Penmanship


Admittedly, I am a geek. About a lot of things. But one of the most outstanding things that I am a major geek about is penmanship, handwriting, and fonts. I really enjoy words and letters (both kinds of letters - correspondence and the ABCs). I like the way words look on the page, whether handwritten or typed. But mostly handwritten. I believe the way a person chooses to represent him/herself with a pen/pencil on paper says something about that person. Just the way the script looks on the page lets you know a little bit about how they feel about you as well as how they feel about themselves.

My personal history of fascination with such things probably begins, as most things human do, with my parents. My mom possesses beautiful penmanship. The letters always slant in the same direction and at the same degree. They are quite uniform and neat. My dad’s handwriting is just as predictable, albeit a little more aggressive looking. More slanted, more vertical, more hurried. If they were fonts, hers would measure about 8 points. His would be more like 18.

And then I went to school. One day my first grade teacher, Mrs. Pearl Simmons, stood before the class with a piece of paper in her caring, nurturing hands. "This paper is written very neatly and with perfect penmanship," she announced. "Look how nicely the letters are shaped, all the same size and all on the lines as they should be. I am going to pin this student’s paper on the bulletin board as an example of what your papers should look like." Wow, I thought, that’s impressive. "This paper belongs to Loretta Jones. Congratulations, Loretta."

If Mrs. Simmons’s goal was to challenge me, it worked. From that day on I was hyper-conscious of my own (and everyone else’s) penmanship. In my adolescence, I was quite impressed with the way my young Aunt Doris would decorate her bedroom walls with signs that she would make on loose leaf notebook paper with ballpoint pens. "Lillian Loves Leroy" in big fat balloon letters. About the same time, my parents hired a part-time babysitter whose penmanship mesmerized me. Sandra "Weasel" Elledge’s handwriting did not slant, but stood straight up, and all of her E’s (both upper and lower case) looked like backwards 3's. Later in college, my friend John’s half-printing-half-cursive script was the "coolest." I would watch him write and was perplexed at the way he could contort his fingers to hold his pen/pencil and still managed to create something that looked like his own personal font. In the late 1980s, another friend, (we’ll call her) Crazy Jo, wrote in a way that seemed like she was scribbling, but the result looked like beautifully legible art.


If you were to look at my scribbling through the years, you would see that I have tried to emulate the swirls and curves and lines of these folks in my own pitiful way. Along the way I must have come up with a style of my own. Some printing, some cursive, some hybrid. If you visit W. D. Deli, you’ll see my work on all the menu boards. I used to do lots of hand-lettered signs for the Bonham Exchange. One friend asked me to address her wedding invitations a while back. I have done some business cards for friends. Once, when doing an informal presentation in grad school, a classmate stopped me while I was writing on the chalkboard and suggested that I should have my own font. That was the ultimate compliment.

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