When I was in kiddy hell elementary school, we had prissy writing penmanship classes. I don’t know if you whippersnappers kids these days still have it, given how everyone got lazy uses computers and handwriting is now something only old fogeys cared for an atrophying art. But the guys with the cleanest handwritten works were considered wusses got the best grades.

Hard to imagine being messy when you’re using a computer. And yet here it is. More and more online blogs are using the annoying slash thing strikethrough, and it’s becoming a norm now, even for the bigtime writers.

First, the Open Source Development Lab lays off a third of its staff in December. Now it’s merging with the Free Software Standards Foundation Group in a deal that may have been brokered by IBM, HP and Intel. – Larry Dignan, “Linux Matures,” Between the Lines, ZDNet

So just when did being sloppy the strikethrough become legit for public consumption?

Tech writer Jason de Villa used the strikethrough at least once in a print column, a couple of years ago at MPH Magazine (now Mobile Magazine). I thought it was cute, although I assumed it was more a novelty than anything else. I’ve seen it a couple of other times as well, in print, and it was rare enough to be amusing rather than annoying. It was a fun way to subvert the politeness of the printed page and get the occasional uncharacteristically-sarcastic point across.

The dosage was fine back then. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before bloggers too began discovering the html strikethrough command, <strike>. Suddenly, the strikethough became a cool way to say what you really thought… without subjecting you to lawsuits. It become an institutionalization of the subtext as a means of expression. You no longer have to read what’s between the lines; you simply read what’s underneath that infernal line.

Now I probably wouldn’t mind if the strikethrough was an aesthetically pleasing format in the first place, like bold or italic. Unfortunately, it’s a STRIKEthrough. It was originally INTENDED to be ugly, to stand out from the page, like a sore thumb, so that editors can wipe the text out of existence. And yet we’re now actually institutionalizing it for mass consumption.

Case in point: in WordPress, the strikethrough button now occupies prime real estate, right next to –horror of horrors– the more socially acceptable bold and italic buttons! So it looks like I’ll have to get used to it.

Thus far the visual blight is confined to opinion pieces, thank goodness. But imagine how the world would be if your friendly neighborhood newspapers began using the strikethrough even on their headlines as a way of getting away with potentially libelous thoughts… sheesh. My old penmanship teacher would be having fits.