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Word is mightier than the pen...

Father of the Company, Calvert Markham, reflecting that there are quite different processes involved in writing a letter, than when working on screen…


I had to write a thank you letter the other day. By which I mean, I had to get a piece of paper and compose and write the letter using a pen.

This was remarkable; I haven’t written a letter using paper and pen for a long time, and I guess this is true for most people in the UK. A letter is unusual in itself;  written communications are usually by email.  And when constructing a document of greater length, such as this item, then I enter it directly on screen.

What I realised as I wrote my letter was that there are quite different processes involved than when working on screen. If my letter was not to be full of crossings out then I had to think carefully what I was going to say and then write it down; the thought was formed, composed and then written. By contrast, what I do on screen is to write, read, rethink, rewrite; a process of gradual approximation.

The on-screen process is common but whereas I was brought up before the widespread use of computers I still have the capability – albeit little used – to write in script, but I wonder if it affects the thinking processes of our children who use on-screen document production almost exclusively. A recent TV report featured a teacher who said that she thought that handwriting for her pupils was a redundant skill. (I certainly would have welcomed that when I was at school – my writing was so bad that I had on several occasions to go to remedial writing classes!)

So the process:  reflective thought followed by carefully considered communication has now become rare. The broadcast media compound this. Anyone asked a question on radio or TV is meant to be able to respond immediately; a pause while the respondent gathers his or her thoughts is considered to make their statements more dubious rather than more certain.

Is this also having an effect on attention? The sound bite is a product of this; messages that can be encapsulated in a few words inevitably lose richness. So does this result in general dumbing down?

Anyhow, I can’t go ranting on; this article is already quite long enough....





Calvert Markham, Father of the Company