Return to Analog: Why pen and paper still matter for some Torontonians

Sending a birthday greeting, making a list or keeping an agenda are all things that can be done on a smartphone. But many people are still seeking out pen and paper to have tangible copies of writing.

When it comes to journaling or letter-writing, sometimes smartphones just don't cut it

Wonder Pens' owner Jon Chan says there's still a huge interest in the perfect pen and paper combination. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

Sending a birthday greeting, making a list or keeping an agenda are all things that can be done on a smartphone. But many people are still seeking out pen and paper to have tangible copies of writing.

Jon Chan at Wonder Pens, a stationery shop on Clinton Street in Little Italy, says pen and paper is all about connecting people.

"Emails get lost, you're going to leave them in your inbox, but letters you'll put in a box. And you'll refer to them and they'll be really special memories you'll always have," Chan says.

"Handwriting makes you slow down to think about what you're actually writing."

One local stationary shop says says in the last five years, there's been an increase in the number of people writing letters and journaling. 2:20

The family-owned business focuses on selling high quality fountain pens, stationery, ink and journals. It also sets customers up with pen pals once a year and hosts letter-writing events.

Chan says that in the last five years of business, he's seen an increase in the number of people writing their thoughts down.

"There are many methods out there," he says.

And while many people visit his shop looking for guidance as they embrace journaling for the first time, he thinks pen and paper will continue to be relevant in our technology driven society.

"I think it's really important that we still keep pen and paper. I don't think there's anything right now that's replaced it."

'People love receiving the written word'

Susan Mentis with the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto says there are many different types of courses out there for lettering art.

"We teach italic handwriting, we teach copperplate handwriting, we have workshops on book making and decorating paper, which translates to how you can write on and make journals," Mentis says.

Susan Mentis with the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto says they've been teaching courses in lettering for 45 years in Ontario. (James Morrison/CBC)

Mentis observes that beautiful lettering is all over our city — such as on chalkboards at businesses — and it's a creative outlet that brings joy to others.

"People love receiving written word. That's why we have so many people interested in taking courses with it," she says.

The Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto teaches courses on different types of lettering and journal making. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

"They want to learn how to communicate in a way that's from the past, but is also still really current."

Getting more children handwriting

Ruth Rumack of Ruth Rumack's Learning Space is passionate about keeping the written word alive among youth, specifically penmanship and cursive writing.

"We make sure that when we work one-on-one with our students, we're practising penmanship and fine motor control, because that's what's important," Rumack says.

Ruth Rumack's Learning Space aims to keep children's handwriting and penmanship skills up to par at a time when many of them are primarily typing on computers. (Submitted/Ruth Rumack's Learning Space)

The centre teaches children Grades 3 and up. Rumack is concerned that as more technology is brought into the classroom, not enough attention is paid to handwriting.

"It's the idea of connecting letters that's beneficial to the brain. And as you're connecting letters you're able to write faster and it's more efficient." Rumack says.

She also stresses the importance of kids being able to read handwriting, so that everyone is able to interpret sentimental handwritten notes.

"All those letters from grandparents that you go through [in] the attic or a big box and you find something really meaningful from your family, we'll lose the ability to have that connection with history."

Read more from CBC Toronto's Return to Analog series:

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