Cursive fans attempt, fail to prove cursive is necessary

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94 Responses to “Cursive fans attempt, fail to prove cursive is necessary”

  1. chip says:

    3000BC (Sumer): Damn kids today with their fancy new cuneiform. Back in my day, we painted pictures on cave walls and passed information orally. These new-fangled clay tablets have no soul.

    1850BC (Egypt): Damn kids today with their Semitic alphabet. Back in my day, we used pictograms and we liked it! These new-fangled vowels and consonants have no soul.

    200BC (China): Damn kids today with their paper. Back in my day, we painted our words onto cloth or carved them into tablets. This cheap disposable medium has no soul.

    1400AD (Korea): Damn kids today with their phonetic alphabet. Back in my day, we used logograms and we liked it! This new, mechanically-printable alphabet has no soul.

    2011AD (Boingboing): Damn kids today with their block letters. Back in my day, we wrote all curly-like, and we liked it! This keyboard-friendly print alphabet has no soul.

    Stop being silly and kill off cursive already. It is redundant and inefficient and wastes teaching resources. We’ve abandoned LOTS of less-efficient writing systems and methods in the past, and you know what? Nothing bad happened.

  2. Antinous / Moderator says:

    In the future, society will be divided into warring Papyrus and Comic Sans factions.

  3. phisrow says:

    The NYT? Print a tedious and more-than-vaguely sanctimonious article about some “trend”? Couldn’t be.

    So, let’s see: zOMG, cursive hones fine-motor skills! Try an art class. Or a video game.

    Cursive is vital for reading historical documents! Shockingly enough, historical documents are typically available in print editions. Even better, unlike translation, simple transcription from cursive to print doesn’t mangle the meaning. Arguably Latin, Greek, Middle English, Old English, French, German, Aramaic, and one or two others I am forgetting are thus of higher priority than cursive.

    Forgery: I’ll put my cryptographic signature in block capitals up against anybody’s fancy-and-oh-so-traceable swirly signature any day.

    Beauty: Aside from being subjective, emotive drivel, this one ignores the fact that most cursive is utilitarian high-speed scrawl. If you want attractive text, learn your LaTex.

  4. the_headless_rabbit says:

    As someone who is dyslexic, I welcome the death of cursive.
    I have never been able to read handwriting, it just looks like scribbles to me. If you want to text to be legible, either print or type.

    Several years ago, I had one of those moments that made me feel really old.I was volunteering in a classroom, and the teachers was teaching calligraphy.
    Back in grade 5, I had to learn calligraphy with special markers, and I actually sort of remembered it, so I thought that with my prior knowledge, I would be useful for this lesson.

    The teacher fired up powerpoint:

    “This is how we do calligraphy.
    Type in the message.
    *type type type*
    Ok, now we highlight the text. Click here where it says ‘font’ and scroll down until you see…”

    Immediately, I started thinking, “back in my day, we did this by hand. Damn…I’m old!”

    I guess cursive is next on the list of obsolete skills.

  5. YarbroughFair says:

    Maggie, we’re all dieing Sunday 5/1, too bad kids won’t be able to write SOS messages to leave floating in glass Coke bottles suspended in space.

  6. princeminski says:

    Apparently I’m the only one old enough to be shocked to find that somebody who was required to write in cursive on a college-level exam couldn’t remember how to do it because she signs her name in block letters. Jesus. My community college students are discouraged from turning in handwritten assignments by my department head. Never again. In the Seventies people were saying that literacy was irrelevant because of computers. They were wrong then and you little androids above are wrong now.

    • Chevan says:

      I’m sorry, making our own decisions about the worth of skills makes us androids, and following the conventional wisdom that knowing a certain writing style somehow makes you a better person DOESN’T make us one?

      I think you’ve got that backwards.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Slow Heat Death Of The Universe Or Something is an excellent band name.

  8. grimc says:

    Who needs to learn long division when calculators are everywhere?

  9. mxjohnson says:

    Cursive is awesome. Children should learn it, not printing, in kindergarten. Modeling our written language on what’s most efficient for typewriters & letterpresses may seem appropriate to a grownup, but with children we owe it to them to look at how cursive writing affects cognition and brain development. Which, you know, it does.

    I don’t care a whit about the aesthetics of cursive writing, or being able to read old letters. Texting and the abbreviations that go with it are good for literacy. But should my child be forced into printing because seventy years ago it seemed like the most efficient way to introduce children to mass printed material?

    Words are magic. When you write in cursive, you write words. When you print, you print strings of letters. They’re not the same.

