How the ballpoint pen killed cursive
August 30, 2015 6:55 AM   Subscribe

 
The last time I had to hand-write more than a sentence of text was in 1996. And that was the first time in several years. It was at MIT, of all places, a writing exam for new graduate students. We had to hand write a three paragraph essay to prove we could produce some basic English. While I admire the sentiment that all students should know how to write coherent essays, it seemed awfully artificial to deny us a keyboard. I assume it was to prevent access to spell checkers, online lookup, etc. But being able to use a computer spell checker properly is a way more useful skill than being able to trace the curves of English words with a stick held in your hand.

Handwriting is obsolete. Being able to scribble some block letters for a grocery list is still useful. Beyond that use a laptop, or a phone, or anything that's a proper writing device. Or if you want to be arty, cut your own fountain pen and learn calligraphy.
posted by Nelson at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


There might be something to this, I never have found a comfortable way to hold a pen that doesn't give me cramps after a while. Fortunately I haven't had to do a lot of manual writing in decades now.

Being a lefty though, I doubt that I'd have fared much better in the previous era of pens.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 AM on August 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


I like fountain pens a lot, but the hassles of leaks and smudges outweigh the fantastic feel. Roller gel pens are almost as nice to write with and are much easier to manage. They seem to predominate the cheap pen selection nowadays; maybe handwriting will improve as a result.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:09 AM on August 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am taking a class this fall where laptops are forbidden in the classroom. I am dreading it utterly. I wrote half a dozen thank you cards on Tuesday, and I could still feel the strain in the back of my hand on Wednesday.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:14 AM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I recently had the same experience as Philip Hensher did, where I realized that I didn't know the handwriting of a close friend I met only two years ago. I used to associate people closely with their handwriting, so I was startled when it occurred to me that if he scribbled me a note, he'd have to sign it or I'd have no idea who it was from. I think I may ask him to write out a line or two of Shakespeare next time I see him.
posted by holborne at 7:16 AM on August 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Handwriting is obsolete.

Not if you do math!

But cursive, yeah, that's obsolete.
posted by escabeche at 7:21 AM on August 30, 2015 [19 favorites]


I have always preferred a pencil to a ballpoint pen. I wonder if the extra pressure required by the pens is why? I always assumed it was a penchant for making mistakes.
posted by COD at 7:21 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess that I never thought about the idea that you could recognize someone's handwriting. I'm not sure that I could identify my wife's handwriting and I certainly don't know what any of my friend's handwriting looks like.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on August 30, 2015


Does anyone else remember being suddenly required to write in cursive for the SAT? There was a paragraph honor code I had to copy out that specified "WRITE, do not PRINT." It was literally the only time after learning cursive in third grade I ever had to use that skill.
posted by 3urypteris at 7:25 AM on August 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


When I took the SAT it was all scantron fill in the boxes with a #2 pencil but I understand that they've added a writing component more recently.
posted by octothorpe at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2015


Or if you want to be arty, cut your own fountain pen and learn calligraphy.

You mean "cut your own quill"; fountain pens are not the dip pen you're thinking of, which are used for calligraphy, but a pen with a reservoir of ink (usually a cartridge - some refillable, some not). The ink is thinner than calligraphic ink usually is.

I'm a pen geek, and have been for years. But what converted me to fountain pens was hand stress when using ballpoints. I thought I was unusual - that the way I hold a pen led to more stress on my hand. It's fascinating to learn that I'm one of many people.

That said, I have found a new source of hand & wrist strain: typing on small thumb keyboards (as I am right now). I really need to cut back.
posted by jb at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


The SAT still does that and my students hate it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2015


It was literally the only time after learning cursive in third grade I ever had to use that skill.

Really? Never signed a lease or a car loan application or filled out a health insurance form?
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:31 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Handwriting is obsolete. ... Not if you do math!

I've been wondering about that; do Kids These Days have a way to quickly type math and physics notes on a keyboard? I'm doing that right now in an online course using a half-ass-TeX ASCII notation and it's terrible. Fortunately there's good written materials so I can get away with bad notes. Slowly typing equations on a keyboard is straightforward enough, and there's a lot of support for rendering math nicely on web pages. But quick note taking is a challenge.
posted by Nelson at 7:32 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


eally? Never signed a lease or a car loan application or filled out a health insurance form?

I know many many people whose signature is printed rather than cursive script.
posted by FritoKAL at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've had math classes where you had to turn in the homework using LaTex but we certainly still took notes for class using pens.
posted by octothorpe at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2015


I was going to chime in as a lefty too. I failed so miserably at calligraphy in school - only recently did I realize that it was because I was pushing the nib instead of pulling it. Still, as a fan of all things related to material culture, this was a great read.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:37 AM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to love using a fountain pen for notes, but I so rarely need a pen at the office, and it's not safe to live in my purse over the long term, and after I broke my right index finger I found myself so restricted in what pens I can hold and how much I can write.

But I sort of miss it anyhow.
posted by jeather at 7:37 AM on August 30, 2015


Maybe I'm just old-fashioned or hopelessly trained that way, but I've tried taking notes on a keyboard during lecture (or relying entirely on lecture handouts) and it never sticks half as well as when I wear out my hand for an hour-and-a-half scrawling them out on paper. Which is why I sucked it up and have a pile of notebooks and pens I shelled out for sitting on my shelf ready for next week.

I guess it also bears mentioning that my writing has morphed to a semi-legible scrawl from the cursive beaten into my head in Catholic grade school. God, I hated those lessons.
posted by ultranos at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2015 [33 favorites]


It's not just you ultranos. Writing out notes is better for recall.
posted by COD at 7:45 AM on August 30, 2015 [35 favorites]


The author writes:

But my own writing morphed from Palmerian script into mostly print shortly after starting college. Like most gradual changes of habit, I can’t recall exactly why this happened....


The same thing happened to me in college, and I can't recall why it happened either. (I was in college in the early 1980s, so the PC isn't a factor.) In high school and as a college freshman, all my notes were in cursive but then the shift happened and now I write only in print.

The difference is that I never liked writing with a pen - fountain OR ballpoint - and still don't. As a math geek I had to erase a lot, and pens don't let you do that.
posted by Roentgen at 7:47 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else remember being suddenly required to write in cursive for the SAT? There was a paragraph honor code I had to copy out that specified "WRITE, do not PRINT." It was literally the only time after learning cursive in third grade I ever had to use that skill.

Oh god, that was the worst. It took forever and just felt like the most pointless thing in the world, but you had to do it because who wants to risk fucking up the SAT by writing normally against instructions?

I know many many people whose signature is printed rather than cursive script.

Yeah, my signature has two versions: print and abstract scribble, vaguely suggesting letters. I wouldn't call it cursive, although it is technically joined together.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:48 AM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always had terrible penmanship and a peculiar quadropod pen grip until I started using fountain pens exclusively. This was primarily, I think, due to the fact that I have weirdly thick muscly hands and fingers as well as the downward pressure and high writing angle required to make ballpoint/rollerball pens write. Now I write in an italic-inspired hand using oversize fountain pens with edged nibs (0.7 to 1.3 millimeter stubs or cursive italics for the most part) and it was surprising to see how quickly new habits formed and my handwriting improved. The thick section of the oversize pens (think Pelikan M1000, Visconti Homo Sapiens maxi, Montblanc 146) is much more comfortable for me to grip properly, and I not only like the line variation from the edged nibs but they also seem to help me with letter formation. Also, the huge choice of cool inks is a major plus.
posted by slkinsey at 7:48 AM on August 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Does anyone else remember being suddenly required to write in cursive for the SAT? There was a paragraph honor code I had to copy out that specified "WRITE, do not PRINT." It was literally the only time after learning cursive in third grade I ever had to use that skill.

I took the GRE last fall and had to do this. I asked them what happens if there's a person who, for whatever reason, can't write in cursive. I have a friend with cerebral palsy, for instance, and one of my kids is pretty severely dysgraphic and finds writing by hand almost impossible. Never mind that many kids don't learn to write in cursive anymore. At the testing center I was at, they claimed there were no accommodations: you did it, or you didn't take the test. I'm sure they were wrong, but it's a bad sign that they weren't trained to deal with this.
posted by not that girl at 7:51 AM on August 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


I still write fairly often, but it's primarily converting recipes online into a format more useful to me. I sometimes keep a notebook in my back pocket for ideas, but that's more out of habit than pure utility. Mostly a phone could do the same for notes.
posted by Ferreous at 7:52 AM on August 30, 2015


My signature doesn't really qualify as printing or writing, it's just something like "F~~~~ M. L~~~~"
posted by octothorpe at 7:53 AM on August 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


Same. My wife gives me shit over it, but I've got no real need to have a decent signature on a digital screen at walgreens.
posted by Ferreous at 7:54 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess that I never thought about the idea that you could recognize someone's handwriting.

