Handwriting (a first draft)

Last Sunday’s column about handwritten letters proved a hard one to write. Yes, even on computer. I churned out a draft Friday morning and, dissatisfied, started over again after lunch.

For the heck of it, below is the first half of my draft. As you’ll see, it has a cute opening but quickly loses steam. The details of who David Grossberg is and what he’s doing are rendered as a chunk of exposition, one that soon becomes either confusing or tedious, or maybe both. (The second half of the draft was closer to the final version so no need for that here.)

In the published version, I began with Andy Rooney, which was a better hook, and the explanation of Grossberg’s research flows (I think) more naturally. Writers may find the comparison of the work product and the published version of interest.

There may be some who prefer the first. There may also be some who’d prefer a third version, but as I wrote the second one right up until deadline at 5 p.m., that was as good as I could do in the time allowed.


HANDWRITTEN LETTERS are fading away, just like telegrams, personal modesty and Hillary Clinton.

Its a shame in some ways. For one, the younger generation will never have to muster the concentration to decipher Aunt Gladys palsied scrawl, the way we had to. Unfair, isnt it?

An Ontario insurance agent is concerned enough about the decline of handwritten letters to be carrying on a correspondence on the subject with people like Hugh Downs, P.J. ORourke and Florence Henderson.
Grossberg as a sideline writes articles for Autograph magazine, for autograph collectors like himself, on such fussy topics as quill pens.

Curious how people feel about the way e-mail has overtaken pen and paper, Grossberg in December began researching his next article. He sent off query letters to various middle-aged and senior celebrities at their homes, the better to ensure a personal response.

The next thing he knew, Morley Safer was calling him hed put his phone number at the end of his letter to say he prefers real letters. Jay Leno did the same.

Then Andy Rooney, the recipient of one of Grossbergs letters, devoted one of his syndicated newspaper columns to the subject.

The first line: Because Im uncertain about whether Ontario, CA is in California or Canada, I dont know where David Grossberg lives but he has written me a good letter about handwriting.

Either he was kidding or he didnt see the ZIP code as a tipoff.

Ever the contrarian, Rooney isnt alarmed about what Grossberg called the disappearance of the thoughtful, handwritten letter. He prefers typed letters or e-mail.

Too many people have unreadable handwriting, Rooney wrote. I get a lot of handwritten letters that are hard to read and most of them arent worth the trouble if I spend the time deciphering them.

Rooney also sent Grossberg a letter (typed) reiterating his points and tossing a barb at Grossbergs office address: 211 West B St. is one of the most characterless addresses I ever wrote and if I lived there Id move.

Ontarios downtown redevelopment project forced Grossberg to move from Euclid Avenue, a name Rooney might have liked better.

As of last week, Grossberg had received some 40 responses, with more coming in. He has them all in a binder.

Turns out I hit a much bigger nerve than I thought, he told me.

He claims to be evenhanded about handwriting versus typing My own opinion is that theres a place for both but his correspondents certainly interpreted his letter as pro-handwriting. Some thanked him for doing his part to save correspondence by highlighting the issue.

Ironically, his letter was typed on a computer because his handwriting is so poor a fact some replies noted.

Pat Buchanan wrote: Handwritten letters are an anachronism regrettably, as your typed or machine-written letter testifies.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email