Letter: Computers better than calligraphy

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The Independent Online
Computers better

than calligraphy

Sir: Your report (Education, 30 May) on the teaching of "joined up writing" in a number of English schools was little short of astonishing. What next? Quill pens? Hieroglyphics? And as for encouraging the use of fountain pens, I can only suppose that the initiative is sponsored by detergent manufacturers or clothes shops.

The written word is one of the fundamental tools of learning and communication, but I cannot think of a book in current circulation, or a computer, which uses anything other than single-character letterforms.

In the last 150 years we have seen the quill replaced by the steel pen, followed by the fountain pen, then the ball-point and its contemporary variations. Of these, the steel pen was the last to be used widely for the production of documents - those ledgers and fair copies with which the Victorians laid the foundations of modern business practice - as first the typewriter and then the word processor evolved.

In the past week I have written, for reading by others, more than 10,000 words, of which approximately 9,950 were written using a computer keyboard. The other 50 were almost entirely written on sticky notes: simple messages such as "Back at 2pm".

Over the same period, I have received a number of letters and reports from business people and academics in which instances of poor grammar, incorrect usage and inadequate vocabulary rendered the meaning uncertain.

We should be teaching children how to express ideas and information properly, and leave calligraphy as an option in the handicraft syllabus.


London E14