Oh man, this is like bizarro world to me. As a math TA, a surprising amount of my job was handwriting analysis of papers with no name on them. (And if you think freshmen and sophomores are latexing their homework you would be wrong.)
posted by zeptoweasel at 7:55 AM on August 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


Handwriting is obsolete.

I do a lot of writing and I've noticed that when I write by hand - whether cursive or using block letters - I spend a lot more time thinking and editing in my head before committing words to paper.

On a computer, I just start writing and the result is just.... different. It's so easy to edit on a computer, that I don't spend the same mental effort before I start writing as I would if I was writing ink on paper.

Writing in ink on paper requires so much more mental effort and there is a part of me that thinks a lifetime of lazy effort on the computer has hardly been a benefit. It's the difference between doing the NY Time crossword in ink or doing it in pencil and I'm pretty sure I'd be a much better writer today - and a better thinker - if I had been forced to live a life of ink on paper.
posted by three blind mice at 7:56 AM on August 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


Very interesting! I still frequently write in cursive in a script inspired by my mother's beautiful cursive handwriting. Mine is not so tight and precise as hers but I get compliments and gasps on it frequently. But, something new has started happening with people 10+ years younger than me -- they are having trouble reading it. It's like my handwriting is now "Ye olde...."

I also prefer to present schematic designs for residential projects drawn on paper. One, it's faster. Two, it conveys an impermanence to my clients and allows for more open discussion. It's faster because I can be looser and I don't have to start figuring out exact dimensions of a sink that may not even go in a spot. But, I'm now working in an office of folks who are mired in computer drafting. So we spend a lot of extra time doing CAD level drafting when we are still at "idea" stage.

I love computers but science is on my side when it comes to learning and exploring. At my last office, I started forcing people to whiteboard their emerging ideas. It was faster, more fruitful, more collaborative and fun. It loosened up the teams and got us end results quicker. But everyone still argued with me that they didn't want to do it.

Is it performance anxiety?
posted by amanda at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have always attributed my miserable handwriting to my persistent tardiness, as handwriting was the first lesson of the day in third grade. Therefore I always missed it. The only thing I "learned" in handwriting was when my teacher made me start using open fours instead of closed. I still write with open 4s to this day. My a's and o's were basically indistinguishable, such that I eventually trained myself to use a double-storey a. Now my a's sometimes look like z's, but that's much less of a problem.

The only time I have actively wished for a cursive writing system was while studying Ancient Greek. Typing using the Greek keyboard is good, but since modern Greek has dropped the accent system that classics students and professors use, the keyboard also drops them. Certain letters (like beta and theta) do not lend themselves to quick writing, and alpha is most easily written starting from it's rightmost edge, going left before looping back.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 8:14 AM on August 30, 2015


It's odd that she divides pens into ballpoints (or Biros, as my grandmother would call them) and fountain pen. I know what she means, the thicker ink (which I love the smell of) does affect the writing and drawing experience, and writing and drawing with a fountain pen feels dreamy. But there are a lot of great free-flowing pens out there. For years I was a big fan of the Pilot V-5, or V-7 for an extra bold line, but there's a new Pilot which my office buys in bulk that is the best pen I've ever used, the G-2 07. Easy flowing, consistent, a joy to make lines with.

Either way, I don't do a lot of writing on paper these days either, and when I do it's usually notes in block capitals which has somehow become my fast-writing style. I never did learn cursive writing; it wasn't on the curriculum in England and when I was dropped into Canadian school where there was, for a year at least, still cursive writing class I was hopelessly lost with my printing style. Never did learn a proper signature either - I've always wondered if that was a class I missed in Canadian school too? Like how does everybody learn how to do this? Best I can do is just kind of write my name fast and with a bit of flourish and hope I look like a man writing his signature.
posted by Flashman at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


could still feel the strain in the back of my hand on Wednesday.

I actually started a handwritten journal at the end of last year because I had sat down one day to write out a few recipes, and got terrible cramps in my hand. I started the journal to practice, and it actually worked! I no longer get hand cramps, and I've managed to weed out a lot of the bad habits that had developed from several years of next to no handwriting (like pressing too hard). I wanted to start writing letters, too, as practice, but apparently asking people for their address so that you can send them a letter is a really strange thing to do nowadays. I got a lot of weird responses from friends.

I would love to get a fountain pen, now that I've got my handwriting game back. Can anyone recommend a good beginner pen?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:22 AM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Two, it conveys an impermanence to my clients and allows for more open discussion.
This is something I've thought about a lot. One of the things I do a lot in my job is map out plans to graduation with my students. We sit down and figure out which classes they could take in which semesters that would allow them to complete all their requirements to graduate. A lot of the time there's some flexibility about what they take when, but it's helpful for them to have the big picture. It's easiest to do this on the computer, because you can cut and paste and move stuff around really easily. Also, I can email them a copy and they won't lose it. But I've found that giving them a printed copy makes it seem very permanent and official, and then they forget that they can play with it and change it. I've started doing them by hand, even though it's kind of a pain, just because I like that it feels less like something that is set in stone.

I write a fair amount, and I'm pretty picky about pens, but I'm not going to use a fountain pen, because that's a pain in the ass.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:23 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I generate a lot of hand-written stuff working in a lab environment -- a lot of electronic lab notebooks are incredibly terrible. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't have to be waterfast, which means mostly (a) ballpoint, (b) going through Pigma Micron or Sharpie pens faster than is really humorous, or (c) soaking fountain pen nibs in turpentine on the regular because most of the waterfast fountain pen inks are partly shellac, which hardens in the nib when I'm away for more than a day or two. So, mostly ballpoint. My hand never really stops aching.
posted by dorque at 8:24 AM on August 30, 2015


As a programmer I use pen and paper to work on high level design (the kind of work where a few ideas I have today determine a major part of the course of what I'll be doing for the upcoming month or three).

Paper attaches an idea to an artifact, which is good for memory. Pen and paper makes me spend more time thinking, and the need to start fresh when rewriting makes for a better revision process. I can express nuances of importance and relation easily in handwriting that require all kinds of effort on a typed page.

I use a fountain pen because using ball points is just painful.
posted by idiopath at 8:25 AM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


One of the reasons I didn't change my last name when I got married is that my maiden name is one capital letter and then ALL LOOPS. I mean legit all loop letters, not just because I'm lazy. My husband's last name is all different shape letters, including my nemesis "cursive s."

Of course after enough years of marriage I've learned to mimic his signature anyway because, uh, reasons.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Learning to write may be dead in the USA, but then you don't learn how to use a knife and fork the adult way, or change gear, do you? (Do you still know how to tell the time? Tie shoelaces properly?)

I think you just have your own standards of 'too difficult'. Not worse, people, not worse: just different.
posted by Segundus at 8:29 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


As a programmer I use pen and paper to work on high level design

That's the kind of thing that I usually use a whiteboard for. That makes it easier to work details out with your teammates too.
posted by octothorpe at 8:30 AM on August 30, 2015


I did have a fountain pen for a while, but after the mechanism broke off (soaking all my other material in ink and a bit of my notebooks and a textbook), I moved almost exclusively to gel or fineliner pens (bic/staedtler), markers (for directions or something written in large-ish letters) or mechanical pencils. Cheap ballpoints (even the better ones, like the ubiquitous bic crystal) were a last resort when nothing else was available.

My grades suffered a lot at a time because I could only write cursive well or slow, so taking notes during class resulted most of them something looked like ____/___.___//__ and using block was a no-no. Once teachers were more "heh, everyone do what you want," and moved to block, they improved back. These days it's half block, half cursive, but can do a decent cursive if I want to. Wanting to have a signature that wasn't just a bunch of straight and/or squiggly lines was decent practice.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:32 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


dorque, there are plenty of waterproof fountain pen inks. Noodler's makes several. But there are also the "document" inks by De Atramentis and, my personal favorites, the fountain pen friendly iron gall inks (Salix and Scabiosa) by Rohrer und Klingner. Any ink that contains shellac is a dip nib ink, not a fountain pen ink.
posted by slkinsey at 8:33 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Re: what three blind mice says about thinking & editing before writing..... I write poetry (don't worry, I won't inflict it on you!) and I find I write best when I use a pen and write in script, not print. I tend to think more about exactly what I want to say that way. I'm not saying what I write down is then the finished product, just that the very act of writing seems to make me more aware of what I'm about to write. Ditto for notes and letters, for that matter (and yes, I'm old-fashioned enough that I prefer writing a letter than anything else): writing in general seems to equal more pre-planning of what is to be written.

And maybe I'm a hopeless antique, but I like to think many of the habits I learned growing up before the computer era have carried over to these new-fangled electronic gadgets: I edit and re-edit and re-RE-edit what I type on a computer, and almost never use spellcheck.

