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The end of cursive?
October 11, 2006 7:03 AM   Subscribe

The end of cursive? When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters. "Cursive -- that is so low on the priority list, we really could care less. We are much more concerned that these kids pass their SOLs [standardized tests]."
posted by stbalbach (243 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't bring myself to get worked up about this. I switched from a barely-legible scrawl to block printing as a kid; I saw Tekton in a type book and the light blinked on: block printing can be just as beautiful in the right hand.
Scholars who study original documents say the demise of handwriting will diminish the power and accuracy of future historical research.
Am I dim? Am I missing how historical research will be less accurate if kids block-print?
posted by verb at 7:08 AM on October 11, 2006


Ah, I see. "Handwritten documents are more valuable to researchers, historians say, because their authenticity can be confirmed."
posted by verb at 7:09 AM on October 11, 2006


That bit about research is misleading though. There will be new ways of authenticating things, and new ways of faking them in the future.

The ironic part of this post is that the standardized tests are called "SOL", which is what so many kids are these days because they are being taught how to take a test, rather than how to think and solve problems. I know some teachers try to sneak that "thinking" business in there, but come on.

Related question: Are teachers teaching their students how to write well, or how to write an essay that will be scored well on the SOL or similar test?
posted by Mister_A at 7:14 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ive spent many years since the third grade trying to figure out what was so damn important about cursive writing. They need to teach legible writing.
posted by trishthedish at 7:14 AM on October 11, 2006


I, for one, will never stop fucking cursive.
posted by you just lost the game at 7:14 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Good riddance. I appreciate beautiful handwriting, but mine is awful despite years of wasted time in penmanship classes. Cursive won't disappear; it will merely be relegated to an artistic pasttime, like pottery or calligraphy.
posted by xthlc at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm glad... I hope cursive completely dies out. In the wrong hands, cursive is impossible to read. Anyone can print, and print is much easier to read than figuring out how a person writes their letters.
posted by triolus at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2006


soon after the elementary school penmanship lessons ended and school started to involve taking notes i abandoned cursive, it's just too damn hard to write quickly and legibly. rushed chicken scratch block letters are easy to decipher, rushed cursive just devolves into a bunch of squigly lines. especially if someone else wrote it.
posted by waxboy at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2006


Teaching cursive is an unconscionable waste of time. They should be using that time to teach us something useful, like science or math. Hell, even PE is more important than trying to teach us to write "pretty."

Also - previously discussed on the green
posted by Afroblanco at 7:18 AM on October 11, 2006


Chalk me up as another one of those people that ditched cursive. I started writing in block letters (upper and lower-case, mind you) in the seventh grade, and now the only thing I can write in cursive is my signature.

...and I'm always being complimented on my handwriting, oddly.
posted by aramaic at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2006


~dances on the grave of cursive~
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2006


Cursive is about as useful as shorthand these days. I have never submitted a hand-written document in either school or business, and I'm sure there are people older than me who can say the same.

Specifically regarding SOLs, In 5 years the SAT will be administered by computer, anyway. The GRE and MCAT already are.
posted by ChasFile at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2006


"The ironic part of this post is that the standardized tests are called "SOL", which is what so many kids are these days because they are being taught how to take a test, rather than how to think and solve problems. I know some teachers try to sneak that "thinking" business in there, but come on."

Yes to what Mister_A said. Good penmanship can be pretty, but teaching thinking skills could have led to 650,000 fewer Iraqi deaths.
posted by davy at 7:22 AM on October 11, 2006


I'll bet MeFites would be less than 15 percent cursive writers. I've never been able to hand write well or quickly or easily, but I can ten-finger type more than 50/60 words per minute. I'll bet that soon the SAT will let kids keyboard their writing samples; the California bar exam does.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:22 AM on October 11, 2006


i have to block print ... no one except me can read my handwriting, which has been compared to arabic and martian
posted by pyramid termite at 7:23 AM on October 11, 2006


I don't see the point of cursive. I ditched it as well, and I write faster and more clearly when I print.

However, I do wish I could write in shorthand. I just don't have the patience to learn.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:23 AM on October 11, 2006


The only person I know who writes in cursive -- beautiful cursive, by the way -- is my 81-year-old grandmother. I can read cursive, and I can write it in an obviously childish sort of way (I skipped out on the year in school where students were drilled on it), but I find that connected printing is much faster and more legible.
But Graham worries that students who remain printers, rather than writing in cursive, need more time to take notes or write essays for the SAT.
Maybe I'm an exception, but when I was taking notes daily, I did it quickly and legibly without cursive. I'm with everyone else when I say that I fail to see the problem here.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:24 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm sort of leaning into the "buggy-whip" camp, here. Cursive is definitely a part of human communication, but so was calligraphy, and likewise most people don't know that either. I remember being taught cursive in third grade, and it was a requirement for all assignments. The result is a bunch of old third-grade projects I myself can't even read now, let alone my mom who kept them for "posterity."

I don't think I could write a sentence in cursive right now if I wanted to. 99% of the hand-writing I've done in the last eight years is lettering my my cartoons which are always block print, and even now I use a computer font for that. For most people, the only extensive necessity for writing by hand is to fill out forms and applications, which require block print as well. It's an obsolete technology.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:24 AM on October 11, 2006


What about the points made in the article that cursive has been shown to have a qualitative difference in what is written, not just how it is written. I always imagine the great 19th authors writing in pen and ink in cursive by an oil lamp and wonder if they were on to something.
posted by stbalbach at 7:25 AM on October 11, 2006


My standard cursive is regrettable illegible a few days later. All the u's and i's and e's all just look like the same little loops.
posted by smackfu at 7:25 AM on October 11, 2006


The only person I know who writes in cursive -- beautiful cursive, by the way -- is my 81-year-old grandmother. I can read cursive, and I can write it in an obviously childish sort of way (I skipped out on the year in school where students were drilled on it), but I find that connected printing is much faster and more legible.

Actually, that's kind of a good point- regardless of ability to write in it, it's definitely relevant that people understand how to read cursive- the idea that not learning to write it means a student wouldn't be able to, for example, read the original text of the Constitution, is definitely a cultural setback.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:27 AM on October 11, 2006


Oh, yeah. There was one fateful day in middle school when I realized that I could print faster and more legibly than I could write in cursive, and I haven't looked back since. Echoing waxboy, it was just about the same time that I realized the importance of taking notes in class. So yes, it's going to fade into history, and despite how the fact may inconvenience historians, I find it very difficult to care.

Oh, and after the Apocalypse, some obsolete skills such as pottery and blacksmithing will become valuable again. Cursive won't.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:27 AM on October 11, 2006


wow. I'm amazed how everyone is against cursive or "joined up writing" (as we call it here in the UK). Sure, it can be difficult to read in the wrong hands, but it's so much darn quicker to write. At least if you're just making notes for yourself and a computer isn't handy, the thought of having to print out each letter individually scares the crap out of me. Chances are you can at least read your own writing.
I'd argue there's still value in cursive.
posted by Mave_80 at 7:28 AM on October 11, 2006


"Specifically regarding SOLs, In 5 years the SAT will be administered by computer, anyway. The GRE and MCAT already are."