    • Sisuile says:

      I think the comment about cursive teaching words is solid. My good hand is cursive, which would totally surprise my 2nd grade teacher. She despaired of ever getting me to write ‘properly’. I found out that they’re not teaching cursive writing in schools when my niece couldn’t read the labels on the Christmas presents, and I had made sure to write in a clear D’neilian hand because it is so close to print. Because there are still people who use it, not teaching people how to read it, if not write it, is going to be a problem for a while.

      The Happy Mutants here present may be self-selecting for industries that primarily use computers rather than scripts. I have to write in a neat script when I’m writing contracts, but it also has to be written quickly – my clients want to see what I’m writing about as fast as it comes out of my pen, but they also want to be there as I’m writing it, not wait until we all get to a printer and a scanner. I have to keep one ballpoint in my purse for use on carbon copies (yes, people still sometimes use them!), but I generally write with gel pens or a fountain pen because they are easier on the hand.

    • Anonymous says:

      Separating letters is not a convenience for typewriters; it predates Gutenberg. Cursive developed for writing quickly, and printing for writing legibly. The difference is who you want to convenience.

      As for me, when I compare at Chinese (where characters are always separate) and Arabic (where letters are always tied), I find the former is somehow easier to parse even though it as over 1500 times as many symbols. If you want that kind of magic in English, go all out and learn shorthand.

    • rks1157 says:

      I agree. I suffered through grade school under the whip of the teacher who couldn’t teach me cursive. As messed up as those memories are I always envied those who made it seem effortless in contrast to my painful scrawl. It wasn’t until later in life that I forced myself to improve my cursive.

      I too use a tablet and my number one app is WritePad… A handwriting recoginition app that works eerily well even with cursive. For me it feels more natural than typing and I am a fast typist. I truly believe that I think differently when communicating by the cursive word though I don’t know that there is any science behind it.

      If kids were exposed to cursive early enough I think they’d learn it faster. Do they “need it” probably not but I am glad that I took the time to learn it. I suspect that the nay-sayers had similar bad learning experiences.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It wasn’t until I became an English teacher in Japan did I realize that cursive is actually dying. It seems that only my students that are 45 y/o and above know how to use cursive. Actually, they can do so better than myself! I learned to write cursive in grade school, but ended up using a hybrid of printing and cursive thereafter. My handwriting has since evolved to rid of it altogether. Let’s not even mention my signature!

  11. Skep says:

    Well, frankly, the ball point pen was the aesthetic end of cursive writing. Without a nib pen to give cursive writing its contrasting and elegant variations in thickness, Palmer cursive is an ugly abomination, a vestigial writing style that requires kids to learn two entirely separate writing styles.

    The modern system based on Renaissance italic writing is a much more attractive choice. And it is taught as a print hand and turns easily into a running hand.

    Good bye ugly Palmer cursive. Don’t let the door hit you…

  12. Chevan says:

    Cursive has always struck me as a formalized system of the exact same sloppy, half-assed letters you end up writing when you rush through individual print letters.

    Seriously, I have shit handwriting. I also write in print. When I look back over my notes from transcription-heavy classes, I pretty much can’t tell the difference between my hasty print and what I’d get if I’d set out to write in cursive.

    So if I’m going to learn anyone’s sloppy shorthand, I want it to be my own. Learning cursive is just learning someone else’s shortcuts.

  13. KateGladstone says:

    Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter? 

    Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation on request.) 

    Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it. 

    Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    Director, the World Handwriting Contest
    Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

  14. erata says:

    College student here, and I’ve got to say letters written in cursives have a je-ne-sais-quoi that does it better for me.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness, I remember learning it in grade four (I’ll admit, that’s not that many years ago) and how frustrating it was as a left-handed kid. Printing in any sort of paper collection except a single flat sheet is already horribly uncomfortable and difficult with your left hand, the idea of having to make the letters joined without re-adjusting said hand every second is even worse. Especially when it needs to be done in ink, so then you have to add hovering your hand above the page or curling it so it’s on top, I’m becoming irritated just thinking of all those days my aching hand spent on sub-par cursive. Begone!

  16. Chuck says:

    I’d pen a stern missive and march it down to the post the first thing in the morning if I knew your address.

    And I’ll have you know I hand-drafted this comment before transcribing it here.

  17. Rob Knop says:

    I have bad news.

    The slow heat death of the Universe is going to happen anyway.

  18. Sekino says:

    If Richard S. Christen is so worried about aesthetics, he could help campaign for better art education in school instead of losing time whining about cursive.

    I went to school where most of the teachers were nuns and wrote in this perfectly tight cursive. Judging from the interior decorating (plastic roses and velvet-painting Jesuses and kittens) and the art class projects (a mere few steps above pasta collage), aesthetic sense wasn’t exactly oozing out their pores.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Cursive is the gentleman’s script. Talk amongst yourselves.

  20. Ean Moody says:

    The most telling sentence from this article:

    “I’m not used to reading cursive or writing it myself.”