(Oh, and I'm a lefty with better than usual handwriting: I wasn't about to make my evil 1st grade teacher happy with more "proof" we lefties couldn't write correctly!)
posted by easily confused at 8:37 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think the demise of notebooks in classrooms is overstated. I finished my mathematics degree just a few years ago, and they were absolutely necessary; it simply takes too long to format math if you're trying to keep up with a lecture. No one took notes on their laptop.

And there are a lot of college instructors who don't allow laptops in classrooms because students distract themselves and others by being on Facebook or Youtube or whatever.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I still write a pretty ridiculous amount, but that's mostly because there's really no way to take physics notes on a computer. I've seen people try it with tablets, and that kind of seems to work, but I'm pretty happy with paper and pen. My quickly written class notes are mostly illegible to anyone who isn't me, though. And I can definitely recognize my classmates by their handwriting, from borrowing their notes.

lollymccatburglar
Can anyone recommend a good beginner pen?

My first fountain pen was a Lamy Safari. It's pretty much indestructible, comes in a bunch of colors, and five bucks extra gets you a converter, so you can use bottled inks.
posted by Karmeliet at 8:43 AM on August 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


I took the GRE last fall and had to do this. At the testing center I was at, they claimed there were no accommodations: you did it, or you didn't take the test. I'm sure they were wrong, but it's a bad sign that they weren't trained to deal with this.

My SO has learning disabilities, one of which is dysgraphia (difficulty writing) - as a grad student, he forms letters like a 6-year-old. The lack of accommodations for the GRE was the reason he couldn't apply to any American graduate schools.

As for exploding fountain pens: that's all part of the experience. You're not a real pen geek until you've had a bottle of ink shatter in your bag or something like that. It's like a rite of passage.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to write letters to people a lot, and I used to have handwriting I was proud of. I've recently started trying to write paper letters to people again, and I'm horrified at how awful my handwriting has become! I think I'm going to check out that Rosemary Sassoon book the article mentions and see if maybe my handwriting is still salvageable.

I would love to get a fountain pen, now that I've got my handwriting game back. Can anyone recommend a good beginner pen? - lollymccatburglar

The Lamy Safari is a really great beginner's fountain pen. It comes by default with an ink cartridge, but for the full fountain pen experience you can get a converter and use whatever ink you want with it (Noodler's is great). I'm a big fan of Goulet Pen Company for fountain pens and inks.

(On preview, Karmeliet beat me to it! The Safari really is where a lot of people get their start trying out fountain pens. The aluminum Al-Star version is also a nice step up for a few more dollars.)
posted by jessypie at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I use felt-tip pens at work. They don't require as much pressure as a ballpoint, and are amenable to writing at an angle. They don't smudge, either. Very few others use them, I don't know why they aren't more popular.
posted by Fig at 8:57 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I asked them what happens if there's a person who, for whatever reason, can't write in cursive. I have a friend with cerebral palsy, for instance, and one of my kids is pretty severely dysgraphic and finds writing by hand almost impossible. Never mind that many kids don't learn to write in cursive anymore. At the testing center I was at, they claimed there were no accommodations: you did it, or you didn't take the test. I'm sure they were wrong, but it's a bad sign that they weren't trained to deal with this.

On google, it looks like there are the accommodations you'd expect but that the people proctoring the exams don't deal with this; College Board central does. I would be surprised if the statements had to be clear and legible to some subjective or objective standard in any case; I expect any chicken scratch that isn't clearly some other statement will be interpreted as your intent to write and sign the statement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:59 AM on August 30, 2015


I take notes with a flow pen. I always wanted to be able to write with a fountain pen, but as a lefty, it was a chore, so I went the ballpoint way in school, until high school, when I got a portable typewriter for my birthday. It was nuts. My typewriter had an Elite (10-point) font on one course, and a cursive script on the other. I loved to turn in papers written in the cursive. (Mind you this was in the late 1950's, right about the time sliced bread was being invented). Some ballpoints are good for sketching (wonderful, in fact). I compose best at the computer keyboard, where I can just shoot spitballs in a controlled helter-skelter, then go back and clean it up.

One of the reasons I wanted to learn Japanese was because I wanted to write Kanji. Those among you who are familiar with it can attest to the subtle arrangements of elements in a character, which require the writer to develop a keen eye. It's beauty regardless meaning. To my eye, nothing in English compares. I am so pissed at native speakers who scrawl their kanji. How dare they?

Also, paper. Keyboards are marvelous, but something about unwrapping a ream of good paper sends a visceral thrill through my fingers, almost makes me want to sigh. Putting first mark on it is very near to a religious experience. Taking a sheet out of my printer is sort of....meh...but I do like the look of a printed page with good margins and attractive paragraphs.

My great-nephew stayed with us for a few weeks last year. He was 16 years old, and, literally, he couldn't write his name. Oh, I do understand that the digital age is raising hell with my paradigms, but, for crying out loud, the boy is broken.
posted by mule98J at 9:02 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


octothorpe: I can never get the brain-to-fingertip flow going with whiteboard - it's a medium of display not composition for me. Once I have a proposal worked out I can put it up on a whiteboard, but it stinks as a medium of composition for me.
posted by idiopath at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dorque, you want Noodler's "bulletproof." Water, fade, oil, and freezing resistance in one smooth ink. And anyone who wants convenience with a light pressure should try Japanese disposable brush pens.

I suspect I was a little behind in the hand-eye coordination game as a kid, so my handwriting was terrible until I was inspired to change it by learning copperplate in high school. I get compliments all the time and I'm basically allergic to ballpoints-- but I can't always use fountain pens at work, nor felt-tip Flares, since they mostly can't write on plastic.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still take handwritten notes in classes I want to pay attention in. Laptops are too distracting, and I retain the information better that way--in fact, I just broke out a new legal pad for the stats course I'm taking tomorrow. (Although I actually preferentially avoid ballpoints, myself--I like the gel ink pens like the Pilot G2.) I also like breaking out the pen and paper when I need to sit and think and typing on a computer screen is too intimidating. Sometimes it's just easier to put words out on paper, and it's almost always easier to brainstorm that way. Our dry-erase wall at work sees a lot of use, too.

That said, I outright refused to learn Palmerian cursive when my teacher tried to make me learn in 1997, and I have zero regrets about that. I still remember being told that cursive would be faster and neater than my print writing, and that has turned out to be demonstrably false. My third grade teacher didn't care about it the next year, anyway.
posted by sciatrix at 9:06 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


My handwriting has always been atrocious; my cursive even more so. I am content that these days my use for a pen is largely confined to signing books. I can't even imagine trying to write a book or even a short story by hand, using a pen of any sort; I would stab myself through the eye with that pen long before the story was written.

(That said, my preferred pen is a gel-ink ballpoint, 0.7mm tip -- ink comes out smoothly and is perfect for my writing speed. That said, for signing these days I usually use a Sharpie -- it's thick enough my signature shows up on title pages without just looking like someone accidentally dragged a pen across the paper.)
posted by jscalzi at 9:07 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes. My handwriting is illegible. For me and everyone else. Its obsolescence would be a blessing for all.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another good beginner fountain pen is the Pilot Metropolitan. Comes with a cartridge and a squeeze converter, and it's only $15.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:14 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the pen didn't help, but I think cursive as some kind of universal died because is was created exclusively for the right-handed population, and people finally got this idea that you shouldn't just beat the other 10% into compliance to make it happen. I do badly wish that I could write prettily, sometimes, but at the same time I resent that doing so requires that I either switch hands or adopt incredibly non-intuitive ways of putting pen to paper. Everybody's standard idea of cursive, Palmerian or otherwise, slants right. Standard fountain pen nibs stop working when you push them instead of pulling. Fountain pen ink dries slowly and your hand is still on the wrong side of the paper. I incredibly resent that someone can write an entire article of this length extolling the virtues of fountain pens without a single time even acknowledging the existence of left-handedness. But at the same time, periodically I seriously look into teaching myself to write right-handed just to be able to access all of this stuff. Sigh.
posted by Sequence at 9:15 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I do a lot of writing and I've noticed that when I write by hand - whether cursive or using block letters - I spend a lot more time thinking and editing in my head before committing words to paper.

In my journalism days I used to compose with pen and ink and then type the final draft. After that I wrote pen-on-paper occasionally -- mostly brief notes to myself -- but a couple of years ago I got a commission to write something unusual: my best friend was for a long time on a medication which inhibited the formation of long-term memories, so she called me one day and asked a favour: "When you have a chance," she said, "would you mind writing something to let me know what I did in the nineties?"

I took her up on it but there was a lot of stuff to sort through. I began by a scrawling a few notes but soon after realized I had lots of events that I had to sort of triangulate when they happened ("let's see -- we were at Denise's birthday party and I remember people talking about this new movie Pulp Fiction, so that would be late 1994." ). Then I filled in gaps based on old letters we had exchanged and journal entries and such. It grew unwieldy in the composition so I switched to writing it in a word-processing program so I could cut and paste big chunks of text easily.

