My mother once called and told me to never again write her in longhand. She said,
"Your writing is atrocious, Toni."
"My name is Lori," I said. "You ought to know that, you're my mother."
'Well, on this card you sent it looks like Toni. And your aunt called to
say she got a thank you note from your address, but it was signed by
someone named Tom. She wants to know why she wasn't told about Tom. She
also wants to know if I can decipher the note for her."
If not for the fact that my mom has been gone for three years, I'd think
she was the one who put me on the mailing list for the "Most Pitiful
Handwriting" contest sponsored by SimplyHandwritten.com, a greeting card
Then again, it could have been the mail carrier. Occasionally our mail
takes the long route when someone copies our address from my handwritten
return address and thinks our street starts with an F instead of a D.
And that it ends in ley instead of by. "Went over to Farley again," the
mail carrier says. "Bring that finish to your b up higher and then go
over and drop down with the y."
Everybody's an expert.
Of course, it could have been the husband who entered my name. He used to complain
that my 4s and 7s and 9s looked alike in the checkbook. I agreed it was a problem
and then I fixed it. I use plastic.
The contest is open to anyone with bad writing. You just send two to three sentences
in English on any subject, but the sponsors also stipulate no profanity or
If the handwriting is really bad, how would they know?
The person with the worst handwriting wins a box of thank you cards.
The contest was launched to coincide with John Hancock's birthday. He
was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and gets an A for
penmanship. Big letters, the J and the h and the k have tall ascenders
and he even dotted the i right above the i, not somewhere in the next
time zone. People like John make life hard for the rest of us.
I dream of nice handwriting. I go slow, I think about what I'm doing, but nine times
out of 10 my personal notes look like ransom demands.
Two out of our three kids don't use cursive at all. I take that back, the one might
but it's so illegible you can't tell. He's artsy. Enough said.
The other one uses a sort of italic or print cursive where she prints letters but
semi-connects them. The third one uses real penmanship, but she has to, as she's
becoming a teacher. Teachers have laws about that sort of thing.
Newsweek recently reported that educators are concerned that kids find the speed and
ease of using a keyboard far more appealing than the beauty that comes from writing
by hand. Teachers also believe that handwriting fluency is a fundamental building
block to all sorts of learning math, spelling, the whole nine yards.
The SAT exam now requires a handwritten essay, partly in an effort to reverse the
de-emphasis on handwriting and composition.
The writing is on the wall. Penmanship matters. So a word to kids: Mind your p's and
Take it from someone who has learned the hard way - me Tom. Or Toni. You know,
the one who lives on Farley Street.