The Impact Of Typewriters On Handwriting Trends

Handwriting has a long history dating back thousands of years. For centuries, all writing was done by hand using pens, quills, brushes, and other writing implements. This laborious process involved carefully forming each letter and symbol by hand.

The introduction of the typewriter in the late 1800s marked a major shift in writing and correspondence. Although typewriters had existed in some form since the 1700s, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that they became widely available and affordable enough for businesses and individuals to adopt them.

One source notes: “The introduction of the typewriter, for instance, shifted the emphasis to uniform, impersonal communication” ( This technological innovation allowed text to be quickly produced in a standardized format.

Adoption of Typewriters

The typewriter was invented in the early 19th century, but its adoption was relatively slow at first. According to the Evolution of the Typewriter timeline on (, the first typewriter patent was issued to William Burt in 1714, but the first commercially successful typewriter wasn’t introduced until 1873 when Remington & Sons produced the Sholes and Glidden typewriter. This typewriter had a QWERTY keyboard layout that is still used today.

In the late 1800s, typewriters started being adopted by businesses, government agencies, and publishers, but they were not widely used in homes yet. The Science How Stuff Works article on the history of the typewriter ( notes that by 1910, typewriters were a common office machine. Key manufacturers driving adoption in this era included Remington, Underwood, Smith-Corona, and Olivetti.

The 1920s brought portable typewriters that were more affordable and helped drive increased adoption in homes. According to the article on the evolution of typewriters (, prices dropped from over $100 in the early 1900s to as low as $20 by the 1930s. This allowed middle class families to purchase typewriters for personal use at home.

Impact on Business Writing

The invention of the typewriter transformed business communication by enabling the mass production of standardized documents such as letters, memos, and invoices. According to, typewriters helped business offices grow as companies expanded production and distribution. The typewriter brought major changes to the formatting of business correspondence.

One major change was the shift to block format for letters, with even left margins and a date/signature at the bottom, as described in this 1902 manual How to write business letters. This differed from the indented style of handwritten letters.

Memos also became more formatted and efficient with the typewriter. As explained in, memos allowed quick internal communication in business and government. Overall, standardized formats and increased typing speed improved efficiency.

Impact on Casual Writing

The typewriter had a profound impact on casual writing and personal correspondence. Handwritten letters used to be the main form of personal communication before the invention of the telephone. With typewriters becoming commonplace in many homes by the early 20th century, people began typing out personal letters and notes instead of handwriting them.

Compared to handwriting, typing was seen as neater, more legible, and easier to produce in mass quantities. While handwriting allowed for more personalized flourishes and styling, typing provided uniformity. The content and ideas in the writing became more important than the visual presentation. In fact, many people’s handwriting skills began to suffer once they started using typewriters regularly.

According to the New York Times, the typewriter “removed the need for perfect handwriting,” allowing anyone to produce crisp, clear text.[1] Personal letters and correspondence became more straightforward and informal in tone. The typewriter changed written communication to focus more on efficiency over artistry.

While handwriting remained useful for quick notes and short messages, most people preferred the typewriter for longer letters, stories, journals, and other casual writing. The uniformity of typed text improved readability. For personal communication, this helped convey ideas more clearly.


Impact on Handwriting Style

The invention of the typewriter had a significant impact on handwriting styles and penmanship. As typing became more common, especially for business communications, handwriting was practiced less frequently. This led to a decline in overall penmanship skills.

According to the article “How Typewriters Changed Everything” on JSTOR Daily, citing “innumerable tests,” the typewriter was found to save 40 minutes out of an hour of writing time compared to handwriting (Source). As a result, handwriting became less necessary in many workplace settings.

Additionally, the article “The Phenomenology of Writing: Handwriting to Typewriting” on UBC Blogs notes that the typewriter replaced handwriting for most business communications during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Source). With less practice, handwriting skills declined.

Since handwriting was no longer needed for lengthy business letters or documents, handwriting evolved to become faster and less decorative. The ornate cursive and calligraphy styles of the pre-typewriter era gave way to more efficient and simplified handwriting.

Handwriting in Education

Handwriting instruction has been a core part of education for centuries. Cursive writing was taught in American schools beginning in the early 19th century, with styles like Spencerian script becoming popular. By the early 20th century, the Palmer Method became the dominant cursive style taught in schools. Cursive handwriting was usually taught beginning in grade three, and teaching both printing and cursive handwriting continued for the next 40 years.