And when I had composed 40,000 or so words I realized that something this personal would have been weird to just send as an attachment to an e-mail or something, so I pulled down a leather-bound book I had had for a while and wrote the entire thing by hand before giving it to her as a gift.

I could not have guessed that by the time I got around to writing something the length of a short novel, it would be composed on a laptop and then written by hand with a publication run of one copy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2015 [32 favorites]


You put ink on paper with your arm, not your fingers.

Trust me, the marathon inking and lettering jobs I had to do, less pressure on the page, less death grip on the pen, no cramps.
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I got to college a long time ago, I decided that now that my penmanship was no longer being officially judged, I could change it however I wished. Having long disdained cursive for a faster and more legible print, I decided it could be made faster still by changing how the letters were drawn. I didn't go whole-hog into shorthand, but I changed most of the letters so that each could be made with a single line, with a minimum of reversals or other high-second-derivative maneuvers. "b" would be a downward line with a loop at the end; "a" would be a quick spiral outward; etc. Because my brain was actually plastic back then, I quickly internalized my new approach and, though my handwriting got even more illegible to others, it did get considerably faster: with a well-sharpened pencil I could go almost as fast as typing, especially if you rarely bothered to lift your pencil as you scooted it along. This was a genuine boon when taking notes for the mix of humanities and science classes I was taking -- classes which required so many notes and essays that to this day, I have a callous (or more honestly, a wart) on my middle finger where the pencil laid, now many years after I stopped handwriting almost entirely. But anyway, the point of all this is that I went back to look at some of my notes the other day -- the illegible, high-speed, rather elegantly flowing print that I had invented -- and realized with some amusement that not only was the overall look similar to, but in fact many of the letter-forms and connections were identical to, cursive.
posted by chortly at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


My cursive was killed by a pencil, not a ballpoint. I spent 5 years in a pre-CAD architecture program, and I was hassled every day for my poor lettering, and made to practice more. But eventually my printing became much more legible than my writing, so to this day 25 years later, the only cursive I use is for my signature.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:23 AM on August 30, 2015


I've never been a fan of cursive, or of handwriting in general; I had the second-worst handwriting in first and second grade. (The worst handwriter in our class produced letters that looked as if she was trying to reproduce the style of a ransom note.) In high school, my English teacher commented that my handwriting looked like the "before" sample from a handwriting class that he taught; despite his being a good teacher generally, I wasn't particularly tempted to take that class.

At about that time, I took a typing course, which was still oriented toward the idea that it was a skill that would be practiced primarily by secretaries and employees of typing pools; the emphasis was on developing both speed and accuracy, neither taking your hands off the home row (asdfghjkl;') for a fraction of a second longer than you absolutely needed to nor taking your eyes off the source material; WPM or GTFO, baby. (This, of course, was the mindset that led to the prevalence of RSI, then known as carpal tunnel syndrome.) The microcomputer revolution was already underway, but that hadn't percolated down to the Chicago Public School system yet, and the only literal contact I had with a PC for years was that of a friend with an indulgent dad who bought him an Apple II Plus. The idea that basically everybody would have one, or easy access to one, seemed absurd. But I did get a typewriter for high school graduation, so at least I had that going for me, which was nice.

Fast-forward thirty-odd years, and I've noticed that my handwriting is even worse than usual. Not sure how much of that is simply due to age and how much is from not writing that much any more. Regardless, I've developed a fondness for gel pens; my current jam is a Pilot G2, although I think I should switch to a thinner point because it might help with legibility. And I'm willing to try a fountain pen, because, who knows, might help, couldn't hurt as long as I don't get ink on my favorite shirt.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2015


Yeah. No. It's the typewriter that killed cursive.

Used to be, business operated in cursive. Government operated in cursive, ffs. Just think about that. It's bananas.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sure the pen didn't help, but I think cursive as some kind of universal died because is was created exclusively for the right-handed population, and people finally got this idea that you shouldn't just beat the other 10% into compliance to make it happen.

I expect it's more that cursive writing shifted from something you use for all purposes to something you only use to write to yourself or in personal correspondence as business, governmental, and other "offiical"-ish writing shifted towards typewritten documents. If you need neat penmanship to be gainfully employed, it's probably going to get more, and more intense, training than if it only really serves to be nice for yourself and impress your grandma.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:29 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a math geek I had to erase a lot, and pens don't let you do that.

Erasing is for math cowards! Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"
posted by escabeche at 9:40 AM on August 30, 2015 [32 favorites]


Writing out notes is better for recall.

Writing them out longhand is how I memorize song lyrics or long speeches in plays
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would love to get a fountain pen, now that I've got my handwriting game back. Can anyone recommend a good beginner pen?

I hadn't used a fountain pen since the end of the 60's but I've bought three in the last year. A Noodler's Ahab, for the flexible nib, a Twsbi 580 because it's the cheapest high volume piston filler out there, and I love the design, and a Pilot Custom 74 with a soft fine nib.

I like my Ahab and my Twsbi, but I absolutely adore my Pilot. The line variation I get from the gold nib gives real character to my handwriting.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:43 AM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


As a math geek I had to erase a lot, and pens don't let you do that.

Erasing is for math cowards! Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"
posted by escabeche at 12:40 PM on August 30
[1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


The notebook I wrote my dissertation in (with a Waterman Phileas THAT I LOST MOVING) has entire pages scribbled out with the word FUCK written at the bottom in huge block letters.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:44 AM on August 30, 2015 [22 favorites]


I always felt a teeny bit bad that I moved away before the rest of my class got their Parker Penmanship certificates.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:44 AM on August 30, 2015


Oh yeah, my handwriting was awful as well. I held the pen way too tight so I'd get writers cramp, and I could write fast or legibly, but not both at the same time.

Today, I'm using a fountain pen is a deliberate attempt to slow down and think. My handwriting is improving, because I practice for ten minutes or so a day. I've no desire to be a calligrapher, but it is nice to have even, legible handwriting.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:47 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


We must find ways of holding modern pens that will enable us to write without pain. …We also need to encourage efficient letters suited to modern pens. Unless we begin to do something sensible about both letters and penholds we will contribute more to the demise of handwriting than the coming of the computer has done.

Interesting! I've always used the grip that felt most natural to me, where I'm applying slight downward pressure with my index, middle, and thumb, and using my ringfinger and pinky to control the movement of the pen. I wonder if that's better than the one taught in schools. (The "standard" grip was taught-and-retaught to me, of course, but I would only do it if I knew the teacher was watching, then switch back as soon as possible. This was one of my earliest memories of being taught Deception)
posted by Greg Nog at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a balance between attractive penmanship and in-class note taking; fast lecture notes are what killed my handwriting.

Although! I wrote in block letters for the longest time, and the speed at which I was writing eventually led to me no longer trying to lift the pen between every letter. And then I realized why cursive makes so much sense, because I was starting to do it without even meaning to. Where my handwriting differed from cursive script, it was clear that the standard cursive was just a much better, more efficient way to write.

Maybe the next step is getting a fountain pen - certainly an interesting article, anyway.
posted by teponaztli at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2015


Cursive may not be popular but if you spend anytime at all looking at studyblrs you will see some disposable study notes that match medieval manuscripts for their beauty.
posted by srboisvert at 9:58 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm left-handed, and took a calligraphy class when I was 8. Apparently I write "different" from a lot of left-handed people (I don't curl my hand, I hold my pen...you know, correctly I guess) but to make the strokes necessary in calligraphy I started them at the end and did them backwards so I could pull the ink from the nib.

Anyway. All of you left-handed computer users who say you never write anymore - do you use your mouse with your left hand? I mouse right-handed so I can keep my pen in my left hand. My office is basically awash in scraps of paper that read like:

Platform Columns
min-width 870px
below that, hide image stack

Grunt SPRITE SMITH

(everything in cursive)
posted by annathea at 9:58 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The late Shelby Foote, Civil War writer, used to stand while writing, and use a dip (quill) pen to write, explaining that this slowed down his writing and allowed him to think about his phrasing. On the other hand, I had a highly published friend, an academic, who could type words on paper so that any editing after that first outpouring, was very minor, with little in need of changing.
Moral: do what works for you and pay no heed to what works for others unless what you are doing is not working for you.
posted by Postroad at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just remembered that I have really bizarre handwriting, in that I write almost every letter (and numeral, and punctuation mark) from the bottom up. I've had many people comment on this, and in fact almost every time someone sees me writing by hand they'll mention this. A consequence of this bottom-up approach is that everything has angles in the wrong places, and curves where angles are expected.

Part of me is proud for having a unique way to write, and it certainly feels like a more personal form of expression to do something in such an uncommon way. At the same time, it's awfully hard to read, even to me. Do I hold on to my backwards handwriting out of stubborn individualism, or give in and try to adopt something more legible?
posted by teponaztli at 10:05 AM on August 30, 2015


Used to be, business operated in cursive.

