One weird holiday on January 23 is National Handwriting Day. Check out the other weird January holidays!
History of National Handwriting Day
January 23rd is the birthday of John Hancock, who was the first person to sign the United States Declaration of Independence, which is why this day was chosen to celebrate this weird holiday.
It was invented in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association as an attempt to prevent handwriting from being lost as a skill. They created this holiday to give people “a chance to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting.”
Writing has been around for millenia. Historians have evidence that writing arose independently around the world around 3400 BC in places like Meso-America, China, and Mesopotamia.
The oldest writings that we are aware of are in Iraq, and they are pictures and signs. Later, they were replaced by cuneiform, which is a set of characters that is based upon the sounds of the Sumerian language.
In the 8th century BC, the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, which led to the development of Greek – and later Latin – lettering.
For the longest time, books and other documents had to be handwritten; there was no way to mass-produce them. In the 15th century, however, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, which allowed books to be made more cheaply and become available to all.
Throughout history, handwriting has traditionally been a symbol of status. Royal families and the upper classes were the only ones who were taught how to write properly, and it wasn’t until the 18th century that scribes began to be formally trained in the world’s first handwriting and penmanship schools.
There are several types of writing systems. Some are alphabet-based, which means symbols represent sounds, while some are called semanto-phonetic, which have symbols that stand for both sounds and meanings.
Handwriting itself has two major styles (although there are many more): cursive and print. A third category, D’Nealian, is a common way to teach both. If you learned how to write by tracing out letters one by one on a large lined paper, then you’ve practiced D’Nealian handwriting.
For handwriting to be considered of good quality, there are twelve characteristics to follow:
- Line quality
- Size consistency
- Pen lifts
- Connecting strokes
- Complete letters
- Cursive vs. print
- Pen pressure
Most people have better handwriting with their dominant hand, but their non-dominant hand can eventually have good penmanship through lots of practice. Scientists also can’t always figure out if a person is left- or right- handed by a handwriting sample. Instead, handwriting is determined by bone structure in the hands, eye coordination, muscle memory, and mental abilities.
Children have more bones in their hand that have wide spaces in between, which is why it is often detrimental to force children to good penmanship in their early years. While practice wiriting letters is important, it is physically impossible for them to develop neat handwriting until the bones in their hands have finished developing.
Handwriting is as unique to a person as a fingerprint. The study of handwriting is common enough that it can be a career path. Those that study handwriting are called graphologists, and they are often called upon to determine the accuracy of historical documents or give insight to the writer’s personality or mental traits.
One unique style of handwriting is called calligraphy, which is the art of decorative lettering. It can be found in ancient civilizations, and it is used in modern times for formal occasions, such as on a wedding announcement.
Even though modern technology has replaced typing with handwriting, handwriting still serves a purpose. Studies show that we remember something better when it is handwritten than if it is typed. Handwriting is important!
Ideas for National Handwriting Day
Other than practicing penmanship or trying to learn the fonts you see on Microsoft Word, here are some resources for you to celebrate this weird holiday.
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