    Younger people don’t care about cursive because it simply isn’t part of daily life anymore. New content in cursive is increasingly rare, and the ability to read cursive is quickly becoming a specialty skill for those who study historical documents.

    The only real reason for cursive in the first place was that it worked better than print with early, sharp-nibbed pens. In those days, it totally made sense. The ball point has rendered cursive obsolete, much as the calculator has to reading a slide rule.

    Forcing people to waste valuable time on an obsolete skill like cursive is a tremendous error today, despite its incredible importance 50-100 years ago. At this point focus should be shifted to something useful and relevant: logic, programming, engineering, algebra, art, design… how to properly use apostrophes and quotation marks! (hint: They are “not” intended to be used for emphasis.) They should also remember that even these skills may someday become obsolete and lose their place in the classroom.

    • Anonymous says:

      “The only real reason for cursive in the first place was that it worked better than print with early, sharp-nibbed pens.”

      Not true. The reason for cursive is that it’s faster. In fact that’s the very definition of the word.

      One of the reasons a lot of people dislike cursive (and handwriting in general) is that ballpoint pens are horrid to write with, regardless of style. You have to keep them relatively upright, and use a surprising amount of pressure for them to work properly. That causes you to unconsciously grip the pen tightly, and give yourself a sore hand. Ever have to shake a cramp out of your hand during an exam? That’s why.

      I discovered fountain pens a while back. More particularly, that writing with one doesn’t require any pressure, and you can use them at a much lower angle than a ballpoint. Now I enjoy writing notes by hand. Used to hate it.

      That said: graphology is total crap.

  21. oldtaku says:

    I wasted my time learning cursive in grade school – we all did, it was the times!

    It’s as ‘necessary’ as learning how to do an illuminated manuscript. And it’s not a fine art, it’s printing for lazy people.

    I know a lady with beautiful cursive… oh my gosh it’s picture perfect. Unfortunately, it’s not as beautiful or legible as her block printing, where the clean lines can really shine through instead of being constricted to a ‘don’t leave the page’ formula.

    This is the same for me, though beautiful doesn’t apply in either case. I won’t be mourning its death in the slightest.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I was taught cursive. I can barely read my Grandmother’s diary, though, because it’s all scribbles. In real life, fine printing is more beautiful than most cursive.

  23. therationalpi says:

    I’m a twenty-three year old graduate student, and I always write in cursive. I actually took a good deal of time to practice my writing so it would be a beautiful italic cursive. I’ve gotten a bit sloppy since my prime, but it still looks quite nice.

    But is it important to learn how to write in cursive? Hell no.

    • Quiet Wyatt says:

      Funny that you mention being a grad student. I recently attended grad school after a long 14 post-undergrad years, so of course I had to take the GRE.

      At the end of the GRE, I had to write out — *in cursive* — an honor pledge or oath or somesuch, stating that I had not cheated nor received assistance, blah blah blah. It was explicitly required that this pledge be written in cursive, NOT print.

      It was surprisingly hard at age 36 to remember how to write in a style I had abandoned at least 20 years earlier. Fortunately, muscle memory came through in the pinch, but I definitely faked a few of the capital letters!

  24. imnothere says:

    Yes, cursive may not be necessary in this day and age, But i’m with the fans, even though my handwriting is atrocious. I learned in the 2nd grade (catholic school), and then again in the 3rd grade (public school). Like it or hate it, I find it hard to believe that people can’t read it. Also, the loss of this skill means the loss of a rhythm of writing and thus a rhythm/tempo of expressing ideas – like the typewriter changed the rhythm of lit and the computer affected the same. I don’t think this is bad or good – just an evolution of expression…now, where’s my manual ink filled writey stick?

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused. What do you guys mean by “cursive”? My dictionary tells me that it’s what I (a Brit) would called “joined-up writing”, i.e. joining each letter to the next.

    But from what people are saying, I wonder whether you’re actually using “cursive” to refer to a particular style of it, like the quite ornate one in the NYT article. And I know that I sometimes have trouble reading the handwriting of older Americans, because of its sheer curly squiggliness.

    Is the point that kids are no longer joining each letter to the next, or that there’s a particular classic style they’re not adopting?

  26. Pag says:

    I write cursive daily. It’s not for style, it’s not for nostalgia, it’s because I write faster that way. If you take notes regularly (in meetings, in class, while brainstorming, etc.), learning cursive is worth it just for the efficiency boost.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Must the ability to do something be “necessary” to have value? That’s really the problem I have.

    Personally, I love cursive writing and calligraphy, but I also recognize that I’m in the minority. Is it necessary that I hone those skills? No, not at all. Is it gratifying? Sure, for me. Should everyone learn how to do it? No more than everyone should learn how to play the piano.

