Even in the age of e-mail and Palm Pilots, a publishing house is trying to make sure that good penmanship doesn't go the way of inkwells and quill pens. The Columbus, Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser recently held its 11th annual handwriting competition for Grades 1 through 8, drawing more than 110,000 applicants nationwide.
Eighth-grade champion Courtney Durham says she's "honored" to hold the national award for her grade. "I've been trying to win this contest every year since third grade," says the student from Reid School in Salt Lake City. "If you're taking notes in class or writing a grocery list, you're not always going to have a computer, so it's important to have good penmanship."
Zaner-Bloser says that 38 million illegibly addressed letters cost the US Postal Service $4 million a year, and that nearly 58 percent of the writing on hospital charts is illegible.
The firm, which publishes handwriting workbooks, insists that good penmanship breeds self-confidence. "Handwriting is a pride issue of something that is strictly yours," says handwriting product manager Georganna Harvey, who adds she has "pretty decent" cursive.
Meanwhile, some historians have been urging people to send handwritten letters instead of e-mails, in the hopes of preserving correspondences for future generations.
Reid School principal Ethna Reid notes another reason her school enforces neat writing. "Standardized tests are requiring more written answers, from short paragraphs to essays," she says, "and if the writing can't be read, the students will get bad grades."
Courtney says she has been practicing cursive writing at her school since kindergarten.
This year, her teacher started off the students with handwriting worksheets, devoting several hours a week to exercises.
Then came lessons in connecting the letters. Courtney says she has the capital 'Q' and 'Z' down pat, but nailing that point between a lowercase 'w' and 'r' can be a bit tricky.
She offers this advice: "It's worth the practice, because when people can read what you write, it makes you want to write more."s
That's easy for her to say: She just received a $500 savings bond and quill pen for winning the handwriting competition.