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Pens Today is National Handwriting Day. I know. You’re freaking out because you didn’t get your Happy Handwriting Day cards in the mail. You’re not alone.

Not many people know about National Handwriting Day. Aside from a mention of it today by John Aielli, host of Eklektikos on KUT 90.5, the only other 2006 reference I could find was at the Crayola crayon Web site.

Its obscurity is due in large part to the fact the “holiday” was created as a marketing tool by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association. Sure, the group says the day spotlights “the lost art of handwriting” and is the perfect opportunity “for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting.” And we do that how? By using the writing instruments sold by WIMA members.

The other problem with the day is the date. WIMA says it celebrates every Jan. 23 in conjunction with the birthday of John Hancock. But all my searches of historical figures say Hancock was born on Jan. 12, 1737. Even Crayola’s calendar has National Handwriting Day listed on both days.

Maybe the 23rd is the day John Hancock Insurance was started.

Date debate aside, Hancock is the obvious icon for any handwriting celebration. The Declaration of Independence signer is as famous for his bold signature as for what his act of penmanship represented.

John_hancock_sig_1 On last year’s holiday, Sheila Kurtz, chief graphology officer at the Pilot Pen Corporation, offered the New York Times (subscription required to read the full article here) a signature analysis of Hancock's character, based on his famous autograph:

  • Slant to the right means someone who’s emotionally open and sympathetic to others.
  • Hugely underscored style indicates strong self-reliance with showmanship and flair.
  • Beginning hooks in the ''C'' show a desire to acquire, not just fortune but also power.
  • Big tie stroke in ''H'' indicates extra-strong persistence.
  • Closed ''A'' and ''O'' suggest that a person who listens carefully before speaking.

Such instant personality analyses are getting harder to find, since computers are replacing more and more things we used to create with pen and paper. Letters are typed and printed, checks paid via online banking. Even the eternal punchline of handwriting jokes, the doctor’s prescription, has fallen to technology.

The last Rx my doctor gave me was one he printed out on the PC in the exam room. He did have to sign it (illegibly), but you could actually read the medication’s name and dosage instructions.

The IRS has gone signature high-tech, too. The agency still requires you to sign your tax form, but if you file online, you can accomplish that via a PIN. This story explains how.


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