  28. Rob O. says:

    The ability to write without the aid of a machine is a fundamental human capability, not quaint nostalgia.

    Taking notes on a notebook is -not- cognitively the same as taking notes by hand, regardless of whether the handwritten notes are printed, cursive, or some funky hybrid.

    It just amazes me that the mindset of “technology has to be good for kids, so let’s shovel it at them” has become a societal norm with barely a shred of solid evidence that technology actually does boost academic achievement.

  29. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Jeez. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursive

    Calling it joined-up writing sounds a bit like calling a pen a writey stick.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, that’s kind of the point: the phrase “joined-up writing” has a comic ring to it even here, because it’s what you learn to do with your writey stick when you’re little. It’s a phrase that belongs firmly in childhood, and you’ll hardly ever hear it again for the rest of your life.

      So that’s why I’m unsure that I’m understanding correctly what the article and comments mean by “cursive” – whether it’s a particular calligraphic style, or whether it really is just the basic thing of joining consecutive letters. Also, I don’t know whether the style exhibited by the kid in the photo – which looks pretty fancy to me – is actually just the way that American kids are taught to write.

  30. Donald Petersen says:

    Don’t care what y’all do, but I like cursive and my kids’ll learn it from me if they don’t learn it in school. If they never use it, that’s totally up to them, but it’ll be one of those obsolete skills like driving a stick shift, tuning a carburetor, composing sonnets and building bookshelves that they’ll learn from their old man.

    My cursive is pretty legible, if I do say so myself. I’ll print if I really want to ensure maximum legibility, but my cursive is much, much faster than my printing, and far better suited to an actual narrative. My typing is two-fingered but speedy enough, and yet I still like to send handwritten correspondence.

    Barring accident or assassination, the last words I write will be handwritten in cursive.

  31. randalll says:

    I’m 31, back in school finishing a math degree. I had to reteach myself the habit of writing in cursive so that I could keep up taking notes in class. You can’t take math notes on a laptop. As far as I know, no one has invented a method of typing that involves math symbols that’s as fast as writing it out by hand. Being able to write out formulas and theorems and also write notes to yourself about concepts in the margins is essential, and usually the lecturer moves too fast to write everything out you might want to remember while using block letters.

    I’ve had really good teachers who do very detailed handouts, but no handout will impart the details to you like looking back at something you physically wrote out yourself. Any time I’ve tried to study for an exam by looking at printed-out notes I do much worse than if I have my own notes to look back on. Every time I have one of those “printed-notes” classes, there are always people excited about not having to take notes themselves who end up barely scraping by. I put the notes aside and take full notes on my own and understand the concepts much more fully.

  32. penguinchris says:

    I learned cursive in school in the early 90′s. I was always an advanced reader – four or five grade levels ahead – so it’s not like I had trouble reading, but I could barely read cursive. Nowadays I essentially can’t read it at all, even if I really try to, in most cases.

    As for writing it? The mechanics were ground into us, so at one point, I think I could actually do it. I just remember having to go extremely slowly to make it work. It didn’t make sense – it’s *slower* to write in cursive, and it’s *harder* to read! If I tried going fast, it would just turn into a bunch of squiggles (like lower case l’s, the easiest letter). I started with computers as early as 4 or 5 years old, so by the time I was learning cursive (second or third grade?) I was already typing, making it even more pointless to me. To be fair, my normal handwriting is atrocious too, to the point of being illegible even to myself – and it’s always been like that.

    So of course, I forgot how to write cursive as quickly as possible. I can still do lowercase l’s, and letters that aren’t much different from their normal appearance. I can’t sign my name; it starts out OK with the “C” and the tall part of the “h” and then it’s squiggles. I’m always sure to put in my middle initial, which is “W” and easy to do, to make it look less like squiggles. It’s wildly different every time so it’s kind of useless as a signature.

    I don’t even like the appearance of cursive. I’ve seen some nice examples, but mostly it just seems kind of pretentious. On the other hand I can really appreciate nice print writing. I was a TA for a couple years and some of the female students had fantastic writing. Sometimes I would give extra credit for it (yeah I was an unfair teacher).

  33. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I think that cursive is sort of ugly. I write in insular script, which is pretty fast since most of the letters are based on curlicues. If there’s money involved, I stick to Roman capitals.

  34. Daemon says:

    The section about how how cursive is harder to forge is rather odd, as it presumes that somebody will actually look at your signature and compare it to something. Or that your signature is ever the same twice…

  35. andrei.timoshenko says:

    Oh no! Next you’ll be telling that our children have stopped illuminating their manuscripts!

  36. aschwa5 says:

    Maggie, that little article made me like you more. Nice one.