Spencerian script.
posted by Justinian at 10:06 AM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


My son is 17 and he was in the first elementary group that didn't learn cursive. It's weird to see him block letter his signature and everything else and obviously he can't read cursive at all; it may as well be Arabic.

At the time, it was explained to parents that the district had to stop teaching cursive because it took up too much time that could be better used to prep them for state exams.
posted by kinetic at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2015


I have had to teach myself to print when I write on the chalkboard and it kills me. So far most of my (college) students can read cursive still, but the trend is clear.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:11 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


10 cent observation: as a retail worker, I see people sign a lot of stuff (in cursive of course). They do it one of two ways: an incomprehensible squiggle or a spectacularly flourished like they're signing a treaty or something.
posted by jonmc at 10:11 AM on August 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Although I have a collection of Lamy Safari fountain pens filled with different-colored inks, ballpoint pens have their uses. My current ballpoint pen of choice is the trusty old 0.7 mm Monami 153 click pen - I find they're easier to write with than BIC ballpoints. The BIC ink feels gummy and seems to require extra force when writing, while the Monami 153 just writes with a feel similar to writing with pencil, and with a fine line that I like.

(Speaking of BIC ballpoint pens, who can forget the Amazon reviews for BIC Cristal for Her pens?)
posted by needled at 10:13 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"

We won't discuss how many pages in my notebook have a big X through them, with "I AM AN IDIOT" at the top and "QED" at the bottom.

Even ones in pencil.
posted by Westringia F. at 10:15 AM on August 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


For left-handed writers potentially interested in fountain pens, many ink makers have special fast-drying inks specifically formulated for leftys.

> Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"

We won't discuss how many pages in my notebook have a big X through them, with "I AM AN IDIOT" at the top and "QED" at the bottom.


A little OT: My father, a fairly notable physical chemist, was famous (or notorious depending on your viewpoint) for having a series of rubber stamps he used on drafts papers by his students and colleagues alike saying things like "STUPID SHIT." One of the speakers at his memorial, a highly regarded chemist herself, showed a slide of the first draft she ever gave him for review which came back with whole pages covered with that stamp.
posted by slkinsey at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


Maybe I'm just old-fashioned or hopelessly trained that way, but I've tried taking notes on a keyboard during lecture (or relying entirely on lecture handouts) and it never sticks half as well as when I wear out my hand for an hour-and-a-half scrawling them out on paper. Which is why I sucked it up and have a pile of notebooks and pens I shelled out for sitting on my shelf ready for next week.

Yes, this. Something about the process of hand writing notes seems to facilitate learning difficult, technical material for me. This would be one of my first bits of advice for somebody struggling with a science or engineering class.

I would describe my writing to be, at best, as serviceable. And yet, with some regularity, people will look at my notes or something else I've written and say "Wow, your handwriting is really nice." More than anything this tells me that the current standard in this area is very low.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:31 AM on August 30, 2015


My default note-writing hand is all-caps block letters. My signature is really the only time I use cursive, and that's degraded to a sort of loop with a wavy line. My writing in school, in the dark ages before typing laptops were a thing, was always pretty hideous.

But I can calligraph reasonably well. And my all-caps block letters actually look good if I use a dip pen, probably because I'm going so much more slowly. And I do less editing that way because I've plotted out my words before putting them down.

When I type, I just go full tilt and then edit and edit and rewrite and edit (and post, and then probably catch a typo or a half a sentence in the middle of another sentence adn have to edit more).
posted by Foosnark at 10:39 AM on August 30, 2015


not if you do math

Siegfried Linkwitz is pretty much the top audio scientist in the world, at least in my book, he's up there on the Mount Rushmore of towering heroes of science and invention. He publishes peer reviewed papers with equations and plots drawn freehand in pencil. Here's a just a few random pages , there are much more elaborate ones out there if you look around a bit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:45 AM on August 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


I would not suggest the Noodler's Ahab pen for anyone new to fountain pens BECAUSE of the flexible nib. If you're used to fighting a rigid stick, you will have a lot of trouble with maintaining pressure and avoiding blots. Get a nonflexible Lamy Safari or ebay yourself some of the cheap drugstore Sheaffers from the 80's. The Namiki-Pilot "Knight" is stiff but nice, and the Waterman "Phileas" is also a good student workhorse. (I use a Caran d'ache or the Ahab, depending on what I'm doing.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:49 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, StickyCarpet, those are very pretty. He even draws nice maps.
posted by Westringia F. at 10:51 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Me too for the Lamy Safari. I have three in my desk, red for "IDIOT" and blue and black for, just, stuff. Susan Hill put me on to them. About twelve quid.
posted by StephenB at 10:55 AM on August 30, 2015


I'm sure the pen didn't help, but I think cursive as some kind of universal died because is was created exclusively for the right-handed population, and people finally got this idea that you shouldn't just beat the other 10% into compliance to make it happen.

I know a left-handed calligrapher who does beautiful cursive (as well as blackletter/gothic, italic, etc).

I have been recently trying to learn Hebrew calligraphy, which presents the same problem to right-handed people as to left. For my first piece, I actually wrote the last letters first.
posted by jb at 11:00 AM on August 30, 2015


I'd recommend a Pilot Metropolitan for a starter fountain pen. The Lamy Safari is good too, but the pen has a molded grip that some people don't like. Keep in mind that nibs made by Japanese manufacturers are going to tend toward a finer line than those made in Europe, so a "Fine" Pilot is going to put down a thinner line than a "Fine" Lamy. The "Nib Nook" at Goulet Pens is a good resource for comparing. Brad Dowdy, the "Pen Addict," has a list of Top 5 pens in multiple categories.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:06 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I attempted taking notes via laptop a few times in college, but always immediately went back to writing. I also find that I retain the information better from writing it, which may be simply from having grown up writing things out by hand in school; maybe kids who have typed all their lives will retain information as adults better from typing.

However, I found it helpful to be able to switch between note formats (outline, bulletpoints, diagrams, etc), go back and underline or scratch out, draw in arrows to other bits of info and this is much more difficult or impossible with a keyboard laptop. Similarly, I find paper books much more amenable than ebooks for notetaking and studying; holding the book open on different pages simultaneously and scribbling in the margins in whatever format works for what I'm thinking.
posted by 3urypteris at 11:16 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


For all the "can't erase pen" commenters-- does anyone else remembert the goopy erasable pens in the 80s? Though my lefty friend was thwarted by them too-- smears of blue across the page.
posted by travertina at 11:22 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


. . . I think cursive as some kind of universal died because is was created exclusively for the right-handed population, and people finally got this idea that you shouldn't just beat the other 10% into compliance to make it happen.

I think the stigma against left-handedness has disappeared because it's no longer an issue for physical work. In ye olden days, using farm or factory equipment with your non-dominant hand would make you work less efficiently and be more likely to injure yourself or others. Since those kinds of jobs are such a smaller part of the modern economy left-handedness is simply a non-issue.
posted by 3urypteris at 11:26 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


FritoKAL: “I know many many people whose signature is printed rather than cursive script.”
I'm such a snob my first thought was, "They might as well just make an X."

As for everything else…

“What You Miss When You Take Notes on Your Laptop,” Maggy McGloin, Harvard Business Review, 31 July 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Erasing is for math cowards! Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"

And "I HAVE AN ELEGANT AND VERY SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR THIS BUT IT WON'T FIT IN THE MARGIN NO REALLY YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF IT WON'T TAKE CENTURIES."
posted by 3urypteris at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


Police academy radically altered my handwriting. I went from a mixed print/cursive mish mash to ALL BLOCK CAPITALS AS THAT IS HOW REPORTS WERE REQUIRED TO BE WRITTEN. I can still bust out a decent cursive now and again as necessity requires.
posted by ericales at 11:33 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is definitely something to the idea that the effort of physically transcribing a thought alters the editing process. In college I was a music composition major and spent my time writing with mechanical pencils on a drafting table, even though I could have just composed directly in Finale. When I tried that approach I found my output was lazy and less thoroughly considered because it was so easy.

For stream-of-conscious writing, on the other hand, the benefits of typing's immediacy can not be overstated.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:40 AM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


After about 3rd grade or so, teachers didn't care whether it was cursive or print but put more emphasis on it being legible in general. Every once in a while in middle and high school, there'd be a teacher that insisted on cursive but they were much more the exception than the rule.

I am a lefty and my handwriting has been complimented many times. My handwriting is so good because I focused on it a lot. If I saw something I liked in someone else's writing, it worked on incorporating it into my style. Somewhere late in high school it became a mix of print and cursive, with both styles present in the same word pretty often. The ink on the back of my hand is still a major issue for me though. But is nice to be able to write and use the computer mouse at the same time. I've had more than a few right handed co-workers comment on how they wish they could (I always suggest a left-handed mouse, but they don't take my advice.)



I think the stigma against left-handedness has disappeared because it's no longer an issue for physical work.

