Opinion: The end of handwriting

POSTED: 02/7/12 3:55 PM

The Volkskrant reported yesterday that students are increasingly unable to write. They get cramps and scribble. In a world filled with Ipads, laptops and smartphones students have lost the habit of holding a pen or pencil properly.

Trust the Belgians to spot this remarkable handicap first. Students are doing their exams over there, and they flood internet chat rooms with complaints about their cramped hands.

We figure that electronic gadgets do more than just killing the ability to write the old-fashioned way. They also affect the way people – not just students – deal with language.

Text messaging has made swearing fashionable (WTF?), and caused an explosion in phonetic writing (c u l8ter).

Language is not static: it develops with its time. The way things are progressing right now, language is going down the drain real fast.

If students produce anything handwritten it is a real mess. According to a handwriting expert at the National University in Groningen, Lambert Schomaker, today’s generation is using a mixed style. Capital letters in the middle of a word are common, as is a jumble of capitals, lower cast and italicized letters.

Schomaker did a test whereby students had to read each other’s work. The results were astonishing: students managed to decipher only 50 to 60 percent of the words.

How long still until handwriting is something of the past? Sander Schenk, a digital test developer at the Hogeschool Rotterdam has already entered this new era: the only things he still writes by hand are shopping lists.

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