Earlier this year, a student in China made news when she bought a robot to write her homework for her. She taught the 800 yuan (US$120) robot to mimic her handwriting so it could copy various Chinese phrases dozen of times from a textbook, a task regularly assigned by schools in the country to teach kids how to read and write.
Suspicion arose when she (or rather, the robot) completed the homework in just two days. This led the mother to find – and later destroy – the robot in the daughter’s room, according to the Qianjiang Evening News. On China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, the mother wrote: “It can help you with homework, but can it help you on tests?”
Another user disagreed, saying: “The difference between humans and other animals is that they know how to make and use tools…This young lady already knows how to do this.”
With technology taking over our lives, handwriting seems like an anachronistic item from the past. After all, even US Presidents have long used robots to sign government documents.
But many education systems still require students to hand-write assignments and exams. We often dismiss handwriting as a non-essential skill, but research shows there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to putting pen to paper. This includes improving motor skills, engaging the mind and better grades (it’s easier to get an A when teachers can understand what’s on the paper!).
Its importance is emphasised in the learning of foreign languages like Chinese, where manual copying has been the tried and tested method of learning thousands of characters.
Robots may do the job faster than us, but ignore handwriting and you’ll stand to lose this suite of perks. It’s never too late to appreciate and practise this lost art. Here are five of our favourite and fun ways to improve handwriting:
1. Get inspired
Check out high school student Prakriti Malla’s awe-inducing cursive handwriting, recognised by the Nepalese government as the most beautiful handwriting in the world. Or Instafamous Seb Lester, who posts short videos of him writing calligraphy to motivate and inspire.
2. The subreddit for all your handwriting queries
3. Get practice books
Try the book Write Now: The Complete Program For Better Handwriting, written with med students and business professionals in mind. Or the Spencerian Theory Book, used by American classrooms in the 19th century, which lets you practise every minute detail of the writing process. For free handwriting worksheets, subscribe to Tiny Ray of Sunshine for worksheets on spacing, slants and sizing.
4. Keep a journal or start writing letters!
Make it a win-win situation by adding purpose to your handwriting improvement quest. This will help you organise your schedule, also making a family member or friend’s day at the same time as testing out your skills.
5. Get some perspective
Dubbed one of the most helpful videos about writing on YouTube, this Indian teacher lets us in on a secret: all letters are just lines. Once you know this, you’re on your way to writing like a pro – no robots required!