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Young learners have a few key milestones they reach—there’s learning to read, figuring out the basics of math, and writing out the letters of the alphabet. The first time you were able to write your name was a proud moment. Your handwriting only got better as you practiced, carefully writing out letters in pencil, filling out those lined papers. As you got older, cursive became a fun challenge with all those swooping Fs, crossed Ts, tricky Qs, and sloping Ss. It was hard, but once learned it was a skill to be proud of and shown off in letters, Christmas cards, and signatures. These days, though, the fine art of penmanship is slowly disappearing. This isn’t just a tragedy for handwritten thank you notes, but is having actual consequences in the business world. 

In the past, it was just doctors who were renowned for their bad handwriting, but as penmanship classes make way for computer science in schools, hard-to-reading handwriting is becoming increasingly common. A new survey looked at the use of handwriting in both professional and personal situations and found that one in two people have been told by others that their handwriting is hard to read.

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The survey of 2,000 Americans was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Bic USA Inc., because naturally, the pen makers are concerned about the state of handwriting. The handwriting survey also found that most people have experienced two instances in their professional life where their handwriting led to a miscommunication or caused a real problem. As the New York Post reports, Even more interestingly, 45 percent of Americans struggle to read their own handwriting. That’s a far cry from the pride in penmanship most of us felt when we first learned to write.

Unfortunately, learning to write by hand is disappearing too—Bic notes that these days, 25% of the United States student population is not proficient in handwriting. That is creating problems in the workplace. According the survey, as many as seven in 10 people said they often have to struggle to read a co-worker’s handwriting. People are aware of their weakness, too: 23 percent of the survey respondents said they would be terrified at the idea of having to write on a board in front of colleagues and 2/3 said even the notion of it gave them anxiety.

While bad handwriting can make an impact in the work, handwriting was most misread in daily lives—on grocery lists, greeting or holiday cards, and thank-you notes. That’s a good reminder that the next time you’re sending out Christmas cards or saying thank you for a lovely dinner party, take care to remember your handwriting lessons from school to make sure your message is clear.

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