    Now, the only handwriting I do is for checks and that's because my wife refuses to pay our bills online.

    Thank goodness for keyboards!!!!!

  7. I *love* writing things by hand and have a couple of fountain pens. I love receiving cards and letters so I assume others do, too.

    When I was in teacher education *cough* years ago, we had to take a penmanship test before we could get our license. My professor said I had beautiful penmanship (I do) but it wasn't *correct*--he told me that I had to use the same cursive writing as what I was going to teach. Fortunately, I became a special education teacher and just wrote with manuscript (proper form) when I taught.

  8. alwaysbackroads - nice that you still write by hand, and interesting that you feel it lets you release moodiness. Maybe more of us should do that!

    Anjuli - regarding personality: I'm not sure if it ever was a practice in the U.S. to request a handwriting sample when hiring someone? It used to be a practice in Germany back in the day!

    Lisa - interesting that you do your creative writing in longhand first. I have a hard time writing anything by hand, especially when I'm composing, my hands almost don't type fast enough to capture my thoughts. So handwriting is definitely a different process.

    Aunty JuJu - A handwritten thank you note warms your heart like an email never could, doesn't it?

    Nancy & Lisa - you both mentioned recipe cards! Who writes those any more? I agree that handwriting from someone who has passed away becomes an irreplacable treasure.

    LV Cabbie - I do think your handwriting is worth something to somebody. My father's was never very legible, but I still love seeing it.

    DrJulieAnn - interesting that you had to write a certain way by hand! Makes sense, I guess, when you're teaching kids how to do it but as an adult the whole idea is to have your own, isn't it?

  9. Few things make me happier than a handwritten note or letter. It's becoming a lost art, and it truly saddens me. One of the reasons I enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (although I never appreciate having to remember or type such a long title) so much was the use of letters for story. Emails, texts and tweets will never stack up next to handwriting.

    I find it so sad to hear how schools are moving away from teaching cursive (and the cursive that is taught is not the traditional stuff, it's more of a print-cursive hybrid).

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I agree with Tia, that even though handwriting letters is becoming a lost art we shouldn't strive away from penmanship. Today's fast paced system further puts us away from this amazing art. Anyone who has the ability to sit down, focus and put something down on paper has done themselves a service and those who are receiving those nice letters. Good job Annette keep the tradition alive!

    1. Handwritten Envelopes - thank you for your comment! I agree with you that when you sit down to write something by hand, you are doing yourself a favor, and if you are writing to someone else, than you're really gifting the recipient.