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20-40-60 Etiquette---My handwriting is terrible!

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: September 24, 2013

To ask an etiquette question, email



By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: What should I do? I work in a professional field and my handwriting is terrible. Emails have been great for me when I need to write a thank-you note or correspond about anything. It is certainly more legible when I can type it out. Any ideas?


CALLIE’S ANSWER: Typing is faster than writing, which is why so many of us email or text instead of picking up the phone. We are a “too-busy” type of culture. A handwritten note is always more personable and impressive. I know there are writing classes you can take that can help you improve.

If you don’t have time for classes, practice only makes perfect. I make lots of daily handwritten notes for myself to remember things. For example: “pick up the dog, go to the dry cleaners” and what I need to get at the store. Handwriting these notes can help you improve since you are not in a hurry writing them.

Slow down and practice.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I agree. Emails are a great way to handle things efficiently and quickly, and my handwriting isn’t that great, either. I also agree with those who think that handwritten notes are more personal. I think when I take the time to write thoughts out by hand, my words are more meaningful.

Sometimes, I put off saying anything because I think I SHOULD write a handwritten note but then I don’t get back to it as I wait to write the perfect note to the person. It seems that my endless to-do list get in the way of that. If I had just written an email, at least any acknowledgment of sorts would have been written and sent; it’s easy for me to write on a keyboard. So, I wrestle with this, too. If you can get better at handwriting by practicing or slowing down as you write, then, that’s the best solution because letters show effort and care in correspondence. However, I have come to realize that sending an email of thanks or correspondence is better than not sending anything at all. My procrastination in this area has not served me well.

HELEN’S ANSWER: It is still proper to write handwritten thank-you notes. Be brief if your handwriting is illegible, or get a great writing pen and practice your letters. We have received thank-you notes that just say “thank you” and we have appreciated the effort.

Personal handwritten letters and notes mean a lot, but it is the message that is the most important. I have kept letters that my mother wrote to me and they truly mean more than emails I cannot find and text messages I have deleted.

If you have tried and it still does not work for you, then get some wonderful notepaper and print a heartfelt message from your computer. Your friends probably understand that writing by hand is not your strong suit. Be sure you sign your name by hand.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Christina Nihira, journalist and community volunteer: Handwriting is a lost art since the invention of the computer and subsequent popularity of such communication tools as email and text. Yes, it has eased the speed messages are sent besides improved the likelihood that they will be misconstrued or intelligible. Obviously most would agree that this is a tremendous help, given life in our fast-paced world.

Dragging out a pen feels almost painful. Our minds have been trained to think much quicker than our hands. Yet, there are some occasions when people crave a more personal touch — a greeting card, thank-you note or sympathy letter. Purchase a kid’s handwriting book and drill yourself. Download practice sheets from the Internet. If you know in advance you must draft something by hand, set aside extra time in order to write slowly and diligently.

The United Kingdom’s National Handwriting Association reports that “handwriting is very personal and an expression of a person’s identity.” So get scribbling and don’t let the keyboard replace you.

Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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