[Note: This is an article I wrote eight years ago that I felt fit this site well. I have updated it to bring it current.]
In this age of instant messaging, email, and cell phones, we often think of communication as an immediate priority. We lose some of the finesse of the writers of years gone by. Messages tend to be choppy, full of acronyms and misspellings. There is no grace to our correspondence anymore.
After my wife and I separated, my children wound up two-thousand miles away. At that time, too young for email and cell phones, I began learning the art of letter writing. In my town, and I would hope most others, there is a shop specializing in all things writing related. There I found the book Writing Letters with Pen & Ink (which, unfortunately, now appears to be out of print).
The book is filled with wonderful tips and history. It is not a long book, by any stretch of the imagination, at only 29 pages. The pages are packed with artwork, memorable quotes from famous writers, but most important of all, inspiration to put away that keyboard and let the words flow from your hand to ink.
A typed letter can never provide the entire picture. Each letter, a laser copy of each other letter, so perfect in form, can not convey the emotional warmth that comes from imperfect handwriting, where a difference in style could signal uplifting feeling, or deepest despair.
This book inspired me to write, but there was another problem. I have never had the best of handwriting, and I was diagnosed with the neurological disorder essential tremor. This causes a person’s extremities to shake, in my case making my handwriting all that much worse.
Another book, Write Now came to my aid.
This book is filled with everything you need to learn to write in italic, a simple, yet elegant and legible writing style. There are exercises that run you through each letter, both capital and lowercase, organized in such a way that you are learning similar shapes and motions.
Italic puts an emphasis on least number of strokes per letter. The result is a system that lets you write neat, clean letters quickly. While I can not claim that italic cursive is the easiest thing to learn, it does look very nice.
Within a few days, I noticed that my writing was much more legible. The book is not a miracle worker, you do need to practice to get better. Writing letters, or keeping a journal are both excellent ways of practicing.
So get out there and write someone. Everyone loves finding a letter from a friend or loved one amidst the stack of bills.
Update: I first wrote this article eight years ago. Since then, both of the books mentioned appear to have become hard to find. I’ve provided a link for Write Now to the author’s web site. In theory, you can order from there, but when I tried the link was broken. A new edition has come out since I wrote this.
I’ve found no source for Writing Letters with Pen & Ink. I suggest trying a local library, or searching online for a used copy.