Is the writing on the wall for handwriting?

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1. What's mightier, the keyboard or the pen?

One in three people have not written in longhand in the last six months. In Finland they no longer teach handwriting in school. Penmanship is being replaced by modern technology.

However, research in neuroscience indicates that writing using only on a keyboard or touch screen can affect brain development, especially in relation to children learning to read.

So should we be mindful of where we want to go from here? As well as ending a cultural tradition that can be traced back to the start of civilisation, will we also lose an element of our individuality if handwriting fades away?

2. Handwriting through the ages

From the earliest clay tablets to today's digital versions, here are 10 key evolutionary steps through one of mankind's greatest inventions.

3. Brain boost

Swapping your keyboard for a pen can exercise your brain.

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Over the last 10 years research involving brain imaging has helped neuroscientists to understand that learning skills such as handwriting and playing a musical instrument can actually change the brain's structure. What’s more, that learning to write with a pen is more beneficial for children than keyboard skills. Professor Stanislas Dehaene, director of the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit says: "It's a well known fact now that learning to write by hand at the same time as learning to read facilitates reading by developing fine motor skills."

4. What your handwriting says about you

When graphologist Elaine Quigley receives a letter from a complete stranger, she has a sense of what they are like almost before she starts reading. Here she reveals some key characteristics which she believes can be inferred from a person's handwriting.

People whose handwriting leans forward are usually interested in connecting with the outside world and need to be involved with it. They are generally seen as extrovert.

People whose script slants to the left are more self-contained and like to do things their own way and to protect their independence.

This vertical script shows independence. The strong and simplified personal pronoun indicates they are comfortable with who they are up front and confident - what you see is what you get. They generally try to be fair in their judgments.

A mature script well laid out. A simplified lower zone suggests involvement in public activity, as it curves and is open to the right. The short ‘d’ stems show shrewdness. There's clever linking between words, indicating persuasiveness.

Firm strokes and a clear and uncomplicated personal pronoun, reveal clarity of thinking. The long upper and lower extensions in comparison to the small middle zone indicates that this writer needs challenges to show how much they can achieve.

Firm strokes and a strong right slant, with narrow letter shapes, shows determination to get what they want if it is something important to them.

Gentle, thread-like writing, that is readable and runs smoothly across the page, shows someone who is able to be flexible and operate intuitively when handling difficult situations.

If the lines curve upwards making an arch, the writer may well be fired-up by a challenge, but they want to achieve success quickly and then they may run out of steam.

Small writing with joined-up letters strongly right slanted, shows the writer is keen to be in control of a project and work firmly to clear requirements, as well as having others in agreement with the proposal.

This writing shows individuality and an educated thinking style, where the writer can be confident but also pleasant and receptive of other’s ideas. They can respond well to finding solutions on demand.

5. Keys to success

Our handwriting can reveal a lot about our personality, but with computing’s standardised methods of delivery, how can we hold on to our individuality online?

Many of the nuances of online language can be traced back to 1337. For those of you stuck in the dark ages, we’re not talking the year here.

'OMG ur a n00b 2 1337?!' Well actually you’re probably not. Pronounced 'leet', 1337 (or 31337) originated on the bulletin board system in the 1980s and includes replacing letters with numbers, reducing sentences to acronyms and deliberately misspelling wordz. Noticeable in usernames, this stylising is used by many to express individuality.

There Are Also Those Who Seek Individuality Through Breaking Convention, Like Jaden Smith Who Capitalises Each Word Of His Tweets. Some can’t emphasise enough that the full stop is the. Best. Thing. Ever. While others express meaning through popular memes or hashtags: #thestruggleisreal.

Increasingly, images are used to convey meaning and self-expression. Many people have a favourite emoji – the fastest growing 'language' ever – while more than 700 million pictures are shared on WhatsApp Messenger every day.

Of course, many people won’t do any of the above, preferring to use traditional words and structures. This in itself is an expression of individuality, reliant on the writer’s flair to express personality.

The tools may be the same but there’s a wide range of them. It’s how you use them that can convey your individuality.

6. Emoji quiz

This new novel language is becoming increasingly popular. See if you can figure out the three books from their emoji plotlines and clues.

Emoji 1

“Not all those who wander are lost.”


Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)

By JRR Tolkien

Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the hobbit Frodo Baggins and his Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring.

Emoji 2

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”


Alice in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

Young Alice follows a white rabbit to a magical world underground and finds herself embroiled in a series of adventures.

Emoji 3

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.”


The Gruffalo

By Julia Donaldson

A forest mouse outwits a fox, an owl and a snake by claiming he's waiting for his monstrous friend, the Gruffalo. Little does the mouse know he really exists!