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COLUMN: Mitchell’s Musings: The rights and wrongs of writing

Scribe’s handwriting would make any doctor jealous

It’s official, I can’t write.

Now some people who have read my columns over the years might proclaim “it’s about time he realized that” and wish me well on my new endeavours of macrame and flower arranging.

And of course there’s that kindly elementary school teacher who used to send my columns back to me in the mail after she had marked them up with so much red ink it looked like modern art.

Sometimes it was punctuation, occasionally it was spelling and often it was slang or colloquial language that she deemed inappropriate, but it was always humbling.

I swear – she just didn’t get my conversational style of writing, and I think she enjoyed this hobby of hers (you’re welcome) but she would definitely agree with the opening sentence of this column.

However, whether this column offers anything of value on a weekly basis may be up for debate – that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m referring to the fact that I can’t physically write a sentence – at least not one other human beings, or even machines, can read.

Now you might say in this age of computers and phones and tablets and other gadgets it doesn’t really matter that much anymore. In fact I wonder if they even teach cursive writing in schools anymore – who are they writing to by hand anyway?

Maybe they teach it in survival courses in case you get lost in the wilderness or the power goes out and you somehow have paper and pen and… but I digress.

I’ve always had lousy handwriting and I partially blame Silver Star School and the principal at the time, who shall remain nameless, due to the fact that they decided to teach us Grade 4s (I’m guessing here, somewhere around 1969) the newest, the latest, the hippest, the best Script Writing rather than that old, dusty, unhip cursive writing style that was unlikely to survive the ‘60s.

Right. If you Google ‘script writing’ today it tells you how to write a screenplay – if you Google cursive writing it gives you numerous ways to learn it.

Oops. Bad call.

I spent the rest of my academic career trying to disguise the fact that I never learned to write and attempted to adapt the script style so it looked a little more adult, with limited success.

It resulted in a great deal of self-consciousness on my part and likely the reason why people seem to have trouble reading my hand-written notes.

It even affected my attempt to develop a signature that looked adult until I just eventually went with a couple of squiggles.

“You should be a doctor,” staff would often tell me as they tried to interpret what my note said.

I figure maybe doctors are taught how to write script in medical school, likely in the first year and then they adapt it themselves so that by the time they are graduating no one can read anything they write.

Except for pharmacists of course who must take a course in how to read script writing. It’s curious that such a vital communication link — between doctor and pharmacist — is the stuff of comic relief due to the physician’s inability to string words together coherently on paper.

I can easily see how poor handwriting could mistake arsenic for aspirin – but what do I know? And who am I to talk?

Sure I wasn’t taught cursive writing but I could’ve learned it somewhere along the line. It’s not really Mr. B’s fault, mostly.

And what made my inability to write official lately is when I tried to deposit a cheque that I wrote at a bank machine, twice.

Now the part the bank machine couldn’t read was the amount, which was both in numeral and written form on the cheque (if some of you forgot how cheques work) but it’s really immaterial as I had two chances to communicate to the machine, and failed.

Same deal and same result at another bank machine a few minutes later. I had to type in the amount at both bank machines – but it had no such problem with the cheque from my wife.

She writes neatly and went to an elementary school in Kamloops. And her signature is so wonderful, people actually pay money to see it on paper (well, plus she’s a notary).

So when your written communication gets rejected by both BMO and TD, you don’t need RBC, CIBC and HSBC to also spell out the fact that your writing sucks.

Is it too late to be a doctor?

Glenn Mitchell is the former editor of

The Morning Star

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