First of all, let me say that this blog is never going to be political - not because I don't have political views but because I don't think this is the space to air them. Secondly, the recent fiasco over spin-doctors is not the subject of this blog either (for those readers in other countries who don't know about the fiasco - don't ask, it isn't worth it). No - this blog is concerned to day with the thorny subject of hand-writing.
Yesterday the Times published a copy of the letter our Prime Minister sent about the scandal. It is the "look" of that letter that I want to bring to your notice - not the content.
During the years I taught in Comprehensive Schools I used to have a handout which I gave to any pupils in my class. It went something like this:-
First Impressions are Important.
When writing a letter, bear the following in mind:-
a) use good quality notepaper - never lined.
b) write the letter in your best handwriting.
c) use a good pen (fountain pen is best, fine biro if you must.)
d) check your spelling and paragraphing carefully.
e) remember your letter may well be the first impression the recipient has of you - make it a good one.
The Prime Minister has certainly used good quality notepaper - Downing Street heading, no less. If this is his best handwriting then I am appalled. He has used a felt-tipped pen that I would guess is well past its sell-by date as the edges of the words are blurred. The letter is just one paragraph long, although I would have personally split it into three paragraphs. There is one spelling mistake (advizer for adviser). In fact the letter looks as though it has been "dashed off" in a spare minute.
Now in today's Times, on the young times back page - specifically for children to read - there is an article about the letter, which begins "Are adults always nagging you about your handwriting?" It goes on to say that in these days when most letters are written (and spellchecked) on the computer and when most communications are by e mail, handwriting is not that important. The last sentence says "it's what you are writing not how you are writing it that counts" and gives Michael Morpurgo, the author, as a shining example of someone who has succeeded although his writing is bad.
Well, I have a message for these people, and it is this. It is elitist to say that handwriting doesn't matter. OK for the doctor to scribble a prescription which the dispenser can't read; OK for a Prime Minister to dash off a letter in old felt-tip; OK for a journalist on a national newpaper of repute to say it doesn't matter - but the rest of us live in the real world, where it does matter. I used to work for an autocratic headmistress who would not consider an application for a post in her school if the application form was typewritten ' That may be taking things too far in this computer age, but I would like to point out that the people who are showing, or saying, that it doesn't matter are a) our Prime Minister and b) a national newspaper.
Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these the two major organisations that are forever complaining about standards slipping in our schools?