Our tax law professor warned us that he didn’t ace handwriting back in grade school, so we should interrupt him when he writes something on the board that we can’t understand. Sure enough, his name and photo do not appear in the Master Penman Society roll call of champions. As it turns out, though, he supplies us with copious handouts that are typed, meaning that we’ve got reliable backup to make sure we’re not missing anything. I remember fancy word processors and dot matrix printers in my junior high years when I was still behind the tech curve and writing out papers by hand, but at some point handwriting became useful only for filling out the jackets of mix tapes I made, and post-its. In law school, most of my peers take class notes on laptops. Most exams are written on laptops. I didn’t even sign my financial aid forms with my hand because I had an electronic pin online. Increasingly, what is handwriting good for these days?
Well, handwriting does capture some sense of individuality and personal expression, and at least for that reason I will continue to find outlets for scrawl, even if it’s just to write out lyrics for new song ideas I have instead of typing them into a word doc. Wait, when I have spur-of-the-moment ideas I text myself. OK handwriting definitely needs more outlets. My third grade friend, the handwriting star of our third grade class, got into trouble one time for forging his parent’s signature on a quiz. He hadn’t even gotten a bad grade, he just forgot to get it signed and then panicked. He explained to me that he couldn’t figure out how the teacher knew it was a forgery because he wrote the signature so perfectly. Then I looked at it. In perfect block letters he had written “MOM” at the top of the page.
I learned in my trusts, wills & estates class that 27 states accept holographic wills—technically meaning wills that are not signed by witnesses, but the typical situation is a handwritten letter describing what someone wants to happen with their stuff after death, where the material terms need to be in the handwriting of the person with the stuff. That is to say, I can’t handwrite your will without witnesses and have it upheld by a court, because it might be a forgery describing a disposition you never intended, and the golden rule of will interpretation is to discern the intent of the deceased. Handwriting matters in those cases, and hopefully there is enough other confirmed handwriting of the will writer lying around for the court to reference. In my case, the court could look at my mix tape jackets. Or I could type my will and find witnesses, but then I’ll have lost another outlet for handwriting.
I overheard this small part of a conversation at lunch just a few days ago, see what you make of it:
Friend 1: Is that your handwriting?
Friend 2: Yeah, and it’s exactly like my mom’s handwriting.
Friend 1: Weird.
Friend 2: And her handwriting is exactly like her mom’s handwriting.
Friend 3: Whoa, so your handwriting is exactly like your grandmother’s.
Friend 2: No, no, her handwriting is much nicer.
That’s the state of handwriting today, folks. Please go handwrite something before it’s too late. Just remember to text yourself as backup in case you lose the paper or can’t make out what you wrote later.