Does Diebold have anything to do with this?

I'll miss cursive, my Granmaw's was beautiful, but I must agree that it's really no more important for American education than football.
posted by davy at 7:30 AM on October 11, 2006


Heh, I took the SAT and I was c/o '06, so I'm part of that statistic. I dunno what group they put me in though, because many times either I would use print and then unknowingly start to write in cursive for a few words and then go back to print or my print is a cursive-print hybrid (like I connect my Ss to the next letter all the time).
posted by daninnj at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2006


As mentioned in the AskMe thread linked above, italic writing is fast, legible, and looks like normal letters. I wish I was taught it instead of Palmer cursive in grade school.
posted by zsazsa at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm in the minority then. I find writing in cursive to be quicker and easier then block print. I can't imagine having to take notes in block, that would be just aweful.
posted by oddman at 7:36 AM on October 11, 2006


I love Palmer method cursive handwriting. There's nothing like a romantic note written in cursive...

And writing in cursive has kind of a rhythm to it that printing doesn't have.

And I can say that writing in cursive is a lot faster (at least for me) than printing. First of all, the pen never leaves the page, and when you print fast you invariably start to connect letters together anyway into a goofy hybrid cursive.

I'd also like to point out that if after all these years, all that money spent on education, and all the innovative teaching methods people swap in and out of schools every 5 years, the people in charage of education are saying "We are much more concerned that these kids pass their SOLs [standardized tests]" then the education system has failed catastrophically, and the teaching of cursive isn't the problem.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:38 AM on October 11, 2006


Ah, cursive. The one "unsatisfactory" blot on my academic record. Good riddance to an old nemesis, I say. In 5th grade, I spent many a recess being punished for my poor penmanship, writing out line after line of barely legible cursive text. It has served no purpose for me, and I refuse to write using it ever again.
As for kids not being able to read historical texts in their native cursive writing, I can't read Chinese or many other writings, yet translations in plain text seem to be available for most important historical documents, and I imagine that will only include more and more as the years pass.
posted by genefinder at 7:39 AM on October 11, 2006


Yeah, see you in hell, cursive. I stopped using it after like 3rd grade.
posted by ninjew at 7:40 AM on October 11, 2006


put me down with the 'fuck cursive' people.
posted by empath at 7:45 AM on October 11, 2006


Those who can write in a beautiful cursive, do. Those who cannot, say it is not necessary...Why bother signing checks and forms with your written signature? It is YOU. that said, I prefer typing.
posted by Postroad at 7:46 AM on October 11, 2006


i, too, gave up cursive in the 7th grade and now i know it as well as i know calligraphy (which is actually more useful for me). it does let you write a bit faster, but as we all know, everybody types now.

What about the points made in the article that cursive has been shown to have a qualitative difference in what is written, not just how it is written.

absolutely. but not necessarily better, just different. writing styles evolve like anything else, and computer keyboards will have as much effect on the output as quills and ink did. i think it's mostly nostalgia.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:46 AM on October 11, 2006


I cried when they made me learn cursive in third grade.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:48 AM on October 11, 2006


From a previous post of mine. *weeps*. I'll kick your arse at writing speed-wise if you're block printing (think about how often I lift my pen off the paper to start a new word as opposed to someone doing it every letter), and I'll be legible - then again, I'm old school.
posted by tellurian at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2006


What about the points made in the article that cursive has been shown to have a qualitative difference in what is written, not just how it is written.

We teach kids that cursive is the right way to write, and then the smart kids use it? Really?
posted by uncleozzy at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


My cursive is illegible. I've seen people look at it and tell me they didn't know I wrote Arabic.

Everything official requires either a typed document or block letters nowadays, so I don't see much of a future to cursive, for much the same reason that you don't see a lot of blacksmiths or people who can fix a wooden cart-wheel anymore.
posted by clevershark at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2006


Postroad writes "Those who cannot, say it is not necessary...Why bother signing checks and forms with your written signature?"

Because those documents demand a signature.

If we all carried signature stamps (like they do in Japan) that wouldn't be necessary.
posted by clevershark at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2006


Another vote for "who cares" - all pro-cursive arguments aside, cursive just isn't very practical or useful in day-to-day life. People write to store information temporarily, or to fill out documents (checks, forms, etc.) We no longer write letters with pen and paper, or craft works of creative writing using a pencil and notebook. While things may start there, if you want others to see what you've done, it has to end up in a digital format; end of story.

I think the vestigal focus on "cursive" as being necessary is, at best, myopic; in the larger picture, it just doesn't matter. What's more important: being able to read and write competently, or being able to write in cursive? Considering fewer and fewer Americans can read and write at an acceptable level, the answer seems pretty obvious.

Wail over the loss of cursive, if you will; myself, I say good riddance. The hours which countless students were (and are) forced to waste on cursive handwriting exercises should have been put to far better use.
posted by Floach at 7:53 AM on October 11, 2006


As a left-haded person, good riddance.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:53 AM on October 11, 2006


Yeah. My problem is that I'm just old enough to have studied cursive JUST long enough in school that, if I'm writing quickly and not paying attention, I'll end up in the "goofy hybrid" that Pastabagel mentions. I've got nearly equal muscle memory for both, especially since as soon as I left school, I typed 99% of things anyway.

I think teaching TWO writing methods is a waste of time, anyway. Pick one and stick with it.
posted by InnocentBystander at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2006


How on Earth are you meant to finish an exam in time if you have to print rather than use joined up writing? Like Mave_80 I am boggled by both the figure for the students and the number of people here saying they don't use it.
posted by ninebelow at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2006


Cursive has no place in society except love letters and wedding invitations.

It's a blight; a pox. Good riddance.

I agree with the poster above that it is a waste of time teaching this to students.

Regarding speed, whichever you use the most is the one that is fastest.

Gave cursive up at least 20 years ago, perhaps longer.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2006


My print writing was really bad in high school, but when I went to college, I cultivated a much neater version, occasionally incorporating cursive letter "z"s and capital "E"s such along with a very big emphasis on styling the open tails of letters... It's more tame these days, though I still strive to be pretty neat, and the "a" is the most distinct element, since it's based on the font letter "a." (Is there a name for that?)
posted by graymouser at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2006


They still teach cursive? WTF? It's like putting protective lace doilies on the arms of an unupholstered pine Ikea couch.

Cursive handwriting as they taught it when I was in school is atrocious. Such a waste and a pain in the wrist. I believe I'm a second or third generation block writer, but much/most of my family is involved in one way or another in visual arts - or even better - writing.

I can do cursive and elegant calligraphy, or I can do a draughtsman or architect's block print, or a number of related prints, or I can scrawl my illegible block/cursive noise. Or I can type 50-100wpm. I pretty much loath writing anything by hand.

Guh. Umbrage. I'm getting the same stultifying, mystifying and confused feeling when I go in for a formal interview for a technical IT position armed with well polished copies of my resume printed on gorgeous paper and they ask me to fill out one of those generic RediForm employment applications.

