Will the Art of the Signature Be Lost in the Digital Age?

We use to put pen to paper all the time. Now, penmanship isn't even a priority.

learn more about Deborah Mitchell

By Deborah Mitchell


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, I am amazed at how much time I spend online. Whether I am writing a post for this site or my own blog -- Ready4Air -- banking or sending emails, I write frequently, yet most of the time I never put pen to paper. And while I love my computer, I realize that sometimes I miss the feeling of a pen in my hand rolling across a smooth surface.

When I was a teen, I used to practice my signature all the time. My name, Deborah J. Mitchell, was written on any empty white space you could find in my notebooks. I carefully crafted a large capital D and scribbled the remaining letters of Deborah, then a robust letter J for my middle name, Joyce, topped off with an M that resembled a giant W to start off my last name, Mitchell.

Related: What Your Handwriting May Reveal About Your Confidence, Creativity and Health (Infographic)

This was going to be my fancy signature for when I grew up and had a job, and I did use it. It became my "signature" signature, and I loved it. But I must admit, I don't use my written signature as much these days.

So when I read that a new study of 1,000 U.S. adults reveals that 30 percent of millennials ages 18 to 34 admit they have a "flexible signature," I wasn't surprised. The study by RightSignature, which provides electronic signature software, revealed that 64 percent of these adults say it's because they use a computer all the time, and rarely put pen to paper.

While 61 percent of U.S. adults said they sign something on paper at least once a week, 49 percent admit they sign in a hurry, and 30 percent just scribble something and don't really think about it. Ninety-one percent remember practicing their signature when they were younger, but 45 percent of those ages 18 to 24 said they never learned penmanship, compared to 24 percent over 55.

I only recently learned how to recreate my written signature in electronic form when I needed to sign off on a project immediately and email it back to a client. With a little help from my IT guy, I was able to write my name and copy and paste it onto the online document.

Related: E-Signatures Streamline the Contract Process

Similar to the electronic site I used, RightSignature's online technology allows customers to create a custom signature on documents that looks like it was created with pen and paper. RightSignature spokesman Steve Stormoen says, "When you're signing with a pen and paper, a consistent signature is important. Without even the most basic electronic security measures, the signature's consistent appearance is the only way to establish the identity of the individual."

There is no doubt the electronic signature on the document was mine. However, looking at it, my lifelong signature seemed foreign. I reminded myself of those writers who refused to make the transition from using a typewriter to a computer, claiming that the words flowed better on the typewriter. I know my written signature online is the same, I just miss the process of getting it from here to there. Like those writers, I will eventually come around.

"The handwritten signature is an ancient symbol of uniqueness, authenticity, and trust," Stormoen says. "Today, we write emails instead of letters and even do our most sensitive banking online, but there's still room in the world for an honest, handwritten signature in the world of e-signature software."

As an entrepreneur, how often do you pick up a pen and put it to paper?

Related: 5 Reasons You Should Make the Switch to Electronic Signature Technology

Deborah Mitchell

CEO & Founder, Deborah Mitchell Media Associates

Emmy-nominated network television producer Deborah Mitchell is a veteran of ABC and CBS News, a member of the Producers Guild of America, and a board member of the James Beard Broadcast and Media Awards Committee. Through Deborah Mitchell Media Associates she will create your online personality with a customized website, book you on the right television show, manage your social media profiles and finally connect you with the best and brightest digital influencers. Mitchell is author of So You Want To Be On TV

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