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Author of the week: Kitty Burns Florey
Kitty Burns Florey was horrified when she found out that some schools are replacing penmanship classes with "keyboarding" drills. <em>Script and Scribble,</em> her new book, traces the history of pens, pencils, and various m
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eteran copy editor Kitty Burns Florey is not ready to see good handwriting go the way of vinyl records, said Rege Behe in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The ink was barely dry on Florey’s first nonfiction book, a good-humored lament for the lost art of sentence diagramming, when she learned that “keyboarding” drills were replacing penmanship lessons in some U.S. schools. “My first reaction was horror,” she says. She realized quickly, of course, that kids today have little use for the “Palmer Method” script that she and her schoolmates struggled to master in the pre-PC era. Still, a twinge of regret remains. This is a “valuable and beautiful skill that has been around for thousands of years,” she says. “And we are just tossing it out.”

Florey’s “charming” new book, Script and Scribble, is a breezy cultural history, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. Revisiting the evolution of various handwriting methods as well as the history of pens and pencils, Florey concludes that some of the zealotry of our midcentury schoolteachers was unjustified. But she also recommends that every American school district ­follow the lead of Portland, Ore., where children never have to make the awkward transition from block letters to cursive because they use an elegant italic throughout their school careers. “Everybody has to write a little bit every day,” she says. “Why not write beautifully, or at least legibly?”

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