Are we witnessing the end of the era of handwriting? A survey, published by Otypo (specialized in engraving, signage and printing), conducted on an online questionnaire conducted by Ifop from May 15 to May 16, 2023, and conducted among a sample of 1003 people representative of the French population (aged 18 and over), reveals that 78% of respondents say they write less by hand than ten years ago. According to the percentages recorded, only a minority of our fellow citizens today write more often on paper than with a keyboard. 55% of French people now use the keyboard more than the pen to write on a daily basis and less than one in two French people has written a letter on paper in the last 12 months. The observation is without appeal, emails and text messages have replaced mails.
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New technologies are supplanting "cursive" writing
For several years, the world of work has adapted to the digital age. Only a minority of French people (11%) "write today more often on paper than by means of a keyboard". A quarter (25%) use both pen and keyboard indifferently. Young people write less by hand than seven years ago: only 11% of them say they now write more frequently by hand compared to 14% in 2016.
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The study notes that writing on paper is more preferred among "French people with low qualifications" among whom "we distinguish the most followers of paper" (14% among workers and employees). Conversely, executives will be more likely to use the digital tools at their disposal, they are only 9% of them to write most often on paper. If nearly 8 out of 10 French people believe today to write less by hand than ten years ago, this trend is "more pronounced among executives (85%) than among workers (70%)", notes Ifop.
Towards the end of postcards?
With summer come the beautiful days, and incidentally the postcards that we send to the beings who are close to us. If holidaymakers are often attached to the ritual of the postcard, the figures speak for themselves: less than one in two French people (32%) has written a postcard in the last year, compared to barely more (41%) for the personal letter on paper.
Nevertheless, "all is not lost", according to Ifop. Indeed, the French remain deeply "attached to paper and its benefits in terms of concentration, learning, or simply for the pleasure that writing by hand provides". While they write less with a pen because of the digital age, more than a quarter (26%) "prefer to write on paper than with a keyboard" compared to 25%. And, not insignificant, they are 40% to like both means of writing, indifferently. "These results, at first glance counterintuitive in an ultra-digitized society, testify to the deep attachment of the French to handwriting, undoubtedly aware of its virtues for concentration, learning and memorization," the publication continues.
Among young people, this preference for paper has evolved: "they also prefer to write on paper (for 31% of them) while they favored the keyboard in 2016)," says the survey.
Writing, a handicap for many French people
Although attached to paper, "cursive" writing has been a handicap for many French people, "both during schooling and in the professional sphere". Especially on the side of men who are 38% to consider that their own writing has been "the subject of criticism from teachers or students", against only 23% of women. A handicap that earned them lower points at school, estimated 33% of them, compared to 22% of women.
A difficulty that has, surprisingly, continued in the professional context for 14% of them, against half as much for women. Some (13%) have also given up a job offer that required a handwritten letter.
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Finally, the survey shows the growing interest of the French in inclusive writing, even if they are extremely divided on the subject. On this point, the women interviewed are more favourable than men (55%) "in view of the progress it represents in terms of gender equality". Among the 1003 respondents, 51% consider positively the use of the midpoint in official and administrative documents. On the other hand, they are to a lower degree for professional and private exchanges (49%), concludes the study.