Actually, I think it went away when people stopped believing lefties had demons. And it is still a pretty big issue for physical labor. Most construction sites will only have right handed power tools (very dangerous!). Left-handed brick layers, painters, landscapers, etc will work in the opposite direction of their right handed co-workers.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:01 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Throughout school, I had terrible handwriting, which distressed my parents (my father in particular, who had a beautiful cursive hand) and my teachers in equal part. I used to get "It's usually worth decoding what Devonian writes" in school reports all the time.

I had to use a fountain pen for most of my schooling; the basic problem was that I wrote far too fast. I just could not wait (and cannot wait) to get words onto paper, and I'm usually a few words ahead of what I'm writing with fingers flying to keep up with the thoughts. Affordable personal computers with decent keyboards and software were just coming in towards the end of my schooling; I dove into QWERTY absolutely as soon as I could and with a huge sigh or relief (echoed by all who had to read me), I taught myself to touch-type in the first couple of weeks I had a computer with a proper keyboard, not consciously or to any given method but because the Need. To. Type. Faster. was completely unstoppable.

(I wear out keyboards. Also, I can type at full speed while carrying on a conversation about something entirely different, which I discovered can really weird people out. It's impolite and I don't do it, except when I'm being a bit naughty during an interview and want to get someone out of their comfort zone.)

Everything people say about the good side of handwriting is true, and I do feel the lack of those good things. But it's not an option for me.

DEVONIAN - HIS MARK

X
posted by Devonian at 12:21 PM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would not suggest the Noodler's Ahab pen for anyone new to fountain pens BECAUSE of the flexible nib.

I'm not completely new to fountain pens, but I'd be surprised if anyone found the flexible nib a problem.

Use it normally and -- for me, at least -- it acts like every other fountain pen out there. It's only when you're trying to make use of the flex that you might have some trouble, but even then, I had much more trouble with railroading (when the feed can't keep up with the nib's flow) than I did with blotting.

And of course, the major pleasure of the Ahab is that it's a pen that was designed to be user serviced and tuned. Unlike more expensive pens, where the manufacturers want to to send it back to them and charge you a fortune for the privilege.

But I would suggest watching one of the videos on the pen before you decide whether it's the kind of thing you'd be interested in or not.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


My work around for this is to devotedly carry around my Samsung Galaxy Note- can take notes with the stylus in handwriting, then mail them to myself as PDFs if need to print them or permanent storage. My only sadness is there's no program that can turn my scribbling into nice clean emailable text. But the Note has been a lifesaver in my consultancies, and I save costs on paper. This thing is coming with me to the grave.

My handwriting is still atrocious, though.
posted by Queen of Robots at 12:36 PM on August 30, 2015


I have a decent cursive that I spent some effort on attaining in my childhood, but it takes an effort of concentration to summon it these days, because it's so very very slow compared to a keyboard - and more, the resulting text is in a final state, I can't edit it or reuse it elsewhere.

I don't see the pen thing at all - sorry. We had biros for two generations and cursive was as popular as ever - though I agree it was a more compact and less florid cursive than that of the fountain pens on which I originally gained competence in what I at the time called "joined-up writing".

But one generation of the internet and we're all keyboardists.

And that's great! The keyboard is a much better way to go for 99% of your textual needs.

Don't get me wrong - everyone should learn to write by hand. Even as a purely formal exercise, it trains the fine motor systems of the hand in a way that no other "mass market" training ever could except perhaps instrumentalism. It's subtle at two orders of magnitude or degrees of freedom beyond binary hammering on/off on a typewriter keyboard.

In the same way, everyone should learn how to do arithmetic by hand - yes, that includes fractions - because you will never really understand how numbers work unless you do this, and understanding numbers is a fundamental skill for being a good citizen.

But it's unsurprising that pens and cursive have become legacy technology and it has nothing to do with ballpoints vs fountain pens.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:07 PM on August 30, 2015


I always felt a teeny bit bad that I moved away before the rest of my class got their Parker Penmanship certificates.

Wait, I got that backwards when I posted half asleep late last night. The kids at the new school were getting their Parker penmanship certificates, but since I moved in halfway through the year and hadn't done the Parker training, I didn't do the test to get mine. Of course, I would have failed it miserably; at the parochial school all they did was give you a sheet with the cursive alphabet on it and say, "Here, copy this until you get it right and then copy out your weekly Scripture in it."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2015


does anyone else remembert the goopy erasable pens in the 80s?

A couple of years ago I discovered this pen, which both writes smoothly and erases nicely, and is not at all goopy.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 1:41 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dearly hope that my daughters' teachers don't waste their time teaching them cursive.
posted by 256 at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2015


I would not suggest the Noodler's Ahab pen for anyone new to fountain pens BECAUSE of the flexible nib.

Noodler's Ahab (and Neponset) pens have what I would call flex-ish nibs. This is to say that you can do flex writing with them, but it takes a hell of a lot of pressure to flex the nib and get the tines to open up. A lot more pressure than a writer should use for ordinary fountain pen writing. For all intents and purposes, Noodler's Ahab and Neponset pens are just extra-fines unless the writer deliberately expends effort to flex the nib. This is nothing like vintage flex nibs, or even modern nibs that have been modified by a nibmeister for extra flex, or even "soft" modern nibs such as the Pilot FA and OMAS extra flexible nibs, or even "springy" nibs such as the Pelikan M1000 and Visconti dreamtouch palladium nibs. All of these counterexamples open up to whatever degree they do with substantially less pressure compared to Noodler's flex nibs.

So personally I would not direct a newcomer away from Noodler's Ahab or Neponset because they have flex nibs, because it's perfectly easy to write with them without any flex whatsoever. I would recommend against the Noodler's pens for a newcomer because the quality control isn't so great and they frequently need tinkering to get them to perform. Also because one of the great pleasures of writing with a fountain pen is the smooth glide of a well lubricated nib over the paper, and Noodler's nibs are not particularly smooth. I don't think very many people dipping their toes into writing with fountain pens want something they have to tinker with.

For a starter pen, you could to a lot worse than the new TWSBI Eco. It costs under thirty bucks, it's available in a wide variety of nib sizes from extra fine to 1.1 mm stub, it's a piston filler, and it's a demonstrator so the new pen user can get really nice look at how fountain pens work. Another proven performer at the same price point is the Kaweco Sport.
posted by slkinsey at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


  does anyone else remembert the goopy erasable pens in the 80s

aka the Papermate Replay. It resurfaced a few years ago as the Sharpie Liquid Pencil, and seems to be rebadged again as the Replay Max. Still as gummy as it ever was. The Frixion erasable pens are neat, but they don't erase. The heat from the friction tip just fades the ink. The colour comes back if erased notes get really cold, like in a car overnight during winter in Canada.

Best starter fountain pen recommendations are the Muji fountain pen (very stiff, no flex, but super-smooth writing) and the Platinum Preppy (cheap clear plastic, expensive cartridges, but very smooth for the money).
posted by scruss at 3:18 PM on August 30, 2015


I remember being a kindergartner that already knew how to read and write, getting corrected because I formed the letters to look like the ones in printed books. I couldn't understand why the teacher wanted us to make a lowercase "a" without the curl at the top, or make a lowercase "t" that was just a cross. It was boring and looked like baby writing. Why would I do that? I declined.

In first grade I was sent to a classroom that was a second-third grade split, for half the day. I was supposed to be doing whatever the second graders were doing, but the third graders were learning cursive so I learned it too. I wasn't allowed to use it in my first grade classroom, or in the second grade classroom where I kicked my heels the following year, reading the same books again. By third grade I was tired of cursive and only wanted to print. It was tidier and I could fit more words per line. I only wrote cursive when forced, or when we had an assignment to produce something where the length was specified in pages - the big cursive writing is good for that. The next couple years, I was hassled about this fairly regularly.

Then suddenly in junior high school, they let me write whichever way I wanted to, and no one was trying to force me into cursive or print or to write the letters in specific ways. No one cared. And suddenly I started to get my homework back with notes saying I had nice handwriting.

Stubborn FTW.
posted by elizilla at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2015


BIC-style ballpoints are fairly awful to write with but modern rollerballs are nice and fluid. I've become a fan of $5 don't-care-if-you-lose-it fountain pens though. It's funny I always hated actually writing by hand as a kid, especially cursive, but I've always loved pens and mechanical pencils.
posted by atoxyl at 4:07 PM on August 30, 2015


I've been teaching high school for
24 years. I have watched cursive writing die during that time. Last year not one student (of 180) wrote in cursive.
posted by wester at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and those kids can print faster and more clearly than I've ever seen
posted by wester at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is an advantage of learning one method of writing well, rather than starting to learn one, then abandoning it for another one when they're eight, and sort of half-learning both of them for the next five years.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:03 PM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


My cursive still looks like it did in 4th grade. My signature is basically some interesting swirls. I write fastest in block all cap print, & it's pretty much all I do.

