Handwriting: It says a lot about you!
Your handwriting is just about as unique as you. It does say a lot about you. In the world of computers, tablets, smart phones and laptops, we are increasingly forgetting to write and we merely type. But there is something exciting and mysterious and I daresay, special about the flow of the pen on the paper. The written word will still find its place – to do lists, prescriptions, signatures, all would be hopelessly drab and without character if not handwritten. A love letter – typed out in Times Roman or Arial- absolute blasphemy!!
The written word goes a long time back. Though it must be pointed out that the use of numbers as symbols and some mean of communication or record keeping preceded the written word or some semblance of communication through language. The origin was obviously through Proto-Writing through the use of symbols/ mnemonic symbols to convey idea/information. Jiahu symbols on tortoise shells are the earliest recorded symbols of proto writing from 6600 BC. Over a period of time, it evolved to Linguistic Writing, which encodes almost the exact thought meant to be conveyed. This process has been slow and steady and constant and yet dynamic. Along this process, various different scripts and writing forms have developed and died.
Sumer, Southern Mesopotamia, is widely regarded to be the origin of the written word (cuneiform) around 3100 BC. Around the same time, the concept of a script evolved in MesoAmerica with the Olmec/Zapotec script of Mexico regarded as one of the oldest. Independent writing systems evolved in Egypt (3100BC/Heiroglyphs) and China (1200 BC). The Indus script of the Bronze Age Indus Valley is still largely undeciphered and one is not certain whether it was linguistic or some other kind of communication. Quite naturally, trade and travel contributed to the spread of language and also brought in diverse influences into the evolution.
Then came the era of the Greek script, which was the source of many subsequent European Scripts including Latin. The next big milestone in the evolution was the emergence of the Arabic script which coincided with the emergence of Islam. Arabic became the primary script for Persian and Turkish language and contributed to the spread of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system through the world. Religion has always played a role in the spread of the written word. The monks in the 8th Century spread the use of the Carolingian Script, because of its ease of use. It was modified during the Renaissance period. They modified it to make it more ornate by slanting the script – since this originated in Italy –it came to be called “Italic “!!
The evolution of writing material used over the ages also makes for a fascinating story. Engravements on stone/ metal/ terracotta/ gypsum changed to the use of roll/ papyrus/ reed in Egypt. Others used parchment made of sheep skin. Paper was invented by the Chinese in 105 AD. Computers have changed the way we think of writing today. The way you type doesn’t really tell much about you- since the way you write does tell a good deal about you or is supposed to – it has evolved into a pseudoscience. Graphology is the science which analyses the handwriting and helps infer something about your personality/ attitude/character. There are Bachelors and Masters Degree on offer in Argentina, Spain and Italy on Graphology. It is a different matter that a master treatise on the subject by Geoffrey Dean , based on a meta analysis of 200 papers on the subject , largely debunked the predictive value of personality inference based on handwriting.
Handwriting Analysis for forensic purposes is a different story all together. Since the handwriting is like a fingerprint, experts use it to prove cases of forgery or fraud. I do know of a colleague, who used to sign bank cheques with his wife’s signature for purpose of convenience, at times – now every time his wife issues a cheque , it is turned down by the bank – “Signature does not Match”! Doctors (self included) are notorious for their bad handwriting. It perhaps stems out of lots of writing to be done in compressed time periods in formative years at medical school. Some (a few) do survive and go on to write beautifully. This has prompted various Medical Councils to legislate writing of prescriptions in Capital letters to avoid prescription errors. The use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), will aid in more legible notes and lesser errors. I had a colleague, a psychiatrist, who would write opinions and case notes and would come over to ask me to decipher what he had written after a few hours! Well you may not be able to read a Doctor’s notes or prescription, but you will note that the bill is always neatly typewritten!!
I do believe we need to use the pen and paper more often. In the era of copy –paste, many institutions insist on hand written submissions of papers. And after years of usage of the keyboard, it does appear a struggle. I have often felt, I can understand a subject better and remember far more facts when I write them down. As a student, one of my friends would tell me, having a bad handwriting was advantageous: nobody would borrow your notes; seniors would not burden you with written assignments to be copied; spelling mistakes would go unnoticed!! Well, that is a perspective. But it is also true, that if one gets a note or a letter with a beautiful hand, one does think better of the writer – visual impressions do stick strong.
To quote Gandhi, “I saw that bad handwriting should be seen as a sign of bad education”. Be that as it may, I do urge you, leave the keyboard once a while – take out your writing instruments: there is no greater joy than the flow of pen on paper!!