"What... what is this? Paper? Pen? How quaint. Look, do you have a computer with Microsoft Office installed on it? I can exactly duplicate the entire form in Word in full color and have it neatly filled out with my information in a fraction of the time than it would for me to illegibly scrawl half the information into these tiny boxes. This is an IT position I'm applying for, right? I really hope you don't have, say, a hamburger grill back there you're planning on surprising me with."

Based on prior experience, I've pretty much made it a rule (to be followed whenever economically sound) that I turn around and walk out the door if it ever happens again.



And don't get me wrong. Handwriting is useful. And nice handwriting is even better. There is a fine art to the aesthetics of hand lettering. It's a joy to look at and read.

But it shouldn't be a priority. I can think of dozens of skills that are much more important and rewarding than to teach compulsory cursive writing. Hell, teach watercolors and acrylics, or life drawing, or zen calligraphy or gardening or something. There's plenty of other ways to teach aesthetics and foster exploration of them.
posted by loquacious at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2006


"Cursive -- that is so low on the priority list, we really could care less. We are much more concerned that these kids pass their SOLs [standardized tests]."

This is a gifted and talented teacher. She should know better.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2006


Yeah, I'm another cursive-hater.
My father still mocks me for my poor handwriting, and when I would get "unsatisfactory" marks in elementary school in penmanship... whoo, the beatings they were a plenty (well, not really).

I remember having to take some test (I think it was the GRE Subject test in Literature, or maybe the regular GRE) where you had to write some short paragraph at the very beginning stating "I will not provide information about the test to others blah blah blah" and it specifically said "DO NOT PRINT, WRITE IN CURSIVE" or something to that effect. Oh man, that sucked. It took me about 10 minutes, and it looked as though I had written it with my foot. I noticed the proctor looking at me because it was taking so long, so I kept stopping to rub my wrist and pretending I had hurt it.
posted by papakwanz at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2006


Sure, it can be difficult to read in the wrong hands, but it's so much darn quicker to write.

I've been using block printing, engineer-style, with small caps, since 9th grade, and I assure you that I can print much more quickly than I could ever write.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:58 AM on October 11, 2006


When I took the GRE several years ago, everyone was required at the beginning to handwrite a paragraph of "I will not cheat" legal boilerplate. Perhaps following their own mandate, the proctors told us we had to write it in cursive. I am sure I'm not the only one who totally faked the j's and z's and other letters that aren't in my signature and that I just couldn't remember. Fortunately it wasn't a scored part of the test.
posted by Eater at 7:59 AM on October 11, 2006


Switched schools btwn 2d and 3d grade to a school where the 2d graders had already been learning cursive, and catching up was an eight-year-old's version of Hell.

The only time Dad ever specifically chose a course for me was typing in 10th grade -- "You Will Take This"! It would've been my only F because I wasn't accurate enough to turn in my timed typing tests, but the teacher appreciated that I never quit and bumped me to a D.

Cursive is beautiful (also admire it in Russian and German), but cost/benefit, well...see above.
posted by pax digita at 7:59 AM on October 11, 2006


Okay, I'm going to jump in and defend cursive and say that it's sad that the art of beautiful writing is losing ground. Maybe you have to own a bundle of letters from the very early 20th century or before to see that value of the loss. It's not about efficiency. Learning to write beautifully (the ease of reading it) have been in decline for decades--we're just at the ugly end of it. Our great-grandparents used to know hundreds of simple household arts that didn't require electricity or a complex set of tools.
posted by tula at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2006


My daughter is in Montessori school where they teach cursive as the regular writing. She is three years old. They distinguish "writing" from "reading" in this way.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2006


Postroad : "Why bother signing checks and forms with your written signature?"

I use a seal.
posted by Bugbread at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2006


Yup, even though the GRE is entirely on computer now (including the two essays), they still make you copy the "I will not cheat" paragraph, with the stipulation that it must be "written, not printed." I just used my note-taking handwriting, which is like messy printing with some connected letters.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:02 AM on October 11, 2006


Suddenly I can hear the echo of the voice of my woefully confused 3rd grade teacher: "You must learn to write clearly! Computers are just a fad!"

Yeah, she said that. In 1984. Every room in the school had an Apple in it already. With printers.
posted by loquacious at 8:03 AM on October 11, 2006


After a few years of trying to get my left hand to write in cursive, I gave up in junior high-school and haven't looked back. My letters were slanted in random directions and about a fifth of the words ended in an undifferentiated series of bumps. I think that half of my problem was that cursive is too fast for my brain so I get to the end of a word before I have figured out how it's spelled and so I just make illegible bumps instead of letters.
posted by octothorpe at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2006


ninebelow : "How on Earth are you meant to finish an exam in time if you have to print rather than use joined up writing?"

If you normally write in cursive, you can write in cursive quite quickly.
If you normally write in print, you can write in print quite quickly.

That's how. Us non-cursivists can write in print very very quickly.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on October 11, 2006


clevershark. Okay, that's twice now. Sorry, I'm going to stop linking my own posts.
posted by tellurian at 8:08 AM on October 11, 2006


As a lefty I could never master cursive. Probably because of this, I can barely read it and then only if it is exceptionally clear. I have no problem with printed letters, even the messiest, fastest writing doesn't present a difficulty. Besides, I think so much faster than I can write (don't most people?) that I'm always leaving bits of words off. Most of the time I type and I urge everyone I know to type, its faster, it follows the patterns of thought, and it doesn't hurt the wrists. Down with cursive!
posted by Grod at 8:10 AM on October 11, 2006


I don't think this is an accurate representation. I often write in cursive, but never use cursive on any type of exam because of legibility concerns. I don't want test-readers marking me down because they can't read my cursive.
posted by banished at 8:10 AM on October 11, 2006


tula writes "Our great-grandparents used to know hundreds of simple household arts that didn't require electricity or a complex set of tools."

True. But then that's because it's not inconceivable that they had access to neither electricity nor to a complex set of tools at that time. My grandfather didn't have electricity in his home until 1968 -- my dad, who had just gotten married at the time, came to help with wiring the house.

We could also learn to slaughter chickens or churn butter, but we don't need those skills nowadays.
posted by clevershark at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2006


I just wrote a couple of sentences in cursive just to see if I remembered how. It's very slow, full of errors, and looks exactly like my 5th grade book reports. That's probably when I began typing things and my cursive skills stopped evolving. I can't remember the last time I wrote anything in cursive besides my signature on a check. (And thanks to online bill payment, I hardly ever do that anymore.)
posted by Tubes at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2006


Bugbread, it's true that you can write more quickly in print if you do it a lot. But it is inarguable that a person who can write quickly in cursive can write much more quickly than someone who can write quickly in print.
posted by Justinian at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2006


"How on Earth are you meant to finish an exam in time if you have to print rather than use joined up writing?"

Most of the exams that I took in college were short answer "fill in the blank" and many of them were automatically graded multiple choice. It doesn't take very good handwriting to fill in a dot with a number 2 pencil.
posted by octothorpe at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2006


Wow! this thread is moving faster than I can type cursively.
posted by tellurian at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2006


I just tried to write "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." in cursive as taught in school and I no longer know how to make the lowercase z. I've probably forgotten half the uppercase letters.

