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We all take writing for granted. We’ve been taught how to do it from a young age. It’s now considered a right for everyone to learn how to write. Governments push for the ability for everyone to know how to read and write. In 1820, only 12% of the world population was able to read and write. Today, it’s quite the opposite as only 17% of the global population is illiterate.  

With that said, things were very different in the old days. In the old times, not everyone knew how to write. In fact, it was a privilege set aside for a select few. Let’s look at what writing was like in the 18th century.

How was the process of learning to write in the 18th-century

Writing in this time period was tough. It was expensive, technical and complex. It required some tools that many people in those times could not access. It’s crazy when you think about it today.

In countries like the US, writing was brought about by the early colonists, each with a different method taken from their native lands. It’s because of the reasons stated earlier that reading and writing were taught in different ages.

Children would normally be taught how to read first and then they’d learn how to write. The age in which children at the time would start to learn to read was age 4 to 7 with writing being taught at age 9 to 12. The delay was done on purpose to give kids the time to develop the necessary skills to learn how to use a quill pen.

Using a quill pen was truly a skill and quite different from using the ballpoint pen that’s common today. Another challenge that was faced at the time was using the quill pen to write in cursive or script. This was the common form of writing at the time and it was what was expected from those that learned this skill.

Writing in the 18th century would be taught by professionals known as writing masters. Something that we can easily relate with online expert writers today working for best essay writing service.

One of the more famous writing masters was John Jenkins and he was famous for revolutionizing the way handwriting was taught. It was not surprising at the time to find people in different occupations or different groups having a distinct writing style.

Who was supposed to know how to write in the 18th century

Believe it or not, in the 18th-century reading and writing was not taught to everyone. For instance, in the US, everyone was expected to know how to read the bible.

It’s because of this that anyone who chose to migrate into the country would be required to learn how to read. Writing, on the other hand, was only chosen for a select few, noble men and women.

The ability to write was only reserved for the wealthy and their secretaries, merchants, and their clerks as well as professionals.

The race also played a factor in who could learn how to write; this is the 18th century after all. Reading was expected because of its perceived spiritual importance. Regardless of your race, gender, or class, you’d learn to read.

This is why some slaves knew how to read. Slaves learning to read was not commonplace as some owners chose not to educate them with the fear that they’d stage an uprising. Writing was reserved for white people of both sexes with the likelihood being increased for the elite class.

Knowing how to write was crucial for men of business and trade. At the time, good handwriting was tied to the reputation and credit of the merchant. The type and kind of writing was also distinct, depending on the profession.

For instance, businessmen were expected to write quickly and so their letters were sloped and connected to each other. Gentlemen, on the other hand, were expected to have proper handwriting that was effortless and easy.

For women, writing was not considered compulsory until the later parts of the eighteenth century. It would get taught as an accomplishment alongside other skills that were considered important such as needlework and music.


Writing in the era of George Washington is not how we know it today. It was reserved for the elite whites and was a skill that took time to learn. It was also taught differently depending on the profession that you were expected to take once you came of age.

Author Bio

Jack White is a renowned writer, editor, and proofreader working as a freelance writer mainly for startups and online writing services. He also works as a reviewer for online essay services, grammar tools, and writing apps. His latest work is