Does Penmanship Matter?

  • Video Overview:

    Today’s students do very little handwriting.

    Many tech-savvy teens say they use a keyboard far more often than a pencil – sending text messages, typing essays and taking notes on a laptop computer.

    “Every assignment that we have to turn in, in the long run is required to be typed,” says 16-year-old Rebecca. “It looks neater.”

    “I think I have horrible handwriting,” says 17-year-old Brandon. “It’s barely legible.”

    There seems to be a growing opinion that handwriting is almost obsolete.

    Some educators link the demise of penmanship to the rejection of repetitive drills as a teaching tool. Also, teachers are spending less time on handwriting and more time covering subjects like reading and math, which are measured by standardized tests.

    In the meantime, however, there are finals, midterms and essays on college entrance exams – many of which still need to be written by hand.

    The SAT exam, for example, requires students to write an essay by hand in 25 minutes.

    “And I found it hard to write an essay just using handwriting, because I’ve grown used to typing my essays on the computer,” says Brandon.

    While teachers who grade the SAT are told not to mark off for sloppy penmanship, research shows that handwriting can send a message.

    “It’s hard when you look at some types of handwriting, to not read certain things into it,” says Dana Huff, an English teacher at the Weber School – who also grades essays for the SAT. “You know the big, bubbly handwriting, for instance, can sometimes lead a teacher to think, ‘Oh, Airhead.’”

    “If your handwriting is barely legible, it makes them think that you are not really an organized person,” says 17-year-old Adam, “that you are writing too fast, and you are not thinking about it.”

    While computers have made handwriting less important than in the past, educators say students still take tests – and they need to be able to write legibly.

    “I think in the case of handwriting, one of the best things that they could do is just drill,” says Huff.

    For example, she says, students could practice writing timed essays by hand before they take the SAT.

    “I wish we could type it, but I know that’s not possible, so I think its okay,” says Brandon, a high school junior. “I think as long as they are okay with us crossing stuff out and it being not as neat than I think, it’s OK.”

    Discussion and Self-Reflection Activities

    • Do you think that penmanship skills are extinct? Write about it – and defend your stance.
    • Practice hand-writing your signature. What does your signature and your handwriting say about you?
    • How is penmanship related to early learning skills, like reading, spelling and writing? Is technology helping or hurting the learning curve?
  • Academic Success

    About the Program

    How important is penmanship? Research shows that handwriting can send a message and to help develop certain skills, despite our reliance on technology.

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