How on Earth are you meant to finish an exam in time if you have to print rather than use joined up writing?

If your problem with exams is the time spent physically writing, I think you're doing it wrong. For scribbling notes I can do a joined up scrawl of my own derivation that's as fast as formal cursive but more legible without all the unnecessary curly bits and loops. I would write neither on a test I expected others to read.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2006


Wow. Interesting stuff. I hyothesize that the majority of users commenting grew up using a keyboard. In which case, most formalities in life have been undertaken without need for a pen so I can see why something unfamiliar or less familiar than it was for people a bit older would attract a negative attitude.

I think it's still a worthwhile thing to teach in short measure in 2nd or 3rd grade. As are keyboarding skills. It's not just a calligraphic art as some have indicated. It was always about helping people to write faster. For some it sticks, for some like me, it ends up being a half-n'-half simply because I got out of practice.

I don't know that I believe the conclusions from the study suggesting that cursive writing helps people to formulate better content in their writing. I agree with whoever above suggested that the smarter people may just be the ones who are, for one reason or another, part of the minority who practice and use cursive more often. Maybe their parents have some bearing on that as well. But using running writing (as said in Oz) -- cursive -- doesn't strike me as itself being the stuff of higher intelligence. It's just a tool after all.
posted by peacay at 8:16 AM on October 11, 2006


I gave up cursive in the late 1970s, except for my illegible signature. Guess I was ahead of the curve...
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:18 AM on October 11, 2006


Floach writes "Considering fewer and fewer Americans can read and write at an acceptable level"

Really? The American literacy rate is declining?
posted by Mitheral at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2006


Cursive writing: slaughtering chickens or churning butter
posted by tellurian at 8:22 AM on October 11, 2006


Just another example of the decline of Western Civilization. 'Why I remember when I was a kid, I had to write cursive 10 miles in the snow uphill, both ways.'

Uninterestingly enough, my cursive is a mix of cursive and block letters. I never write anything anyway except on a keyboard.
posted by sfts2 at 8:24 AM on October 11, 2006


MetaFilter: slaughtering chickens or churning butter
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2006


wow. I'm amazed how everyone is against cursive or "joined up writing" (as we call it here in the UK). Sure, it can be difficult to read in the wrong hands, but it's so much darn quicker to write.

Bingo. There's no way I could take notes at the speed I need to without writing joined up - you have to take your pen off the paper between each letter, for one thing. And if I received a hand-written letter from someone in print, I'd assume they were, you know, a bit slow.

From all the hate here, though, I wonder if Americans are taught some especially evil and hard to master version of joined up writing?
posted by jack_mo at 8:30 AM on October 11, 2006


A quick check around the office, and I see that young and old, from the West, from the East, we all write in cursive (nearly).

I wonder if it's the fact that we're Canadians... I mean, we have to be better at something, right? And cursive writing indicates a higher level of sophistication and culture, of course. That's why we all do it. Obviously.
posted by splice at 8:31 AM on October 11, 2006


Whenever I have trouble reading somebody's writing, it's almost always in cursive. I can uually make out even the worst penmanship when it's in block letters, but quite often in cursive, it tends to end up looking like a doctor's signature after the first few words.

My printing is modeled after Charles Schultz's Peanuts lettering, which I begn emulating when I first got into cartooning in grade school. Throughout school I was either praised for how nice my letters looked or scolded for "drawing the letters rather than writing them". Since I've written quite a bit with pen and paper my whole life I've become quite quick at writing with printed letters, and outside of my signature, cursive slows me down quite a bit since I'm so out of practice.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2006


And if I received a hand-written letter from someone in print, I'd assume they were, you know, a bit slow.

When was the last time that you got a hand-written letter? It's been years for me, maybe ten.
posted by octothorpe at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2006


I didn't realize that writing in cursive was such a big deal. I was taught in the 3rd grade, and my evil (for other reasons) 4th grade teacher made us practice cursive several times a week, until it became our primary way of writing. I can print, and often do, but I use cursive when I want to write quickly, or when I want what I'm writing to look nice. I get compliments all the time on my cursive, and love the look of script. I can't remember the last time I saw printed writing nice enough to comment on.

I thought everybody in the US learned cursive, until I got to college and met a bunch of people who'd never learned to write in cursive (except enough to sign their names). Also, I don't know whether the decline of cursive has to do with increased computer usage, but my school district offered computer instruction since kindergarten, and we still had to learn script.
posted by LiliaNic at 8:35 AM on October 11, 2006


Some thoughts:

I can't find the article now, but Carnegie Mellon did a study on ALL CAPS vs. Title Caps a few years ago, in which the researchers concluded that all caps are slower both to read and write, because the eye has to work a little extra harder to distinguish letters from one another, unlike uncapped letters, where varying leaders heights (i.e., the tall part of the "h", or the droopy part of the "p") make it easier to distinguish indivudual letters.

As an architect who was required to practice block lettering - and was graded on it, for both legibility and style - I can tell you definitely that handwriting style definitely affects writing style. Also, I've done arch drawings in both all caps and regular typing, and contractors definitely make fewer comprehension mistakes with the typing; it's just the architect's need for regularity in script that keeps that particular canard alive.

Then, too, cursive was developed when nibs and fountain pens were used more extensively than they are today; perhaps the terrible "paperfeel" of the bic/biro has something to do with why cursive is losing popularity. Hyperconsciousness is basically the problem; comfort and fluidity yield better writing. My theory is that people who abjure cursive were poorly taught.

I wonder, too, how writers of other scripts approach the task of writing quickly and legibily. I love the way Korean and some Japanese writers can so easily lay down a line of text as clearly as a typewriter and quite charmingly; I tried to learn Hindi a few years ago and while I sounded terrible at it, people always complimented me on script. Probably it was the architectural training, again, but also I think it was that Hindi is basically a combo of cursive and block letters (with the nice easy datum, which makes it easy to distinguish vowels and consanants) - many schoolchildren seem to be taught Hindi in an English-style "cursive" format, which sort of works against them. It reminded me of that ridiculously bubbly-loopy 16-year old cursive that mainly girls seem to develop about 10 years ago in this country - purely a decorative approach to writing.

Basically, I think my point is, a literate person should be able to read a variety of handwritings, in the same way that you should be able to understand a variety of reading contexts.

I'm done rambling now: All hail the loggorhea-inducing typewriter!
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:35 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Justinian : "But it is inarguable that a person who can write quickly in cursive can write much more quickly than someone who can write quickly in print."

That's a fair point, but the only time I can think of that being useful is when taking dictation, and there are better methods for that (shorthand is faster to write than cursive). For taking notes, there has always been time for me to write what I need to write (what with speakers pausing, saying things that are not noteworthy, etc.), and for tests, I've always had times where my pen/pencil stopped while I thought anyway.

Fast cursive may be faster than fast print, but that's like comparing the speed of two sports cars: unless you're involved in racing, it doesn't really matter if you're driving a car with a maximum speed of 150 mph or of 200 mph.

Mitheral : "Really? The American literacy rate is declining?"