As for ball point pens, never liked them. They're too pointy, and don't have the tooth friction on the paper I like from a felt tip or a pencil. The latter feels deliberate & connected to the paper, whereas the former feels like it's always on the verge of no control.
posted by yoga at 5:27 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I can type at full speed while carrying on a conversation about something entirely different, which I discovered can really weird people out.

Including me; I've never heard of such an ability before.

President Garfield could supposedly "simultaneously write Latin with his right hand and Greek with his left.[4]", which strikes me as parallel, at least -- and your example makes it more credible to me.
posted by jamjam at 5:41 PM on August 30, 2015


My kid is 9 and can neither read nor write cursive. This makes me feel a weird unease that I assume is just your standard old-person-upset-about-change issue. I only use it for signatures these days, and even at my best, was never up to my dad's Palmerian standards. It used to bother him.

I do use a mix of handwriting and typing to take notes; if I need to have a lot of documents open on my screen for reference, it's too much trouble to also have a word-processing program open, so I use a notebook.
posted by emjaybee at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2015


There is an advantage of learning one method of writing well, rather than starting to learn one, then abandoning it for another one when they're eight, and sort of half-learning both of them for the next five years.

This is a good argument in favor of teaching italic script writing rather than the Spencerian-derived loopy cursive writing that's been taught for the last hundred years or more. With italic hand, rather than abandoning the letterforms you learned for printing you simply learn to connect the same letterforms together.
posted by slkinsey at 7:14 PM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


does anyone else remembert the goopy erasable pens in the 80s?


Around the same time you could buy Eurailpasses which gave you unlimited travel twelve days in a thirty-day period, but the dates had to be filled in ink as they were used up.

Dunno why that came to mind just now.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:20 PM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


> My kid is 9 and can neither read nor write cursive.

This is how the old people can exhange coded messages the young folks cannot decypher. If writing out longhand is too slow they have fonts.
posted by bukvich at 7:26 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Devonian, my coworkers also get a weirded out by the 75+wpm while conversing about something entirely unrelated. They don't think I'm rude, just fast, efficient and strange. I have no idea how I acquired this skill.

I was taught cursive sometime in grade school but abandoned it by middle school. My printed handwriting has always been kinda ugly, I think. My boss and coworkers disagree. My cursive is just illegible.

I can write pretty quickly, but not as quick as I type if I want anyone else to decipher it. I don't notice much difference in information retention and prefer typing for most things, especially stream of consciousness.
posted by MuChao at 7:29 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The last time I had to do a lot of handwriting in a short period of time, I had to give up doing basically anything else with my hands (goodbye, crochet!) and buy an assortment of fountain pens and weirdly-designed ergonomic ballpoint pens. It was dreadful, and the results were dreadful to see, since my handwriting's just atrocious. (Though fountain pens are a lot more comfortable than ballpoint, it didn't help my legibility much.)

I can accept that I'll probably have less immediate retention of any material I type rather than write by hand. I just don't care, because no matter what it is I'm probably not going to retain it usefully on the first pass, and if I write it I won't be able to read it again later unless I type up my notes immediately after [thing I'm taking notes on]. Having searchable notes on a computer is almost always better for my purposes than keeping excess information in my brainmeats.

Besides, spaced repetition software solves the retention problem for me without requiring me to hand-write everything.
posted by asperity at 7:52 PM on August 30, 2015


My ex writes everything in cursive. I have tons of notes and postcards from her that way. I always found it endearing.

What's a great modern non-fountain pen for someone who enjoys journaling? I typically use Micron 0.3mm pens but would like to try something else.
posted by gucci mane at 9:21 PM on August 30, 2015


With italic hand, rather than abandoning the letterforms you learned for printing you simply learn to connect the same letterforms together.

Exactly right. My first elementary school (a private school in Canada) taught a beautiful italic hand. We started gradually by adding slanted "ticks" to printed letters, then joining them together.

I later transferred into a school that insisted on conventional cursive. I tolerated that for the couple of years I had to do it. After that I reverted to italic script and have never looked back. I still use it daily for note-taking and personal stuff. It's not fancy, but it's small, perfectly legible, and very, very fast.

For me, cheap light ultrafine pens with a slightly scratchy feel work best. The Pilot G-Tec-C4 at 0.3 mm is just about my favorite pen ever. I also like very sharp pencils, not too soft.
posted by tangerine at 11:00 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


My handwriting -- printed or cursive -- is not something I should inflict upon polite society. I have always had bad handwriting, and I often can't read something I wrote in cursive. My signature, like many of yours, apparently, is an exercise in moving the pen up and down randomly across a line. When I was briefly an adjunct instructor at a community college, I once printed something on the chalkboard. Some of the students actually laughed at my writing. It stung, but they were entitled.

I was a pianist, so I taught myself to type. In my early college years, I would do one draft of a paper for a class because the idea of retyping was anathema. I made myself type well the first time (although my correction tools did get a workout sometimes), and I marshaled my thoughts so that everything was worded correctly and in the proper order.

Later, when I began using word processors and then computers, both my typing and thinking skills degraded. It's just too easy to backspace or delete, to recast sentences and move entire paragraphs.

I like the idea of handwriting, though. I was recently given a beautiful Cross ballpoint pen that makes me want to improve my handwriting so that it's not merely legible but looks like something that could have come from that pen.
posted by bryon at 11:46 PM on August 30, 2015


Having gone through a (non-US, non-English) school system that does not even include the concept of cursive (and probably hasn't done so for the past 30 years or so), I am somewhat baffled by the whole idea: it seems that it sacrifices ease of learning and legibility for writing speed. Is there some other advantage I am missing?
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:08 AM on August 31, 2015


One problem with cursive handwriting, particularly for this accelerated age, is that it is only about 10% faster than printing. We are also limited in having only 26 letters to play with - given than (in English) there are up to twice as many sounds for those letters to represent. A much more useful tool for life would be to teach people the Handywrite method of shorthand: unlike the alphabet it has symbols to represent all the sounds of English phonetically, unlike some other shorthands it is unambiguous. It is also quick - and attractive looking.
posted by rongorongo at 6:22 AM on August 31, 2015


I expect it's more that cursive writing shifted from something you use for all purposes to something you only use to write to yourself or in personal correspondence as business, governmental, and other "offiical"-ish writing shifted towards typewritten documents. If you need neat penmanship to be gainfully employed, it's probably going to get more, and more intense, training than if it only really serves to be nice for yourself and impress your grandma.

Not that this isn't a part of it, but I can look back and see that my mother, also left-handed, who wrote by hand much more than I do, was already by the time I was a child writing something that was more like joined-up printing than the cursive she was taught in school. My grandmother is an under-writer, which I can't do, and also slants backwards, and her cursive is just flat-out unreadable to me, but it's more faithfully Palmer than my mother's or mine. Even if the typewriter had never been invented, I think something had to give. Now, the reason my handwriting is BAD and not just "not proper cursive" is keyboards. (Well, keyboards and an old injury.) I just don't think the set of conventions built around assuming everybody was right-handed was going to survive either way.
posted by Sequence at 7:05 AM on August 31, 2015


I'm in the trailing generation for handwriting taught alongside literacy.
I used to use a fountain pen (Parker Big Red or Pilots) only because I enjoyed it. It dried faster and smeared less than ballpoint ink. Then again, every pair of pants I owned had a stain from a leak.
In high school, I switched to a Marsmatic 700 because I could write two lines of notes in one line of notebook paper. I necessitated using better quality paper and a lighter touch, but I was OK with that. It leaked less often than a fountain pen.
In college, I discovered the Uniball Micro (now the Onyx), which wrote nearly as finely as my Marsmatic, was dirt cheap, and leaked NOT AT ALL.

Around that time, I started to switch to a style of cursive for prose, printing for notes and in my notes, I switch to small caps instead of lower case except when I need to make the distinction completely unambiguous (for example, taking notes on particular case-sensitive contents of a PDF while debugging). To this day, if I write a letter or a postcard, I will usually use cursive as it is meant to be read at your leisure and your pleasure and as such cursive is less glaring than block.

On my desk I have an old Esterbrook fountain pen that belonged to my grandfather. It needs some serious work to get back into shape, but I don't write enough to keep it working actively and I like my pants (and the pen), so I wouldn't carry it around. It's missing the clip and the model was apparently very common so it has little more than sentimental value.
posted by plinth at 7:35 AM on August 31, 2015


This was driven home for me this weekend when my very verbal/writing-focused 10 year old had to co-sign a school form with me. She just block printed her name in generic neat letters. That's it - kids don't even have signatures any more. Made me a little sad.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:00 AM on August 31, 2015


Eh, they probably don't have signatures because nobody tells them they need one. Writing your name out in cursive is such a boring choice anyway - you can do so much more.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:11 AM on August 31, 2015


Having decent signatures, both formal and informal, is important and I think will continue to be important for as long as people still leave little notes for one another, sign documents and correspondence, etc. Every so often I have to scan signatures for use in a newsletter, and two things I've noticed is (a) how many people are dissatisfied with their signatures, and (b) how many of them like mine. But I actually took the time in high school to decide how I wanted my signature to look, streamlined and refined it through my college years (we had to reaffirm the school's honor code and formally sign all exams, papers and other assignments), and stuck with it ever since.
posted by slkinsey at 10:01 AM on August 31, 2015


My kid is 9 and can neither read nor write cursive.