  37. Jewels Vern says:

    I spent my high school years trying to develop a pretty script. Then I worked on calligraphy for a while, and also block lettering for mechanical drawing. In 1962 I finally realized that script was socially unacceptable. I couldn’t even read my own script, to be honest. So I switched to block letters exclusively. I can’t even recall seeing script more than a couple of times since then.

    The USA is heading into a cultural collapse, and one effect of a collapse is everybody forgets the dominant language and how to read and write it. So what we have here is normal for the times. If you are not familiar with cultural collapse, there is a free book on it here:
    http://comingdarkage.blogspot.com/

  38. CastanhasDoPara says:

    I disdain writing in cursive. I can still do it but it is a sloppy mess. So I default to block style for just about everything aside from a signature. Oddly I put in extra effort to make special characters properly such as any Greek characters used in mathematics. And it sort of bugs me when others don’t do that right, an example would be α (alpha) that most people render something akin to the jebus fish. So I get it but don’t think the death throws of cursive is an omen of impending doom.

  39. Ed Ligget. Tuba. says:

    I stopped writing in cursive as soon as I was allowed, which I think was in about 6th grade. I don’t know why but I never liked it, the letters looked ridiculous and unprofessional to me. Yes, I was an odd, precocious little brat. I adopted an all caps/small caps style with lower case letters being represented by the same capital characters only written half the size. I think a lot of it had to do with my overly analytical mind. Not to mention I could actually print capital letters faster than writing cursive.

  40. Neural Kernel says:

    I once wrote an entire essay in Futhark runes just to piss off a teacher who told me she wouldn’t mark my paper if I printed it :P
    You want archaic writing? Just be glad I don’t have a chisel!
    On a side note… I ended up getting a GED :D

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I labeled my architectural orders in Greek on a midterm because I knew that the teacher was too full of herself to admit that she couldn’t read it. And I was right.

  41. Donald Petersen says:

    FWIW, I kinda wish I’d learned Spencerian script, so everything I wrote would look like a Coca-Cola or Ford ad. But the
    Palmer method was what I learned, as did most of my 20th-century American public-school contemporaries, I daresay.

  42. Twylo says:

    You know, I love cursive. I still take pride in having good penmanship, and I love the feel of writing with a fountain pen. But hell, even I admit it’s not a NECESSARY skill any more. I think of it the same way I think of the manual typewriter that I still use from time to time for fun. It’s a kind of retro hipster vibe that gives me considerable pleasure, but I sure wouldn’t inflict a manual typewriter on children.

    So I hope people will stop bad-mouthing cursive. It has a place. That place is in the past, sure, but no reason to beat it up.

  43. Anonymous says:

    In just over a week, the 11 year olds in the UK will sit their SATS, for maths and literacy.

    In the total 100 marks available in the reading and writing papers, the maximum they can score for handwriting is 3 marks.

    The difference between “The examiner could read it, but only just” and “Perfect copperplate” is 2 marks.

    And to be honest – I’m OK with that. I don’t recall the last time I hand-wrote a document that was intended for somebody else. I’d rather we dedicated more time to actual typing skills rather than shoving a keyboard towards them and expecting them to change their hunt-and-peck typing into something efficient on their own.

  44. petsounds says:

    Maggie, I’m a bit aghast at an anti-cursive viewpoint coming from boing boing. It seems a bit antithetical. But then again, with your archaeological leanings perhaps you’ll only appreciate cursive when it’s a dead writing form.

    Cursive writing is one of the few chances everyone, even those without artistic skill, can visually express themselves. In a growing age of impersonal electron character sets, it’s the last bit of a human touch in our increasingly non-verbal communication.

    • phisrow says:

      I can’t speak for her specifically, of course; but I suspect that most of the cursive-related vitriol stems from the fact that it is something ground into schoolchildren, for dubiously discernible reasons, rather than some sort of elegant hobby.

      Nobody has an axe to grind against calligraphy, which is a pure triumph of aesthetics over efficiency, because that is a hobby that people take up because they want to, just like all sorts of other useless-but-charming “happy mutant” stuff.

      Cursive, though, is more about compulsion than “self expression” for many of the people forced to learn it. At least when it was taught to me, the whole point of the exercise was rigorous compliance with the assigned squiggles. Purely an exercise in arduous mechanical reproduction.

      I would not be surprised if it does regain some of its charm upon its death because it will become the domain of people who like it rather than people whose passage of 4th grade depended on it.

    • Maggie Koerth-Baker says:

      Dead things are cool.

      Cool like fezzes.

      • Mister44 says:

        And bow ties!

        And stetson!

        As much as I want to subject the future youth to any and all hardships I had, I fear cursive might be obsolete for the most part.

        Still – sort of like how kanji has more formal and casual forms – it probably is something people can at least be aware of and read.