According to Wikipedia, yes and no.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, "results showed that the average quantitative literacy scores of adults increased 8 points between 1992 and 2003...Literacy among college graduates declined between 1992 and 2003, with less than one-third of all graduates at the highest “proficient” level in 2003, and less than half of all graduates with advanced degrees at this level.
So basic literacy is improving, but advanced literacy is declining.
posted by Bugbread at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2006


"How on Earth are you meant to finish an exam in time if you have to print rather than use joined up writing?"

This is precisely why I considered re-learning cursive in the months leading up to the Bar exam. My printing is okay, but slow, and over time it degrades dramatically in legibility. I feared for my carpals -- and the eyes of the poor graders -- in the face of a full day of frantic essay writing. I ended up printing, as passing, but I'm still unhappy with my ability to take good notes on the fly, so cursive practice may be in my future.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2006


printing and passing
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2006


Okay, I'm going to jump in and defend cursive and say that it's sad that the art of beautiful writing is losing ground.

Except that Palmer and copperplate aren't beautiful. I think they're an ugly, spiky mess, an inelegant and eye-poking mishmash of big goofy loops with smaller loops on the big loops and tiny loops on the middle-sized loops and nasty little points sticking out from everything you could possibly put them on, and that they make it hard to distinguish one line of text from the next unless a lot of whitespace is sacrificed to that goal.

For me, italic lettering or even architect/engineer block lettering looks far better than the style of cursive taught in the US, even when it's done exceedingly well.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2006


i am left handed, learned cursive in third grade, still write in it every day for notes and letters and used it for note-taking all through college (i'm 23). with the right pen, it's quite legible. i have a compulsive fear of my own block printing because i can never get the different parts of the letter to join up correctly -- i always "overshoot" or "undershoot." i'm surprised so many intelligent people on this board consider it to have been difficult to learn. i don't feel like the learning process took too extraordinarily long, i mean i still had time to build a styrofoam replica of the san juan capistrano mission and produce an illustrated research paper about penguins that year. was my experience unusual? did y'all go to catholic boarding school or something?
posted by radiosig at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2006


I think a little chunk of the sky just fell on my head. I had better go tell the President.
posted by caddis at 8:40 AM on October 11, 2006


I am sure I'm not the only one who totally faked the j's and z's and other letters that aren't in my signature and that I just couldn't remember.

This is part of the reason that I had to give up on cursive - it looks nothing like the standard print letters that it is meant to represent. I don't need to be thinking when I am trying to hurriedly jot something down on paper. I started adopting a bastardized version of cursive which has some connected letters, but has co-opted the print letters which cursive demands be unnecessarily confusing. Like b, f, k, m, n, r, s.

Don't even get me started on capital letters.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:42 AM on October 11, 2006


I skipped a grade in elementary school and never learned cursive writing as a result. Just a couple of weeks ago the librarian at my branch library chastized me for printing and not "signing" my name on my card. Aside from that incident, not knowing cursive hasn't really affected my life one bit. I work in a hospital where writing in cursive is informally discouraged, primarily because of what a pain in the ass it is to read.
posted by makonan at 8:44 AM on October 11, 2006


I write beautiful cursive script and find it's still a pretty handy skill to have. Every once in a while I'll leave somebody a handwritten note or send a handwritten letter and they'll be blown away by all the pretty loops and striking dashes. Plus it's fun to "work" with your hands every once in a while.
posted by nixerman at 8:46 AM on October 11, 2006


octothorpe: Do you not get postcards from people from time to time?

I can't imagine not using joined-up writing (UK). Can any US-educated MeFites point out a representative sample (a letter or exam paper, ideally) somewhere on the web of the cursive handwriting that Americans are taught?
posted by matthewr at 8:46 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm taken aback by how many people on this thread don't write longhand. I thought everyone knew how and that most people did. My handwriting is not always all too legible, but then neither is my printing. Longhand is a fluid style, as thoughts are fluid, and when I write anything meaningful or spontaneous, it goes down in cursive.
posted by Il Furioso at 8:47 AM on October 11, 2006


Slack-a-gogo : "Whenever I have trouble reading somebody's writing, it's almost always in cursive."

Ditto. Whether or not cursive is good for me to use, it's clear that, for me, it would be better if everyone else did not use it. I've very, very seldom seen print that I couldn't read, but I've seen plenty of illegible cursive/joined up writing/running writing.

jack_mo : "And if I received a hand-written letter from someone in print, I'd assume they were, you know, a bit slow."

Well, either you think most of MeFi is a bit slow (very possible, I admit), or this thread should indicate that perhaps your assumptions should be readjusted.

DenOfSizer : "I wonder, too, how writers of other scripts approach the task of writing quickly and legibily. I love the way Korean and some Japanese writers can so easily lay down a line of text as clearly as a typewriter and quite charmingly"

Well, you have basically two different (not opposing, but just different) schools of writing in Japan. One is based on brush calligraphy, which involves drastic changes to characters to allow things that would be normally written with multiple strokes to be written with one. It can produce very attractive results, but, like reading capitalized cursive letters, is something that you have to learn. The other is more of a draftsman-like approach, writing characters very precisely and cleanly, based on using pens/pencils. It's far, far more legible, as it's really just good handwriting of characters. It isn't slow, per se, but unlike the brush writing based approach, it isn't predicated on speed either. People buy books/take classes for both (much like, for example, some people might study calligraphy in English speaking countries).
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 AM on October 11, 2006


I learned to print in, I guess, kindergarten or first grade.
I learned to write cursive about third grade.
I learned to touch-type my freshman year in high school.

Guess which one I use every day. Guess which one I wish I had learned years earlier.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:48 AM on October 11, 2006


I have shitty handwriting. As is obvious looking at the tattoo on my forearm. My cursive is even worse.

In conclusion, die analog output/input, die!
posted by slimepuppy at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2006


Can any US-educated MeFites point out a representative sample (a letter or exam paper, ideally) somewhere on the web of the cursive handwriting that Americans are taught?

GIS for "palmer method" or "copperplate script" and you'll get lots of examples.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2006


Washington physicians barred from using cursive to write prescriptions
posted by makonan at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2006


I prefer cursive, but that's because I'm lazy. Cursive means I don't have to pick up my pen as often. On the other hand, my handwriting is illegible.
posted by katillathehun at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2006


I used to hate cursive, but don't anymore.

I also learned it in grade school, then quickly abandoned it for TINY TINY printing done with mechanical pencils. When I got into University and had to write some papers, I found that (a) writing on a computer was BAD since I would revise as I went along and would never completely finish a thought (b) block printing was way too slow to hand write an essay with. As a result, I started half-printing half-cursiving (ha!) by attempting write as quickly as possible... and found out why some cursive letters are shaped the way they are -- they are the block printed letters, mangled by being written at high speeds and connected to the previous letters (think lowercase 's').

In any case, I now write in this (sloppy) half-cursive-printing most of the time. It actually makes writing quite fun as I get to make all sorts of extra loops and blobs, provided nobody else has to read what I've done -- for that I still print.
posted by beerbajay at 8:51 AM on October 11, 2006


Cursive isn't anything special unless you use a fountain pen. With a ball point pen, cursive is actually ugly.

