365 Days of Writing – Day 346 – The End of Cursive?

The Art of Writing


WordPress has conspired against me!  I took the unusual step of writing my post in Word, completely separately from this site, so that I could select the Lucinda Handwriting font.  Once you start reading the post, you’ll understand why.  That font, as closely as any can, replicates actual cursive handwriting.  I copied what I wrote and pasted it below prepared to enjoy the appearance of the lovely script on the page.  But no.  Not only does WordPress not offer font options (that I’ve been able to figure out) but you can’t even paste something here in a different font!  If you can, please imagine that what I’ve written below, was offered up in a script, not this dull printed Times New Roman font.

In the future, selecting a font may be the only option our children have if  they want to write in cursive.

Schools  have announced that they will no longer teach cursive writing.

My immediate reaction was sadness.  There is a beauty in cursive that is not present in printing.  The flourishes, the loops, the ascending and descending letters, the slant and the variety of style provide so more interest and character than plain block letters.

Cursive makes taking notes possible.  If you want to get something down quickly, you don’t print it!  First shorthand disappeared, now cursive?  We’re slowing down when we should be accelerating.

Will children who don’t know how to write cursive be able to read it?  What of the historical documents and correspondences written in cursive?  Will those become unintelligible to all but the trained historical handwriting experts?

What about signatures?  Will names be printed?  Perhaps in the future we will no longer be asked to put pen to paper at all. Everything will be electronic – we just speak and a computer does the actual writing.  I hope it doesn’t come to that.  There is something special about sitting with paper and pen and writing – not printing.  You need the flow and speed offered by those connected letters – each character formed with a single movement, the pen never leaving the page.  Yes, I do see the irony in me, a blogger who composes on a computer, complaining about the loss of putting pen to paper but I do 90% of my writing in old fashioned, college ruled, single subject notebooks.

I appreciate  that teaching cursive is time consuming and tedious – the hours of carefully following the dotted lines that form each shape, repeating the movement over and over again until, finally, you master the ‘a’ and it is time to move onto the ‘b’.  Nevertheless, I feel the time spent mastering all our alphabet is worth it.  There is an expression of self that comes through in cursive that is absent in printing.  It is your cursive not your printing that handwriting experts analyze!  No one admires your printing but we all appreciate when someone has lovely penmanship.

The only up side? Your doctor’s writing, printing in future, might finally be more than mysterious chicken scratching on the page.


One thought on “365 Days of Writing – Day 346 – The End of Cursive?

  1. kategladstone December 12, 2013 / 10:18 pm

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iOS app to teach how: named. “Read Cursive,” of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. Why, then, exalt cursive?

    Cursive, as we have it today, is not the only handwriting in which one can get beyond the separate-letters stage. There is, for instance, italic handwriting — the oldest handwriting style still in use for our alphabet. (It was the style of the earliest handwriting textbooks — in the Renaissance era, before the Baroque incursions of relentless joining and looping of letters. In italic, fluent letters join where efficient for handwriting, without a sharp division between “printing” and “cursive.” Examples and instructional materials, early and modern, can be seen at many Internet links: including these — http://www.BFHhandwriting.com, http://www.handwritingsuccess.com, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/hwlesson.html

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague —




    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest.)

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