“It’s still worth writing things by hand!” says stationers

July 14th, 2012

The things the Daily Mail classifies as science never fail to amuse me. When it’s not dividing the entire world up into items which either cause or cure cancer (there is no third way), it’s publishing PR stories like this in the science pages:

Could we forget how to WRITE? The typical adult has not scribbled anything by hand for six weeks

If you can’t remember the last time you jotted down a hand-written note, you are not alone.

For a study suggests that the days of using pen and paper may be numbered – with a typical adult not having written anything for almost six weeks.

In a world where we increasingly tap out our thoughts, messages and reminders on a keyboard or a touchscreen phone, the traditional note or letter appears to be becoming redundant.

Six weeks without writing? As anyone who recalls getting back to school after Summer holiday will tell you, six weeks without writing will make it seem like you can’t write any more. So perhaps there’s something to this…

Just kidding – see who commissioned the research:

The research, commissioned by online stationer Docmail, revealed that the average time since an adult last wrote by hand was 41 days. But it also found that one in three of us has not had cause to write anything ‘properly’ for more than six months.

Docmail – the online stationery retailer – think that if you go six weeks without writing, you might forget how to write altogether. This is in the Daily Mail Science section, bear in mind.

Worth highlighting is the quotes around ‘properly’ – even the Mail can’t commit to that as the centrepoint of a shock statistic. What counts as writing ‘properly’? Scribbling down a note to pin on the fridge? Writing out a birthday card? Adding another entry to your ‘Dear Diary’? Or polishing off your novel about a sparkling vampire who solves puzzles and unlocks the secrets of the Catholic church while tying a middle aged and bored housewife to the bedpost with bonds fashioned from his own tired clichés?

The definition of what counts as really ‘writing’ something ‘properly’ is crucial in figuring out if this stat is real, or merely PR bullshit put out by a company who’s livelihood depends on convincing people that stationery is vital in today’s digital age. Speaking of which:

Dave Broadway, managing director for Docmail, said: ‘It’s a shame handwriting is in general decline, but that’s come about from the need for convenience and communication that is clear and quick.

‘People by habit will always look for shortcuts or to make their life easier, and that’s the reason technology is so prominent in our everyday lives.

‘What will always be of importance is the quality of what we’re communicating and how we convey ourselves.

‘Handwriting will always carry a sentimental value but inevitably makes way when it comes to the need to be efficient.’

In case it weren’t overly apparent, this whole story came from a press release from Docmail, which we can see over on their website.

Once more, a quick glance at Churnalism.com shows that the Daily Mail’s version of the article copied 71% from the original press release, meaning journalist Eddie Wrenn appears to have added only 29% to this Science piece. 

It’s a good job journalists don’t have to rely on handwriting, really – it would make copy press releases wholesale far more tricky.