In elementary school back in the early 70s we were all taught cursive but by junior high school I preferred block writing. After taking several drafting classes in HS, I used block lettering exclusively and never looked back. My artistic side does appreciate good calligraphy which doesn't always take the form of cursive writing.
posted by JJ86 at 8:53 AM on October 11, 2006


why's everyone hatin' on cursive? just kidding, i hate it, too!
posted by snofoam at 8:54 AM on October 11, 2006


I learned to touch-type my freshman year in high school.

Guess which one I use every day. Guess which one I wish I had learned years earlier.


These days kids are typing in pre-K and touch typing by first grade.
posted by caddis at 8:54 AM on October 11, 2006


Those of you proclaiming the speed benefits of cursive writing, are you typing these comments on Dvorak keyboards?
posted by scottreynen at 8:55 AM on October 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


fyi, font face="Script MT Bold" works in preview, but doesn't seem to work in the actual thread. d'oh!
posted by snofoam at 8:55 AM on October 11, 2006


Up yours Mrs. Ratchford, you bullying fuck.
posted by biffa at 8:56 AM on October 11, 2006


When they started to teach us cursive in penmanship class in 3rd grade, it was the first time I got lower than an A in my grades.

I got an A- and I was a devastated little perfectionist. Fuck cursive.
posted by chiababe at 8:59 AM on October 11, 2006


OTOH, keeping a journal or doing private snailmail correspondance in my cursive is almost as good as encryption. ("Agent Smith, I can't make this out: is this 'assassinate the President' or 'send out for pizza'?")

But then I never learned to type correctly either: I stare at the keyboard and hunt-peck with three fingers (my left index finger works the shift key and my left thumb the space bar).
posted by davy at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2006


When was the last time that you got a hand-written letter?

I got two this morning. That is a bit weird, though - I probably send and receive about one a month (not counting postcards or the handwritten notes that invariably accompany the printed matter I get sent every day). To be honest, if a friend sent me a typed and printed letter, I'd be a little offended - awfully impersonal.
posted by jack_mo at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2006


Okay, this is an online community, and most of us have a close relationship with a keyboard; nevertheless I am distressed, honestly distressed, that longhand is getting such short shrift here. Come on, longhand is a natural result of writing intensively with pencil/pen and paper. Surely we all still do that, or we have done that, or are we slowly morphing into cyborgs? I wrote a letter just last week, in cursive, and damn if it didn't feel good to do it.
posted by Il Furioso at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2006


I guess I'm even more "slow" than others here, as I don't write cursive well, my printing is sloppy, and I can't touch type. I'm an index finger typist (occaisionally using my thumb on the space bar). yet somehow I have managed to scrape my way along in this world. My signature is also illegible, and bears little resemblance to the actual letters in my name (as many many people often remark, including my wife).
posted by genefinder at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2006


My 4th grade teacher looked at my prior bad grades in handwriting, wrote it off as a minor disability, and started giving me typing lessons. Under the pressure of timed quizzes and tests, my cursive lowercase i developed a loop, lowercase b was hard to distinguish from lowercase l, and don't get me started on having lowercase m with 3-5 humps, and lowercase n with 2-4 humps. Not only was it causing trouble with handwriting, but I was bombing English and social studies as well (while hitting 95th percentile on the Iowa standard tests of the same subjects.) Giving up on cursive and switching to keyboards (in 1979 BTW) was a huge help in Middle School and High School. (Except for a German teacher who demanded cursive.)

I have recently adopted italic as a hybrid. Cursive really irritates me for the placement of ligatures at the baseline necessitating double-strokes or loops for l, i, b, h and d, and the obnoxious return over the word for i and t. With italic, you cross the t as you write it and in many cases start the next vowel without a pen lift. Using the distinct midline ligatures or baseline-midline ligatures of italic helps to reduce the m-n confusion. Italic also isn't fussy about ligatures so double-t and double-l can be done with sensible pen-lifts rather than loops or attempts to put the downstroke exactly on the upstroke.

And on preview, what ROU_Xenophobe said about the look of many cursives.

Interesting, shortly after working with italic, everyone started complimenting me on my handwriting.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2006


One of my elementary school teachers finally forbade me to use cursive for anything, which tells you what sublime heights of illegibility I managed to achieve. I can still "do" cursive, very very slowly, but I don't use it for much of anything--except signing my name.

Of course, my students will tell you that my block printing is not exactly an enormous improvement. (As one student recently opined: "You should have been a pharmacist, Dr. TJW.")
posted by thomas j wise at 9:05 AM on October 11, 2006


To be honest, if a friend sent me a typed and printed letter, I'd be a little offended - awfully impersonal.

I would think, "Why are you wasting time mailing this to me when you could have emailed it?" Seriously, no one I know sends letters of any kind, whether written, printed or typed.
posted by octothorpe at 9:09 AM on October 11, 2006


/
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:11 AM on October 11, 2006


"This is really Surprising, D'm cot foo into 'Cursive Writing' (you mean handwriting?) Dt Was a Cause for A teaches tohastle me at School. Thy B Pretty much Gameone elses handwinty Nat Repid- It's Shany Aul handyg is dpy Rufi."
posted by Bugbread at 9:14 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm not defending cursive, but there is something elegant and unique about properly-written upper-case D, G, L, Q, S, and Z in cursive. Even the rare times when I write in cursive, I don't actually write any of those "properly," but it can be a kick to see someone who puts time into crafting those letters.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2006


Sgt. S: That sample is probably 5 times better looking and legible than my handwriting.
posted by octothorpe at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2006


/
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:19 AM on October 11, 2006


Fewer Americans engage in casual and personal conversation, too, I've noticed. It's as if spontaneous and fluid communication is being deleted by the expedient. This is not a minor change. It's reflective of a real shift in a national ethos. Fuck it, let's just bomb Iran and get it over with.
posted by Il Furioso at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I taught myself a modified copperplate script - I won't call it legitimate because I never learned from someone 'fluent' in it. I learned how to write like an engineer - really, really easy to read block letters - and got in trouble in middle school for slashing my zeros.

Additionally, as someone who works in medical records, I recommend cursive is replaced with 'how to write like an architect/engineer in really neat blocks' lessons.

I don't care how people write, as long as it's legible and spelled correctly. On a straight line would be nice, too - my partner's handwriting looks like it was written on a road built by epileptics during an earthquake, and it drives me crazy, but it's legible.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:23 AM on October 11, 2006


jack_mo I don't read it as hate from Americans. Cursive is harder than print. I know sweet bugger all about the American school system but if this post and thread is an indication of contemporary thinking, then cursive is dead. (Don't get me wrong, I love it)
[Aside: the phrase "could care less" is in the FPP. 'Nuff Said' as a stony man said]
posted by tellurian at 9:23 AM on October 11, 2006


Most people here have missed the point entirely. Centuries of training in cursive handwriting have suppressed the dreaded alternative. Do none of you see the connection between the abandonment of enforced penmanship training, and the emergence of those darkest horrors, 1337-5p33|< and cAmEl cAsE?
posted by nowonmai at 9:25 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


On looking at examples of the Palmer Method I now completely understand the hate and why folk who've learned it switch to printing - when we learn joined up writing in the UK, it's much less strict, much less calligraphy-like, much more fluid.