        FWIW – my hand writing is horrible – and eerily like my fathers – so I write in block letters.

  45. PrettyBoyTim says:

    So… in the US, do you learn to write separated letters first and then later learn a joined-up style? Why don’t they just teach you to join your letters in the first place?

    • rhamantus says:

      Well, I’m not sure. I know when I was in elementary school (early 90s), I was taught print first, but moved on to cursive in second grade (which is, apparently, one year earlier than they do now). Reading up on Wikipedia (because this sort of crazy stuff fascinates me), it appears I was taught a method called D’Nealian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Nealian). I think it did help me learn cursive, but in the mean time, I had the ugliest print because of those stupid tails (until I learned I could write without). I wish I had learned italic, as it seems a much more elegant solution.

      I’m probably in the minority of people who like cursive, though I will admit that its utility is limited these days (and that my own handwriting is pretty abysmal). Calligraphy is a great art, though, and I hope that computer-generated fonts won’t totally replace it. It pleases me to no end to look at the handwriting of past generations (and present, to a lesser extent). There’s so much you can tell (and no, I am not talking about graphology and all that pseudoscience).

  46. Pantograph says:

    And yet, in my current job I’m writing by hand all day every day. So much quicker than stuffing order bags into an inkjet.
    I may have to put that on my resume as a rare and valuable skill…

  47. confluence says:

    I mostly stopped writing things by hand when I finished my undergraduate degree. My writing callus is almost gone; now it’s just a weird patch of skin.

    I only write large bodies of text when I’m making notes while DMing my tabletop RPG campaign — although my two-finger typing is pretty fast, I find having a laptop at the table too intrusive, and I prefer the zero-overhead convenience of making marks on a piece of paper with a tube filled with ink. Also, since typing on a computer is random access, I would be too tempted to neaten up and correct things instead of concentrating on what I’m doing and making a linear dump to sort out later. Nobody reads this scrawl except me, so it doesn’t have to look nice.

    I want to learn a vintage cursive style so that I can write pretty messages inside greeting cards. Unless I really concentrate, my attempts at reproducing the modern (and somewhat ugly) cursive I learned in school always devolve into lumpy, irregular print.

    However, I consider pretty handwriting a nice-to-have creative ability, and not an essential life skill without which we are all doomed. In most cases, print (mechanically produced) makes communication easier, and when we actually have to write something with our fingers we seem to be able to make do.

  48. Skep says:

    “PrettyBoyTim

    So… in the US, do you learn to write separated letters first and then later learn a joined-up style? Why don’t they just teach you to join your letters in the first place?”

    Several reasons.

    1) We are teaching young kids to read. And cursive looks nothing like roman type. So it is very counter-productive at that age.

    2) Cursive is too hard for really young kids to write. It requires too much manual dexterity.

    However, there is a solution, which is teaching kids a type of “block” letters that can be turned into an elegant running hand without having to change the letters. It is based on Italic, and makes far more sense than teaching kids to write two times over. Some schools in the US do teach this system. I wish they had done that when I was in school. It would have saved me a lot of grief. I hated cursive because of how it bears so little resemblance to roman type. (Ballpoint cursive is a bastard offspring of Copperplate, and the letters make even less sense without the original variations in line weight.)

    • Pantograph says:

      2) Cursive is too hard for really young kids to write. It requires too much manual dexterity.

      How young are you talking about? I remember starting to learn cursive in kindergarten (mid 1970s) at age four. In fact we weren’t allowed to use print letters at all. Our parents thought we were spoiled because we didn’t have to use a fountain pen at that age.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I find it interesting that the technology to allow human beings to utilize hand-scraweled scripts is coming into being as the progress of said technology has mostly killed it. I communicate this to you by typing keys onto a keyboard arranged so that my typewritter won’t jam when I type too fast.

  50. dr says:

    I often use cursive when I am writing mathematics at the blackboard, and it is certainly the case that some of my students nowadays do not recognize some of the letters I use, for example the capital T and I. I do try not to torture them with the cursive capital Q, which I’ve considered weird for over 40 years.

    Teaching kids a faux cursive consisting of block letters with tails does not do them any favors; Palmer method is very fast when done properly, while curly-tailed printing is even slower than regular printing.

  51. Anonymous says:

    A little late I know, but I think the expression you are looking for is:

    “Get off my God-Damned lawn!”

  52. Anonymous says:

    I learned cursive roughly around grade 4. I was actually quite good at it.

    I made a concious decision to stop writing in cursive roughly around grade 8. As nice as my cursive was, my block print looked infinitely nicer and it was also easier to read.

    There’s no logical reason to continue learning/using cursive as a general skill.