In the 1980’s, with the rise of personal computers, cursive instruction began to decline. Some schools started teaching italic scripts instead of traditional cursive. By the early 2000s, with digital communication proliferating, many schools dropped cursive instruction altogether. Currently, only 14 states require some cursive writing education. Many argue cursive is an outdated skill, while others contend it still has value for development of motor skills and brain activation.

Debates continue around cursive writing in schools. Proponents argue cursive improves hand-eye coordination, enhances reading skills, engages different parts of the brain, and preserves tradition. Critics say cursive is difficult for some students, unnecessary for digital communication, and time spent learning it takes away from other subjects. The role and prevalence of cursive writing in education continues to evolve.

Gender Differences

Handwriting analysis research has revealed some key differences between male and female handwriting trends. Studies show that girls tend to have neater and more legible handwriting compared to boys starting from a young age ( Neuroimaging studies have also found that men and women use different parts of the brain when handwriting, which may contribute to stylistic variations (

When typewriters gained popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they were initially used more frequently by men, especially in office settings dominated by male employees. However, as more women entered the workforce in clerical and secretarial roles, typewriter usage became more evenly distributed across genders. While typewriters enabled uniformity in business correspondence, some gender differences remained apparent in personal handwritten notes and letters.

Overall, the typewriter had a leveling effect on penmanship between genders in professional domains. But in casual contexts, pre-existing gender variations in handwriting styles largely persisted in the era of widespread typewriter adoption.

Cultural Differences

There were significant regional and cultural differences in handwriting styles and typewriter adoption over the decades. For example, cursive handwriting was more widely adopted and taught in American schools, especially in the early 20th century, compared to countries like Germany where print handwriting was emphasized (Gerwing, 2021). This led to some cultural biases where cursive was seen as fancier and more sophisticated.

The spread of the typewriter did begin to make handwriting more uniform across regions, though local variations persisted. Adoption of the typewriter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also varied greatly between cultures and countries. For example, adoption was very rapid in the United States and Britain where typing was quickly seen as an essential skill, especially for women’s education and secretarial work. However, countries like France and Germany saw much slower adoption and less cultural emphasis on typing skills (How Typewriters Changed Everything, 2017).

Overall, while handwriting maintained distinct regional styles, the typewriter led to increasing uniformity and standardization globally. Cultural attitudes towards handwriting and typing also shifted greatly in the 20th century.

Resurgence of Handwriting

Despite the rise of keyboards and digital devices, handwriting has seen a resurgence in recent years. Many people are rediscovering the cognitive and creative benefits of writing by hand.

Handwritten letters, cards, and notes have made a comeback as people seek to add a personal touch and express themselves creatively through their handwriting. Services like Penpal World have connected thousands of people interested in being handwriting penpals. The popular Bullet Journal method and other paper-based planning systems have spurred interest in decorative handwriting and calligraphy. Hand-lettering is now seen on chalkboards in coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

Schools have begun re-introducing cursive handwriting into their curriculum, recognizing that it helps develop fine motor skills and may aid reading comprehension and memory. Neuroscience research has demonstrated the unique benefits handwriting has for learning and cognitive development, especially in children. Adults are also finding value in journaling and note-taking by hand to boost focus, creativity, and memory.

While digital communication has many advantages, many people still appreciate the personal touch, creativity, and cognitive benefits of handwriting. As we adapt to new technologies, the act of writing by hand endures as an artform with unique expressive and developmental qualities.



As handwriting trends evolved throughout history, the invention of the typewriter in the late 1800s had a significant impact. Its widespread adoption for business writing contributed to a decline in ornate cursive handwriting styles like Spencerian script. The efficiency of typing also led to changes in casual handwriting, with simpler, faster styles becoming more common. While handwriting instruction remained important in schools, the prominence of typing skills increased. Ultimately, the typewriter ushered in major shifts in handwriting aesthetics, formality, gender norms, and education that still resonate today. Even with the dominance of computers, handwriting maintains an ongoing relationship and influence alongside typing. The unique history and craft of handwriting persists despite technological disruptions like the revolutionary typewriter.

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