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You Can Read This Headline, Right?

This is a big, big week. First, on Monday, we celebrated a holiday honoring civil-rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr. Then on Tuesday, the country was transfixed by the inauguration of our 44th president, Barack Obama.

And of course, as everyone in America knows, Friday is National Handwriting Day.

All right, almost no one knows about Handwriting Day, possibly because almost no one writes anything in longhand any more, other than a signature on a bank check or a contract.

As a result, penmanship, with its carefully constructed loops and swirls and perfectly aligned serifs, is pretty much a historical artifact - a curiosity found in old, yellowed documents in museums. Many Americans cannot even decipher their own handwriting any more.

So Friday will be a tough, tough day for Kitty Burns Florey. She's a writer in Connecticut - writer, as in actually gripping a fountain pen with her thumb and index finger and scratching beautiful letters in her journal and handwritten scripts that turn into books.

One of those books, her newest, is titled Script and Scribble. Americans know all about scribble and not much about script, or the handwritten flourishes like the ones on which Roman Catholic nuns drilled Kitty Burns Florey, over and over and over again, in school. Nowadays, as Florey points out, in first grade kids learn how to print block letters and not much more. The rest of their lives, they tap on computers and handheld text devices.

Script and Scribble includes all kinds of stories about handwriting. Did you know, for instance, that all the fuss about whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays for which he is credited arose because none of his manuscripts survived? All we have is his signature.

Florey points out that writing by hand takes some of our precious time, a degree of thinking, and even contemplation, which is why people still usually write diary entries in longhand. Other than those checks and contracts, that's about it for the truly written word.

We don't write. We keyboard.

[Script and Scribble, by Kitty Burns Florey, is published by Melville House.]

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.