  53. james4765 says:

    My handwriting as a child was so atrociously bad they sent me to special education classes to work on my fine motor control. They tried teaching me cursive at a young age – didn’t help. It wasn’t until I started taking drafting classes in high school that I realized:

    1. You could print as an adult, and people wouldn’t complain
    2. It was a heck of a lot easier for a leftie, and the simple gestures in block printing are a lot easier to do
    3. Not fighting my hands meant I could actually keep up in note-taking in class

    It’s to the point that people compliment me on my printing, now. I would have to spend a day or two to re-learn cursive, and it’s still an agonizing experience for a leftie. Good riddance. It should be the realm of calligraphers and artists, not something we inflict on every child.

  54. fatuousplatitudes says:

    “Cursive too difficult for really young kids to write”?
    In the UK in the 60′s (yea, peace and love, man) we were whipped if we didn’t do the “joined-up writing” that everyone was taught to write, with our writey sticks = fountain pens. We were whipped if we sneaked in a ballpoint, too.
    So, subsequently I can’t write legible cursive now… just scrawled capitals that no one else can read.
    And even that wasn’t a problem until written exams in my MBA. Yes, two hours of HAND-WRITTEN answers to executive management diatribe.
    I, for one, welcome the Slow Heat Death of the Universe if it stops all cursive and hand-written examination answers.

  55. Chang says:

    I write longhand and it’s a pretty amazing practice. Once you get into it, it’s quite meditative. I practice my cursive still at age 42. Witness the cursive fitness!!!

  56. Anonymous says:

    I remember in high school, the longest, most difficult part of the SATs was at the very beginning of the test when I had to copy out the passage in cursive about how I wouldn’t cheat and so on. After I got past that hump, it was a breeze.

  57. teleny says:

    I hate cursive. I’m an Italic fan, uncials, any kind of good readable scribal hand. Harcourt, Brace & World’s version of handwriting must go.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I’m going to morn this the same way I mourned the death when they forced us to stop writing on clay tablets and instead write on papyrus scrolls, or when the printing press killed the illuminated manuscript, or when the telephone killed the face-to-face conversation, or the video killed the radio.

  59. bcsizemo says:

    I have to say I believe the ability to write well is either genetic/inherited or is somehow environmental. My fathers chicken scratch is barely legible, while my mom has a very tight cursive style that is also very neat. Mine is a horrid combination, smoother characters than my dad, but still his big ol’ sloppy mess of a style.

    By the 7th grade I was turning in most of my homework via a word processor. (A Brother WORD PROCESSOR, not a computer.) The other kids called me a kiss ass, and then I’d flip over my notebook and go, “Can you read this?” – no…yeah well, the teacher shouldn’t either. Besides I could type faster than I could write.

    And on that point, it’s not hard to get someone’s typing still into the 30-40 wpm range in 6 months. My 7th grade computer skills teacher forced us to learn how to type blind by placing a sheet of paper taped to the front edge of our Apple II’s so the keyboard was covered. Then we did the exercises and was tested every week. By the end of the semester everyone was doing at least 20 wpm.

    I think cursive can be very nice. My wife’s grandmother did calligraphy, and my wife can write cursive extremely well in about 4 different ways. However, I think it should be moved into an Arts category and should be something that is explored by those who wish to learn/master it.

  60. traalfaz says:

    My 3rd or 4th grade teacher finally just gave up trying to teach me cursive. I haven’t written in cursive since then. My signature is theoretically cursive but nobody could possibly read it, it’s just a glyph that I draw that means I was there.

  61. Yep says:

    Cursive seems to be a requirement in French-American School cirriculum. My kids learned writing cursive from the get-go. We’ll see how that goes after they leave the FAS system.

  62. Robert says:

    Well, good! Cursive was invented for fast writing. The cursive that was taught in schools was specifically for fast business writing. And the rule of “never lift the pen from the page” is of the same class as “never end your sentences in a preposition.” The only problem is, cursive was never as legible as block writing, and it degenerates very quickly because once you’ve learned fast writing, you start getting doctor’s prescription scribbles.

    Writing should either be legible or decorative.

    Although I think Merovingian Cursive should make a comeback.

  63. peterbruells says:

    I think another problem with cursive is, that it isn’t that elegant unless done regulary. We can certainly make kids learn it and force them the write slowly, but later they stop using it because it doesn’t make any sense.

    I was born 66 and of course I wrote letter as a kid and sometimes as an adult, but hand-writing was becoming a tool of the past even back then.

    People write less, which means they don’t get practice and that in turn means that they don’t get a tight, yet elegant style. As a result, most adult cursive still looks childish, because that’s where they stopped.

  64. Anonymous says:

    PLEASE, make a note telling us that a link leads to a NYT article. I used my “last free article this month” on this silliness. I was saving that for Krugman…

  65. Anonymous says:

    Cursive slows me down, so I only use it to sign my name. When I write, it’s in print.

