The Art of the Handwritten Note

By now, you probably heard about Sarah Palin’s Tea Party cheat sheet — notes scribbled on her hand to help her get through a grueling Q&A session with the world’s friendliest audience. (At least if you’re a gorgeous Republican.) The markings on the hand seemed to read:

Budget Tax cuts
Lift American Spirits

I’m not passing judgment on the necessity of writing notes to one’s self. We all fear public speaking, and it’s helpful to have a prompt in case we find ourselves struggling for a starting point. No, I’m simply offering Mrs. Palin some tips on effective flesh scribbling to help her avoid the unnecessary ado that accompanied her recent event. I’m convinced the media swirl surrounding her ink-stained hand could have been avoided had she simple followed these simple tips:

  1. If you need to write notes on your hands, do not mock your enemy for using a teleprompter. The teleprompter is a fixture in modern politics, so there’s little cache in ridiculing someone’s use of them. There’s even less cache when you deliver the line while you yourself are reading from a printed speech, and your hand looks like you’ve been struggling to compose a valentines haiku. Maybe next time the hand-scribble should include, “avoid hypocrisy”.
  2. The note should be about something challenging to recall. For instance, if you expected to have to handle a question about the economic bailout, you might write, “Toxic Asset Recovery Program” on your hand so that you don’t mistakenly name the R word as “relocation”, changing the meaning considerably. But “Lift American Spirits”? Isn’t that an essential part of your political raison d’etre? Do you need to remind yourself to talk about the American people? Apparently.
  3. Don’t write your cheat sheet until you know exactly what you plan to cheat with. By all appearances, the former Governor wrote “Budget cuts”, then crossed out “budget” and replaced it with “tax”. Seven words on the hand, and one of them had to be crossed out. That’s a 14% failure rate on a note to yourself. A little prep can go a long way.

I suspect Sarah Palin has a few public speaking engagements scheduled in the next few years, so hopefully this advice will help her keep the media focusing on what’s in her head, not what’s on her hands. (Assuming that’s what she wants them to focus on.)

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