Dear Nathan: Penmanship Is Officially Dead

DEAR NATHAN: What’s up with penmanship these days? A few years ago, my mother gave me some old letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother. Some of them are treasures because the written words are not only loving and endearing, but the penmanship is beautiful. The script writings are actually examples of “art” in this modern age.

I work at a bank, Nathan, and many of the signatures I see every day are illegible. Is written communication becoming obsolete? With the electronic age and schools going paperless, will penmanship become unnecessary? — MARY IN HUNTSVILLE, ALA.

DEAR MARY: What is up with penmanship indeed! I myself have noticed the same thing you have mentioned in my life. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I wrote an entire paragraph by hand. I thought about writing my response to this by hand but I was pretty sure there would be a great deal of cramping by the time I finished writing. Besides, this is a blog so handwriting is not exactly welcome.

I do believe written communication is becoming obsolete. I was speaking with my coworker about this today and his reaction to the thought of writing something by hand was the following: “That’s why we have computers! What, are we Amish?” Granted, this is the same individual who had a twenty-minute rant the other day revolving around our vending machine’s inability to accept debit cards, but I think it still says something about our generation.

Maybe we should do something to keep the art of the hand written word alive. We could find pen pals and invest in a calligraphy set. Of course, there is no spell-check for handwritten notes. I do not think the world is ready for people to start writing things without spell-check.

Condolences on the death of the written word,



DEAR NATHAN: At a wedding, while shaking hands with a friend, I accidentally bumped another friend’s wine glass, staining his $180 shirt. The stain is a small one, on the lower portion and not very noticeable. Now the man insists I pay for the shirt.

Is there an etiquette rule on this issue? I feel bad, but not bad enough that I think I should pay for such an expensive shirt. If you have the means to pay for a shirt that expensive, I don’t believe you should expect others to replace it. — CHRIS IN DENVER

DEAR CHRIS: $180 for a shirt?! What, is the shirt made of platinum?! Does this shirt cure diseases?!  And if this person is spending a small fortune on a dress shirt, what is he doing spending time near any sort of staining beverage? A shirt that expensive is meant to only be worn inside of a temperature and moisture controlled environment void of any food and or drink.

As far as I am concerned, there is an etiquette rule here. If it is your fault, you are responsible for the shirt. Maybe not replacing it, but at least getting the stain out.

That is why I would recommend you blame your wine-swilling friend.

Everyone knows that this friend cannot handle their alcohol! First it’s a single drink, the next thing you know they are stumbling around spilling wine all over priceless shirts! There might be a call for an intervention. The first thing you should bring up is how their behavior is hurting their friend’s shirts.

Good luck making everyone view your friend as an uncontrollable lush,


P.S. Seriously?! $180 for a shirt?! $180!


DEAR NATHAN: My girlfriend watches the 24-hour news channels and seems to be obsessed with them. It is hurting our relationship and affecting her happiness. She’s constantly worried about national and international politics, global warming, the economy, health care, crime, etc. She neglects herself and her family. She seems agitated, anxious and depressed by all the news.

Is this a disease? How can I help her get off this habit? What should I do? — MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA: The 24-hour news channels can be depressing. In fact, these are some of the trending subjects now on CNN’s website: Neo-Nazi killers, Abducted girls, bear attack, Flight 370, Gold heist. These all seem like subjects that could cause a person to feel a bit down.

The worst part is once you start watching the news, you cannot stop. You are waiting for something good to happen, so you keep watching. Every so often, a feel-good story will come on. This is, though, immediately followed by another story about an impending financial disaster or a terrible car wreck.

For your sake, though, I devised a way to wean her off of the deadly drug we call “news.”

First, you will need several dozen kittens. You will need to record these kittens reenacting the terrible news stories. Soon she will stop being worried about serial killers and instead look forward to the kitten that plays the serial killer on your adorable news reenactments.

From there, slowly slip less and less news in. Pretty soon, she is just watching a pile of adorable kittens. Nothing stops agitation, anxiousness, or nervousness like kittens.

You will want to move this plan along quickly, though. Several dozen kittens will, soon enough, become several dozen cats. No one wants to deal with that nightmare.

Best of luck with your adorable kitten news,



14 thoughts on “Dear Nathan: Penmanship Is Officially Dead

  1. You’re a nutter. Ever been told that? Adorable, but still totally and completely batty. Your wife is one lucky woman.


  2. The written word is far from dead, even on the Internet: visit these half-a-dozen sites (a few of many) to learn otherwise —,,,,,
    If the Internet, or computers, killed handwriting, why are the most popular notebook apps for iPod HANDWRITTEN-notebook apps where you write with stylus on screen? (The best is Notes Plus, if you’re comparison-shopping. Notes Plus will even translate handwriting into type, IF the handwriting is decipherable to begin with.)


    • Oh dear. I did not mean to offend a handwriting aficionado like yourself! I think, though, that you can admit that people neatly handwriting letters, postcards, notes, scrolls of historical information, garage sale signs, angry letters to the editor, secret directions to a treasure buried in an unknown land, or anything else that use to involve touching a pen to paper has become much rarer. The next coming generation will really only be required to write while in school, then very rarely use actually writing every again. I myself only write at work when I need to jot a note down. Everything else is typed out because writing, then translating that writing into typing is a bit impractical.

      Sure, there will be a few who cling onto writing things by hand much like there are those of us who are never going to fully buy into ebooks or curmudgeons like me who will prefer their music on vinyl and not because it’s a cool, hip thing, but because the tonal quality is warmer and, particularly on recordings that were recorded using analog technology, the sound is purer. For the most part, though, people are going to depend on technology to do everything for them, from presenting every sort of media to writing, in the next 100 years.


  3. I could not agree more that those who can afford $180 shirts should be expected to replace them.
    It’s like those people who freak abut stuff spilling on their expensive white wool carpet. By the time you add up all the stress they’ve caused themselves and others in terms of psychiatric bills, it would have been better to just spill away. If it was red wine and cranberry juice, so much the better. People pay big for blotches.


  4. I agree about that $180 shirt like cmon you know you’ll be going outside and going outside means dirt, food and drinks coming along the way. If you’re gonna react like that might as well wear it inside your house. You shouldn’t even bought that pricey shirt in the first place!
    P.s. i love your blog 🙂


  5. I had to give up penmanship when I fractured my right hand in a fall on ice a few years ago. People couldn’t read my writing when I wrote with my left hand – I don’t know why?


  6. I don’t think penmanship is dead, but it is dying, alas. I world is so impatient, we want everything fast and easy; we don’t need spell check, whatever happened to a good old dictionary or thesaurus; would it kill us to take a few minutes out of our time to look up a word in a dictionary: No.


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