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In praise of - handwriting.

Just as well I'm typing this straight into our computerised text management system, because otherwise you probably wouldn't be able to read a word.

My handwriting, you see, has finally gone for a burton. Where once I could write screeds in proud and faultless Italics, the system we were taught at our Paisley primary school using an Ozmiroid fountain pen and ink, now all I can manage is a scrawl punctuated with scratched-out mistakes. As a result, writing greetings cards is now a task I dread, for they make me look like someone I'm not.

I could pretend it's because of a recent serious finger injury on my writing hand, but I'd be lying. No; the reason for the inexorable decline is because, like millions of others, I simply don't write much in longhand any more. Using shorthand for speed while working, a habit that has spread to personal telephone messages and shopping lists, doesn't help. Taking the time to perfectly formulate a squared-off "a" and an artfully hooked "h" just takes too long. And desktop and laptop computer keyboards engage only the brain, the fingertips and the eye, bypassing the need for a pen altogether.

The worst offender, of course, is phone texting, where all that's required to communicate is a pair of thumbs. How evolved is that?

At least I could, if required, brush up my handwriting. Not so the current generation of schoolkids. According to Glasgow University's education department, markers of this summer's Higher English exam commented – and not for the first time – on the poor handwriting of some candidates. This must make it very difficult for them to see beyond the words and into the thought process behind them.

If intelligent self-expression is proving too difficult without the use of computers, I wonder how we'll communicate when the lights finally go out.

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