I would think, "Why are you wasting time mailing this to me when you could have emailed it?"

It's the people who can't/won't email that tend to write the letters - maybe I just know an unusual number of hopeless luddites.

Seriously, no one I know sends letters of any kind, whether written, printed or typed.

This is where I begin to side with the hopeless luddites, and think that's kind of a shame - surely searching emails from your first girlfriend just doesn't match up with rifling through a shoebox stuffed with love letters?!
posted by jack_mo at 9:25 AM on October 11, 2006


Whenever I write cursive it takes me right back to 5th grade (the last time I used it with any regularity)... hunched over, tongue poking out of the corner of my mouth, slowly and laboriously tracing those unpracticed letters, I can almost see those blue solid and dashed guidelines on cheap brown newsprint. Apparently I was ahead of the curve - when I was in gradeschool my penmanship lessons were actually displaced by advanced reading lessons, which pretty much says it all.
posted by nanojath at 9:26 AM on October 11, 2006


I attended kindergarden and first grade at a school that wouldn't teach me cursive because I was a below-average speller, but I used my spare time (and the cursive letter chart on the classroom wall) to teach myself how to sign my name in cursive, because I thought it was cooler. (Apparently, my "cool meter" was miscalibrated even then.) Then I moved to a town where all students learned cursive in the second grade (before that, they used a phonetic alphabet, believe it or not), and spent the next few years getting C's and D's in "Handwriting". I missed a lot of recess in the third grade because I had to do extra handwriting practice.

The weird part? I'm 35 and still use cursive for everything, while everyone I grew up with seems to have abandoned it. In fact, a lot of people my age (and even older) are stunned that I still write in cursive. (They also think I have good penmenship, which confuses the hell out of me, because I don't think my handwriting has improved much since the 1970s.) People keep trying to make me help them with wedding invitations!

Anyway, my completely judgemental take on this news: I'm not surprised at all by the researchers who say cursive encourages better thinking. I've met lots of (lazy) smart people who print letters, but few dumb people who write cursive. The impending demise of cursive is probably just another sign that schools are letting standardized tests control the curricula.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 9:26 AM on October 11, 2006


How fascinating-- sgt.serenity uses the same sigil to represent "th" as I do. In college I actually wrote handwriting-deciphering guides for my professors when handing in exams, looking something like:

"Ne" = "the"
"Nat" = "that"
"a-d" = "and"

They always appreciated it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:38 AM on October 11, 2006


surely searching emails from your first girlfriend just doesn't match up with rifling through a shoebox stuffed with love letters?!

Well, I'm old enough that we didn't have email when I was in college but I still never got or sent love letters. We just talked on the phone. You're from the UK, this might just be a difference in national cultures here.
posted by octothorpe at 9:38 AM on October 11, 2006


Writing is stupid anyway. I really want to direct.
posted by Mister_A at 9:41 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


These days kids are typing in pre-K and touch typing by first grade.
posted by caddis at 10:54 AM CST on October 11 [+] [!]


I hope that is the case for my son (age:3). It was a crime not teaching us how to type until high school.

Touch typing is a profoundly useful skill.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2006


Sgt. Serenity:


And apologies about the image quality; while my cellphone takes awesome quality photos of real things, it's apparently terrible with photographing solid white paper quite close to the lens with bad lighting. I'm a little shocked, actually, considering how well normal photographs turn out.
posted by Bugbread at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm horrified. Really. I thought everybody knew how to write cursive and did it all the time.

Reminds me of a conversation overheard between two 16 yr olds recently -- "I hate it when I ask my mom what time it is and she says 'quarter to.' If it's not a digital clock, I can't read it."

AAAAAACK! Kids today!
posted by selfmedicating at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2006


Ynoxas : "I hope that is the case for my son (age:3). It was a crime not teaching us how to type until high school."

Well, I (or, rather, my kid) get doublescrewed: first, they don't teach typing in any school here, primary, middle, OR high school, and second: learning written Japanese is a big pain in the ass (for Japanese as well as foreigners), which means that, unlike English, it's not like you know the whole alphabet by first grade and that after that you may as well move to typing; you keep learning new characters all the way through to high school, and there's no way they'd introduce typing, because nobody would ever learn to write if they did.

Small aside: There is a kanji certification test in Japan. I, long ago, got level 3, which is basically high school graduate level. The lowest level, 10, for reference, is roughly primary school 3rd grade. Since I passed that test, I've moved to a workplace where everything is typed. I recently played the new DS game/study tool "Kanji Certification Trainer", and while my reading is still level 3, or occassionally 2, my writing has now dropped all the way to 10.

My coworkers are constantly surprised that I can touch-type, as they are, to a word, hunt-n-peckers...despite the fact that I work in a networking department where everyone works on computers all day long.
posted by Bugbread at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2006


I guess none of anti-cursive monkeys can knit, either, hunh? And velcro is replacing shoe-tying?
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:01 AM on October 11, 2006


These days kids are typing in pre-K and touch typing by first grade.

Thank you, caddis, you have restored some small measure of hope for humanity in me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:01 AM on October 11, 2006


bugbread: perhaps some would consider it lacking in charm or whatever, but your handwriting sample is at least 5x more legible than sgt. serenity's. A very rapid reading of yours was fully productive in one pass, where even 3 passes with diliberate effort has portions of sgt's message still completely illegible. Many words were deduced *ONLY* from context. If written alone, they would truly be indecipherable.

So, yours is (at least) 5x more legible, but did it take 5x longer to produce? Unlikely.

To tell you how bad my handwriting is, my print is almost as bad as sgt's cursive, and my cursive looks like a fountain pen self-destructed on the page.

When I was in elementary school, every student teacher that passed through our hallowed halls decided she would be the one to finally teach me how to write. I tried big pencils, little pencils, square, round, triangular, pads, braces, grips, and even breathing exercises. Nothing worked.

My belief is that I was meant to be left handed but forced at a young age to write right handed. I favor my left hand in many other activities.

I type a lot.

(not meaning to beat up on your writing sgt, it's just a perfect illustration to how something that is marginally beneficial to the writer can be of extreme detriment to the reader.)
posted by Ynoxas at 10:04 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm curious what they did to distinguish between cursive/longhand and block print, when most instruction today is modified systems such as D'Nealian.
posted by dhartung at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2006


I read this article last night and then spent a couple hours reading different penmanship sites (like this one, featuring scans of old lesson books)...it was interesting seeing how it was played up to be such an important mark of refinement and education...and it kind of looks like back in the day you would see ads for penmanship programs on scale of today's male enhancement ads...

my handwriting is terrible, and i wouldn't mind fixing it up a bit...my typing is >100 wpm, but would be nice to take some solid notes when a keyboard isn't handy...i use a random combo of block and cursive lettering that more reflects the shape of words than individual letters...reading about it pointed out some specific things--mainly that i use the side of my hand (rather than the 3-4-5 fingers) to anchor, which cuts off movement at the wrist and requires the fingers to supply all the power, but--and who knew--bringing in some forearm motion makes it flow much easier...
posted by troybob at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2006


selfmedicating writes "Reminds me of a conversation overheard between two 16 yr olds recently -- 'I hate it when I ask my mom what time it is and she says "quarter to." If it's not a digital clock, I can't read it.'"

