The Impact Of War On Handwriting Trends

War has a profound impact on society and culture. Throughout history, wars have fundamentally changed the ways people live, think, and interact with one another. Major conflicts like World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War disrupted everyday life and led to shifts in social views and behaviors. From changes in fashion and language to the breakdown of class structures and gender roles, wars force cultures to adapt and evolve. Economic instability, rationing and shortages, policy changes, and ideological clashes all contribute to deeper cultural transformations. Even in times of peace, the residual effects of past conflicts continue to shape national identities and values. This examination of handwriting trends will demonstrate how wars directly alter habits, customs, and communication styles, with ramifications that often persist for generations.

WWI’s Influence on Handwriting

World War I had a significant impact on handwriting trends due to the unique conditions of trench warfare. Soldiers fighting on the Western Front lived in muddy, crowded trenches for extended periods of time. Writing letters home provided a vital emotional connection to loved ones, but the poor conditions posed challenges. Trench pens were specifically designed to write under rainy, cold conditions but legibility remained a struggle.

Soldiers writing home from the trenches needed to focus on writing neatly and legibly in order for letters to be read by recipients back home. The trenches were often filled with water, dirt, and mud which could smudge regular writing. Soldiers adapted by writing slowly and carefully printing letters instead of using cursive script. They shielded paper and gripped pencils firmly to maintain legibility ( This emphasis on clear, legible handwriting influenced wider handwriting styles and instruction after the war.

WWII Rationing’s Effect on Handwriting

During World War II, widespread rationing was introduced in the United States and the United Kingdom due to shortages of key resources needed for the war effort. Materials like paper, ink, rubber, leather, and metals were carefully rationed in order to supply the military and war industries. According to the National WWII Museum, the War Production Board placed strict rules on the amounts of paper that could be purchased by consumers and businesses.

This rationing of paper and writing supplies greatly impacted handwriting trends. With limited amounts of paper and ink, people were forced to write smaller and more efficiently. Correspondence and note-taking adopted a minimalist style out of necessity. Any flourishes or embellishments were seen as wasteful and frivolous during wartime rationing. Additionally, the quality of paper and ink declined, which made fine penmanship more difficult. However, the sparse, compact handwriting that emerged aligned with the restrained, practical mood of a nation at war.

Post-WWII Handwriting Trends

After World War II ended in 1945, countries began rebuilding and economies started to prosper again. With increased wealth and leisure time, handwriting styles became more ornate and embellished once more. Copperplate and Spencerian scripts came back into fashion, reminiscent of Victorian times.

According to the article “A History of Handwriting” on Hazel Stainer’s blog, “With resources aplenty, Victorian-style loops and curls became fashionable. However, the letters were generally slimmer and sat closer to the bottom line than in previous Victorian handwriting”


As society focused again on beauty and artistry, structured handwriting styles with flourishing capitals and swashes regained popularity among the middle and upper classes. Calligraphy also saw a resurgence, often used for invitations, diplomas, and certificates.

The Impact of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War coincided with growing counterculture movements across America. Young people increasingly rejected traditional values and norms, with messier, more expressive handwriting reflecting these cultural shifts. Soldiers in Vietnam often adopted a more casual, emotive writing style in letters home. As Corbin (2000) analyzes, letters and diaries kept by Vietnam veterans demonstrate more “raw” and authentic writing than previous wars. The trauma and emotional weight of their experiences come across through less constrained, more personalized penmanship.

Handwriting from the Vietnam era tended to feature less formal cursive styles. Younger generations adopted more print-based writing as they pushed back against rigid expectations. The distinctive hippie subcultures and anti-war movements of the 1960s encouraged freer forms of expression. For Vietnam soldiers, their loose handwriting mirrored the chaos and confusion of warfare. The fallout from the war fed into growing distrust in government, with handwriting trends reflecting wider questioning of traditional authorities.

The Digital Age

The introduction of computers in the 1980s saw a sharp decline in the necessity of handwriting. With personal computers, word processors, and eventually email and online messaging becoming widespread and mainstream, people no longer needed to handwrite letters, notes, or other documents as frequently. Typing on a keyboard overtook handwriting as the primary way of creating and sharing written material for most people (1).

As children began using computers regularly in school and at home, the importance placed on teaching and developing good handwriting declined. Many schools reduced the time spent practicing handwriting and cursive, focusing more on developing typing skills. While some argued this was a loss of an important skill that aids cognitive development and learning, others felt handwriting was simply no longer as essential in the digital age (2).

Advancements in technology allowing written communication without handwriting were incredibly rapid. Within a few decades, handwriting went from the main way people wrote to an infrequently used skill for the majority of the population. The digitization of written material further reduced the need for handwriting in daily life (3).


Nostalgia for Handwriting

In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation for handwriting as an artform. As we’ve shifted to typing on screens and devices, many people feel a sense of nostalgia for the lost art of handwriting. Beautiful penmanship and calligraphy evoke feelings of simpler times. According to research, calligraphy as art catches our attention and demands our focus. The artist’s goals are to invoke a more profound reaction and appreciation for the written word.

Handwritten letters and notes carry more meaning in our digital world. The time and care put into crafted handwriting makes it special. Calligraphy and hand lettering have seen a revival as art hobbies and small businesses. Social media has allowed calligraphers to share their creations with a wider audience. While we may use screens for efficiency, research shows humans emotionally connect with handwriting in a way that digital type cannot replace.

Handwriting in Wartime Now

In the modern era, soldiers continue the tradition of handwriting letters home during wartime as a way to stay connected to loved ones. Even with technology like email readily available, many soldiers still choose to sit down and hand write heartfelt letters. Organizations like Operation Gratitude encourage the public to write handwritten letters of support to deployed troops. Receiving these personal letters boosts morale for those serving far from home.

The handwritten letter represents a tangible connection to home that a soldier can hold and re-read for comfort. Though typing may be faster, taking the time to hand write a letter adds meaning and thoughtfulness. The very act of writing by hand seems to inspire soldiers to express intimate details, hopes, fears and affection in their correspondence home during wartime. These letters become treasured keepsakes for both the soldiers and recipients, documenting profound experiences of war and sacrifice.

The Future of Handwriting

While some may argue handwriting is becoming obsolete in the digital age, studies show it still plays an important role in learning and development. According to research from Princeton University and UCLA, writing by hand boosts learning and creative thinking in ways that typing cannot ( Handwriting engages the brain’s prefrontal cortex in a deeper way, improving idea generation, memory, and analytical thinking.

Handwriting is also shown to improve reading comprehension and fine motor skills in children ( Many schools are bringing back cursive and handwriting instruction to combat negative effects of excessive technology use. Handwriting may become a specialty skill, but will likely persist in creative fields, education, and personal communication.

Looking ahead, some predict handwriting will evolve into an artform or nostalgic practice, while remaining important for special occasions like weddings, graduations, and heartfelt letters ( Rather than disappearing, handwriting may take on new significance as a deliberate, mindful act in a fast-paced digital world.


In summary, handwriting has historically been influenced by wartime trends and constraints. WWI led to simplified handwriting to increase writing speed for soldiers. WWII rationing reduced access to quality writing materials, impacting penmanship. Post-war, handwriting remained relatively consistent until the late 20th century digital revolution. Today, many view handwriting as nostalgic while digital communication dominates. Yet the personal touch of handwriting endures for letters, cards, journals, and other keepsakes. Through the decades, handwriting has evolved yet remained important for self-expression and human connection during times of war and peace.

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