In our age of the internet, texting and social media, we might be forgiven for thinking that the noble art of handwriting will soon die out.

But a Sunderland tech expert who has worked in Silicon Valley claims that putting pen to paper should remain an important aspect of our daily routines.

Ewan Clayton – a professor of design at the University of Sunderland – has helped produce a Manifesto for Handwriting, which urges people not to give up on the ancient art.

In their manifesto, Ewan and his fellow writers ask those in charge of education to “choose handwriting policies, establish standards and curricula, to train teachers and to invest in books, materials and support to further the practice of handwriting.”

The Manifesto for Handwriting outlines a number of reasons why handwriting should continue to be considered important.

Ewan and his colleagues argue that learning to handwrite is essential for children as it encourages them to develop fine motor skills and improves coordination between the hand, the eye and the brain.

Scientific studies show that typing information creates fewer neural links than writing out the same information with a pencil or pen.

Handwriting apparently stimulates activity in the parts of the brain required for reading and, in older children, seems to enhance the content of their written work as well.

The manifesto also argues that handwritten words are more visually appealing than words typed on a screen and praises the “balance, harmony, regularity, clarity, elegance and indeed beauty” of handwriting.

It claims learning handwriting skills could, as a result, “translate in later life into calmness, confidence, better observational skills and a more profound sense of the meaning of education.”

The manifesto states that “a page of clear, legible and well-formed writing can bring a sense of personal achievement for both adults and children” and stresses that learning to form the letters of one’s alphabet is an important part of learning about one’s national culture. The manifesto notes that in 2015 China reintroduced the art of calligraphy into its schools for both cultural and educational reasons.

The writers of the manifesto also argue that handwriting is not obsolete in the digital age, as equipment such as digital pens, digital papers, touch screens and stylus-based smartphones can combine handwriting with new technologies.

Ewan Clayton grew up in the village of Ditchling, Sussex, which was once the home of Edward Johnston, who is considered the ‘father of modern calligraphy.’

Ewan said, “When I was 12-years-old, my handwriting was so bad I was moved back to junior school to learn how to write all over again.”

“I was given Johnston’s biography and started to realise just how interesting a subject handwriting was.”

After living in a Benedictine monastery for four years, Ewan headed to Silicon Valley, where he worked at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Laboratory. This lab was important in the development of Windows, the Ethernet and the laser printer.

He later took up his post at the University of Sunderland.

(Featured image courtesy of Susanne Nilsson, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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