Ha, emjaybee, this sentence is slightly ambiguous. Made me do a double take anyway, thinking there might be something more you should be concerned about than your being a "standard old-person-upset-about-change."
posted by torticat at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2015


One of my jobs is hand lettering and writing (usually in caps, but some flourishes in cursive) in front of an audience so people seem to think I have pretty good penmanship. I did have to work at it though—as a Gen Xer I lost a lot of my handwriting somewhere between high school and the real world. It's been fun to relearn writing in cursive nicely, and I've found that the best way to improve your handwriting is to slow down and think before you write. I often meet women from a generation or two above me with the most beautiful handwriting that I gasp and squee over it. It makes me sad that so few youngsters find beauty in cursive. Maybe when they're older it will be cool and retro and see a revitalization, because I do think that writing says a lot about a person.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:57 PM on August 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do think that writing says a lot about a person.

Mine says, "four different elementary schools each taught handwriting differently."
posted by asperity at 2:58 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Let us now sing a hymn to His Nibs:

There is a fountain filled with ink,
Drawn from a well of the same,
And children raised without it think
Not how to sign their names.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2015


Maybe when they're older it will be cool and retro and see a revitalization

This may already be happening a bit with the resurgence of interest in fountain pens and other good writing instruments.
posted by slkinsey at 5:21 AM on September 1, 2015


Maybe when they're older it will be cool and retro and see a revitalization

This may already be happening a bit with the resurgence of interest in fountain pens and other good writing instruments.


Most kids don't use cursive, but you should see some of the stuff the kids on Instagram and Tumblr can do. It's super impressive.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:33 AM on September 1, 2015


Handwriting is the only subject I ever flunked, in the third grade. I stubbornly resisted cursive, and developed an italic hand.

When I hit college, my English department immediately changed their policy about line spacing in blue books; single-spacing used to be just fine, but after my first set of midterms, double-spacing became mandatory. Fountain pens were the only way to get through the immense amount of in-class writing required without my hand falling off. I have stacks of notebooks from college, grad school, art school, and work.

A useful technique for writing for long periods of time: switch the fingers you hold the barrel of the pen between. Start with the pen in its usual position, resting between the thumb and index finger; then when your hand fatigues, move the barrel between the index and middle fingers; when you get tired again, move it to the middle and fourth fingers; then to the fourth and pinky finger; then back again to the starting position.
posted by culfinglin at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2015


All of you terrible people are about to force me to buy a fountain pen again.
posted by jeather at 11:35 AM on September 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Make jeather buy another fountain pen ✔️
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:41 AM on September 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Today I saw a comic about not being able to read cursive.
posted by idiopath at 8:30 PM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I absolutely blame this discussion for making me clean and refill all of my fountain pens this week (I hadn't touched them since I moved a year and a half ago) and for making me order a new pen (Lamy Joy Calligraphy) and some books on improving my handwriting.
posted by jessypie at 12:22 PM on September 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


This discussion prompted a memory of someone else's memory. Around finals time of my sophomore year in high school, my math teacher started to wax nostalgic about proctoring exams in the old days, and how he felt really useful going around and filling people's fountain pens.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jessypie, you should look at the Pilot Parallel if you get into calligraphy. It comes in 4 sizes and is pretty great.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I checked: It turns out that Dan never was taught cursive, either.
[snip]
Yes, I find this outrageous, mostly because I am envious. Why shouldn’t kids today have to suffer through learning cursive the way we did, and from the same idiot book, which seemed to have been designed by 19th-century French fops with perfumed doilies in their sleeves. The cursive we learned was so mannered, so filled with whorls and flourishes and curlicues, that all American fourth-grade writing made the Declaration of Independence look like a refrigerator warranty.
Addresses, amusingly, the question of speed of writing.
posted by phearlez at 1:58 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


My fountain pen and a bottle of purple ink are en route to be delivered tomorrow (a good old Safari, my favourite everyday pen from before). I am thinking of ordering another one so I can have two pen colours at work. I'm quite excited by this.
posted by jeather at 3:04 PM on September 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty excited about my purchase which I also get tomorrow!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:18 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stupid Canada Post, mine is now only due on Tuesday.
posted by jeather at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2015


So I've also been inspired to practice my cursive, and I have some other cheap fountain pens but I just got a Pilot Custom 74 EF in the mail today, filled it with Noodlers Heart of Darkness - and I love it. Love it.

Now to finish that handwritten letter to my grandma.
posted by idiopath at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Count me in as another person lured into a burgeoning fountain pen hobby due to this thread.

My cursive has never looked prettier in my life!
posted by Gordafarin at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I may have just purchased a purple Lamy-AL star because I was walking around Dresden touristing and saw a fancy pen store. It's made in Germany, so that counts as a souvenir, right?! I'm waiting until I get done with my flights back to the US to actually fill it with ink, so in the meantime I just have to think of what beautiful and profound things I will write with it.

Never mind that I dropped cursive as soon as I was allowed to, and calligraphy was something my mom did so I of course never touched it...but maybe it's time for a signature that's something more than J[squiggle] R[scribble].
posted by j.r at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the laptop was great for taking notes in exactly one subject: programming. I was going to type those things up at some point anyway; now I can also get nice tab alignment and fixed-width font! Perfect.
posted by j.r at 12:10 PM on September 8, 2015


Never mind that I dropped cursive as soon as I was allowed to

Printing with fountain pens is fun, too! (That's Emerald of Chivor in a Noodler's Ahab)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:14 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh dear, I'm afraid I'm staring down a rabbit hole where eventually I'll recognize those terms like Emerald of Chivor and Noodler's Ahab. What have I done?

Cool handwriting, though! It has a lot of personality and is attractive.
posted by j.r at 12:45 AM on September 9, 2015


Pen! With lovely dark purple ink (though a little less dark than I wanted, oh well).

And I am actually planning to order the Emerald of Chivor when it comes back in stock.
posted by jeather at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2015


Pen! With lovely dark purple ink (though a little less dark than I wanted, oh well).

I have an ink sample journal for just this reason.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:22 PM on September 9, 2015


jb My SO has learning disabilities, one of which is dysgraphia (difficulty writing) - as a grad student, he forms letters like a 6-year-old. The lack of accommodations for the GRE was the reason he couldn't apply to any American graduate schools.

oh my goodness what the actual fuck. I believe you, but of course this is not remotely okay. As far as I understand it the GRE does give the accommodations it's legally obliged to - was there some boring technical reason SO couldn't get them like lack of correct documentation and/or is there an actual hole in the system?

(I'm currently deep in a case with a UK university where they aren't following the law here on disability accommodation. The law is brilliant but its implementation in higher education and workplaces is absolutely a joke - people get away with everything, the consequences aren't there.)

On the university note, Oxford and Cambridge degrees are often/usually assessed wholly by exams - which are handwritten unless students need accommodations. Computer/scribe requests for examinations are usually granted without fuss as far as I know though. So most students' degrees, especially in arts subjects, still hang partly on how fast they can hand-write coherently.

GCSEs and A-levels (exams at 16 and 18) are all handwritten.

I'm a happy handwriter. I'm a bit sad how few of us there are on this thread!
posted by lokta at 12:01 PM on September 18, 2015


oh my goodness what the actual fuck. I believe you, but of course this is not remotely okay. As far as I understand it the GRE does give the accommodations it's legally obliged to - was there some boring technical reason SO couldn't get them like lack of correct documentation and/or is there an actual hole in the system?

Accomodations may have been available, but were made extremely difficult to access and no help accessing was provided. The private company didn't care, of course.

Also, this was in Canada. We don't have the ADA, so things are different.
posted by jb at 6:20 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


A year or more ago, I bought one of these Platinum fountain pens -- first fountain pen I've bought in half a century -- because of the claim that they won't dry out even if left unused for months.

It's true. They really don't dry out. And they write really well.

Carbon ink is wonderfully waterproof.
posted by hank at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2015


FELT TIP!

The Papermate Flair line is my standby, although it would be nice to find one without the annoying seam line on the barrel.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was surprised to learn that cursive is on the national curriculum here in the UK - see Level 3 here.

(Often kids get taught it as their first style of handwriting.)
posted by Kiwi at 6:07 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Erasing is for math cowards! Best practice here is big arrows with marginal notes such as "NO!!!" and "I AM FULL OF IT" and "THIS WHOLE PAGE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING WRONG"

Oh man I totally do this. My go-to is an all-caps NOPE with a box drawn around it.
posted by shadow vector at 6:56 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


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