With the increasing use of electronic devices, penmanship appears to be going by the wayside. But it still has a role in business. In fact, children might eventually learn to design their own typeface rather than learn cursive handwriting.

For those of us for whom penmanship was the worst part of the day in school, it might make you a bit jealous of today’s youth to learn that cursive handwriting instruction has been disappearing from schools. For example, it’s not required as part of the Common Core curriculum in use in many schools, though a number of states have passed laws mandating its continued use.

“Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype,” writes T. Rees Shapiro in the Washington Post. “And educators, seeking to prepare students for a successful future in which computer and typing skills have usurped penmanship, are finding cursive’s relevance waning, especially with leaner school budgets and curricula packed with standardized testing prep. So they’re opting not to teach it anymore.”

There’s some concern, notes Shapiro, that kids who don’t grow up learning cursive will no longer be able to read historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence, but others demur. “I have to tell you, I can’t remember the last time I read the Constitution,” Steve Graham, an education professor at Arizona State University and a U.S. expert on handwriting instruction, tells the Post. “The truth is that cursive writing is pretty much gone, except in the adult world for people in their 60s and 70s.”

In fact, some students reportedly can’t even sign their own name, although electronic signatures can handle that issue.

Nonetheless, handwriting can still play a role in business, whether it’s from the novelty of receiving handwritten notes of appreciation or organizations that use handwriting analysis (graphology) as part of hiring.

Interestingly enough, the use of graphology in hiring is most prevalent in France, though as many as 30 percent of UK companies also use it. That’s according to graphologists, of course—who go on to say that few companies will actually admit to using it.

Companies that reportedly use graphology include Butterfield’s, Lloyds of London, Citibank, Dun and Bradstreet, Prudential, Coca-Cola, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Renault. Some see it as a less expensive way to gauge a potential employee (or even a CEO?) than a psychological test.

Others pooh-pooh the notion that a person’s handwriting says anything about them as an employee. “The fact is that scientific tests have repeatedly failed to find any evidence that a person’s handwriting reveals their personality traits, temperament or psychology,” writes Benjamin Radford in Discovery. “Some outgoing people write with large, looping letters, while others don’t. Some brilliant people have immaculate handwriting, while others don’t. People change careers — and sometimes even their personalities — but their handwriting stays the same. If graphology were valid, potential terrorists could be identified and tracked before they struck simply by reading a few lines of their writing.”

Ultimately, handwriting isn’t quite dead. Even neural networks are starting to learn how to generate the facsimile of a handwritten script.

The idea that children might end up designing their own typeface in lieu of learning handwriting is from Harald Geisler, whose claim to fame is designing fonts based on the handwriting of people such as Albert Einstein. “When I think of the future of written communication, it would be wonderful if everybody had his own font and could continually refine the appearance of his/her own digital personal typeface,” he writes. “In elementary school children would learn how to draw their own typeface, and over years one builds, develops, adapts and extends the design to ones needs and personality. If we think of a typeface being continually refined and designed over a lifetime, would this make up for the cultural value of handwriting?”

This development could add a personal touch, such as enhancing business process management requests by reminding people of the individual who’s making the request. Perhaps this reminder could even speed up the process—something that we’re always looking for.

And you can put your John Hancock on that.


Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.

Subscribe to Simplicity 2.0 and follow us on Twitter. If what we’re saying piques your interest, head over to Laserfiche.com where you’ll see how we apply the lessons learned on Simplicity 2.0 to our own processes, products and industry.

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