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Are handwritten Christmas cards going extinct?

E-mailing Christmas letters to your friends and family just isn't the same as sending them lovingly handwritten ones in the mail.

That's why Jake Wallis Simons of The Telegraph sought the advice of a professional calligrapher to help him with his underused handwriting skills.

It might sound like a frivolous endeavour, but Wallis Simons is far from the only one who is out of practice, thanks to our reliance on computers and mobile technology.

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As he reports, a survey earlier this year found that the average person goes for 41 days without writing by hand, while a third of the population goes six months without doing so. More astonishingly, a separate survey showed a third of teenage girls and half of teenage boys have never written a letter.

Although Wallis Simons points to the beginning of a revival of handwriting among those who adore the "specialness" of exchanging handwritten notes, there are more important reasons for maintaining the skill.

Defenders of the handwritten word often argue its merits whenever schools move to scrap penmanship instruction in favour of teaching keyboarding skills. Most notably, handwriting is believed to exercise children's fine motor skills and provide them with the mental wiring necessary to read and write. Some experts believe it can even affect how a child's brain interprets words and letters.

According to the CBC, a 2009 study found that students using pen and paper wrote longer essays and used more complete sentences.

Back to Wallis Simons, the professional calligraphy advice he received seems rather nitpicky. (He was told to try out different pens until he found one that suited him, to "sit up straight, with your forearm resting on the table, so that the arm moves the fingers rather than the wrist," and to rewrite paragraphs until he gets it right.) But he claims it has inspired him to look forward to writing his Christmas cards.

How often do you write by hand?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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