  66. bardfinn says:


    Something like, what, 95%* of the population of this planet don’t have access to machines with buttons to perform writing with on a daily basis?

    beeswax tablets with styli. They’ll come back into vogue.

    *statistic made up on the spot but you know it’s totes besides the points.

  67. Crashproof says:

    If I’m writing with a nice fountain or dip pen, I’m going to be using careful block letters or calligraphy anyway.

    My cursive definitely looks childish. I got consistent Ds in penmanship during the part of school where that was a thing. My signature looks like a squiggle with some big loops pretty much unrelated to the letters they are supposed to represent. But I can do a quite passable uncial.

    I think I’m for teaching *some* cursive, and some calligraphy too for the hell of it, just for the sake of trivia. Use decent pens, and do it in art class. And then don’t worry about it.

    I’d rather people were taught good grammar and the process of composition. I worry more about the influence of lolspeak and texting and “u” and (murderous rage suppressed) ending plurals with “z” on communication.

  68. satn says:

    How about making a case for math and science eduction you decrepid old person!

  69. Bucket says:

    Can’t wait for the day for “Graphologist” to go the way of “Phrenologist”. What a giant, rancid, steaming pile of psuedo-scientific bull-puckey.

    • archmagetrexasaurus says:

      You know, the nice thing about pseudoscience is that such study doesn’t suffer from any factuality lock-in. That is, I have the feeling that Graphology doesn’t really depend on cursive writing so much so that they can’t study hand print as well.

      I suppose if no one wrote by hand anymore, that would secure the downfall of such a field, but I’ve still never witnessed anyone actually take lecture notes with a laptop/netbook/tablet.

      • satn says:

        I take notes on a fujitsu tablet, it’s so much better too.

        I can write however much I want, as big as i want, then resize and move the text around to fit the notes for a single subject on one page. Also I can change colors, line thickness or switch to a highlighter in seconds.

        If there’s wifi, I can take a picture of a graph with my cellphone, upload it, and put it into the notes.

        • archmagetrexasaurus says:

          Oh, I get why notetaking on a tablet is a great idea. If they didn’t cost 1-2 months worth of my income, I might have one. Also, I would need a stylus, since some point-and-shoot on-screen keyboard could never be fast enough, and styli have been scarce for some reason with recent tablets.

          However, I’ve seen hundreds of students with tablets in class, and as a student myself, I get to see what they’re doing, and it’s NEVER taking notes. In fact, I’ve only known students with tablets to pass classes if the professor is in the unfortunate position that failing too many students might make later classes smaller and cost them their job.

          Of course, the best “I really don’t care about my education combo” I’ve witnessed so far: a smartphone (for texts and automatic sports updates), a laptop (for looking at pictures of ‘hot guys’, and an iPod Touch (for Facebook, apparently).

          If only they had a tablet to take notes on, right?

          • Chevan says:

            I think tablets can be really useful, but it really depends on the class. I did consider getting a tablet for note-taking, but eventually concluded that I would only use them in very equation- and diagram-heavy classes, like math or chemistry. I ended up taking mostly biology classes, so a tablet wouldn’t have been nearly as useful as plain pen and paper.

            However, if you ever do want to give tablets a try, Wacom has a very cheap series of USB tablets (the Bamboo ones) that hold up pretty well to getting shoved in a bag.

    • rebdav says:

      Ugh….
      In Israel the staff “Graphologist” is a member of every corporate HR department.
      My cursive was always so bad I just wrote patient reports quickly with tight block letters and shortcutted letter shapes and symbols, not sure cursive is even legal for some uses. I know few males who can manage legible cursive while many of my female friends make it look like art, then comes the pretty gold ink calligraphy pens one particular friend had in college.

  70. Jake0748 says:

    What are you saying Maggie? With your mumble mumble… slow heat death? You don’t regret the passage of the ability of human beings (or whatever you call them, you know homo (oops) sapiens, earthers, people, to write things down with a pencil so others can read them?

    I’ve always been sorry that my handwriting sucks and that I can’t draw anything. But, it makes me sad that if I’m ever shipwrecked on some crappy island, and I scrawl “help” on a piece of paper, put it in a bottle, and throw it in to the sea. Maybe no one will ever be able to read it.

    Just kidding. Cursive sucks.

    • Anonymous says:

      In my experience, as anon27 points out, non-academic cursive is little more than illegible scribbles to everyone but the writer.

      As for shifting the focus to more worthwhile things: our schools are not geared to create a full class of college students. Teaching elementary students algebra would be a significant step in that direction. Our economy doesn’t work like that. We need lots of people who can barely do arithmetic and that’s what many high schools provide atm. As economics intended it.

      ugh, comic sans. >_<

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