Things sure have changed, I remember being teased as a kid for giving exact time, IE: "It's 12:47", instead of saying "It's quarter to 1".
posted by Mitheral at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2006


Cursive reflects a feature of spoken language in English in that the connection of letters in a given written word mirrors the blending of the phonemes the letters represent in a given spoken word. In this sense, the map conforms to the territory better with cursive than print.

Typing is strange because it requires motor actions on both sides of the brain, whereas speech is possible (though perhaps rather monotonous, with a flat facial expression-- I really do not know, and would like to) with motor acts only on the left, as is handwriting, by the evidence of stroke victims. I am inclined to believe this could change the basic content of writing, conceivably pushing us away from the possibility of another Shakespeare or Dickens, but perhaps toward some new consummation as devoutly to be wished.
posted by jamjam at 10:11 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm amazed how everyone is against cursive or "joined up writing"

i'm not against it ... i've written thousands of pages in it, although now that i've got a computer, i prefer typing ... but i'm not always around my computer

but if i want to communicate with others, i have to print or type ... my handwriting's an odd brand of italic with a little shorthand mixed in and people can't read it
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2006


nowonmai writes "Do none of you see the connection between the abandonment of enforced penmanship training, and the emergence of those darkest horrors, 1337-5p33|< and cAmEl cAsE?"

im in ur keybds sp33king 1337!
posted by clevershark at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2006


'Quarter to' is invariably followed by 'Quarter to WHAT?!' when someone says that to me.

I'm not constantly monitoring what hour it is, for chrissake.
posted by owenkun at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2006


what's worse is 'quarter of' (maybe a southern thing--i don't hear it in california)...i never know if people mean 'quarter to' or 'quarter after'
posted by troybob at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2006


And velcro is replacing shoe-tying?
When I was little I explained to my parents that their attempts to teach me how to tie my shoes were without merit, since velcro functioned perfectly well.

Little did I know that 'grown up shoes' often didn't have a velcro option.

It's a conspiracy, I think.
posted by owenkun at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2006



posted by pmbuko at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2006



posted by teleri025 at 10:21 AM on October 11, 2006


1011061326.jpg

i can't be the only one.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2006


Last time I taught (grade 6) I had kids (eager beavers) who were asking if I required cursive in final drafts. I replied " You must be joking. I am sure your cursive is lovely, but no, please print." Horrified kids and loads of angry parent phone calls later, they were printing. VICTORY!
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2006


I grew up in England. I had good handwriting. I moved to the US when I was 9, and I didn't know "cursive." I subsequently had "bad" handwriting. Obviously, this is stupid. If I write in a joined-letter form, and the writing is legible, then who cares if I use the US "cursive" writing system?

I am glad that cursive is dying.
posted by kcalder at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2006


I catalog old books for a living, usually ones that used to be in a different library somewhere. They are invariably written in, and the writing done before 1910 or so is invariably beautiful. I don't love cursive, but done well it is an extremely attractive thing.

It looks best done with a nibbed pen or a pencil.
posted by rogue haggis landing at 10:33 AM on October 11, 2006


We could also learn to slaughter chickens or churn butter, but we don't need those skills nowadays.

That's a weak comparison clevershark. Those are simple, dull, repetitive labors of the past--no amount of craftsmanship is going to elevate a killing chicken to an art. A better comparison would be to, say, carving wood or making cheese or wine, where effort and a desire to achieve quality can actually produce something wonderful. I despair that we are a society of amused consumers whose language skills shrink down to grunts, and even touch typing lost to thumbing WTF LOLs. I think I'll back to the curmudgeon cave and churn some butter, and then write a lovely letter about it.
posted by tula at 10:35 AM on October 11, 2006



posted by troybob at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2006


ownkun: but surely if someone said "Quarter to Three" you could deduce what they meant? I've met people that had no idea.

troybob: "quarter of" means "quarter to/till". Anyone who uses it the other way is just a silly person, not to be trusted with serious matters.

It doesn't work the same way as say "a quarter cup of milk" because there is no such thing as "a quarter" of four o'clock. Technically, a quarter of 4:00 am would be 1:00 am, and a quarter of 4:00 pm would be 4:00 am (measuring from midnight, naturally)

You could also argue that "a quarter of three" could be calculated as 2:15. But neither of these is what the person meant, so both can be discounted fairly rapidly.

Since people would rarely say "it's three-quarters after 2", "a quarter of" substitutes quite nicely.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2006


A few random thoughts:

For a variety of reasons at work we all end up writing a lot of notes by hand. Personally I've always done it in joined writing (cursive) and find this way faster and neater than printing.

Probably because I'm often reading others handwriting, sgt's notes are quite legible to me (translation available on demand).

As a child I remember enjoying identifying other kids' handwriting. It was fun to do; I guess the generation that followed mine has better distractions...

I find that my handwriting varies enormously depending on how busied/stressed I am - not just legibility, but the actual shape of the letters and overall look.

I also had to learn to write by hand in Cyrillic a few years ago as an adult and noticed that that had a big effect on my writing in English and French. The deliberate effort that went into writing Russian actually improved the quality of my Latin script. Same has happened when I worked on other languages in Latin script.

Finally, for me this is a timely post, as I had just been looking at this site, posted by someone on MeFi a while ago, and for the past couple of days have been playing around with that when I'm not too busy.
posted by senor biggles at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2006


Oh go on, misanthropicsarah, dot the I's with hearts and get it over with.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2006



posted by stopgap at 10:45 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


senor biggles : "translation available on demand"

Ah, then: I understand most of his first image from context (I wrote what it looked like, but I understand that what looks like "D'm cot foo into 'Cursive Writing'" must be "I'm not too into 'Cursive Writing'"), but I cannot, for the life of me, make out what the last line says (the part I transcribed as "Nat Repid- It's Shany Aul handyg is dpy Rufi.") What does that say?
posted by Bugbread at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2006


Heh, I just tried my hand at writing the cursive I was taught and came upon some really irritating snags that reminded me why I was so happy to start keyboarding.

box/fox: The cursive b is obnoxious with its over-emphasis on the downstroke back, and opening up the bottom loop. Then you have the f which is nothing like a print f and requires careful control to close the bottom loop properly, otherwise you end up with something that looks like a b.

i-e: It's easy to accidentally loop the i. In which case, when I go back over the word (because never lift the pen) I might dot an e.

r/n: never made sense to me why cursive r has a half-staff (don't know the proper terms) and a complete arch to make it look like a print n, while the cursive n has no staff and two arches. Perhaps the full arch on the r is to permit a baseline ligature, but there is already an exception to the baseline ligature rule with o.

S & s: Perhaps a special peeve of mine because the name I was born with included both lower-case and upper-case S. The upper-case S is ugly with an unnecessary loop demanded by (again) the baseline ligature. In this case the baseline ligature is surperflouous because at least in English, upper-case S never appears in the middle of the word. The lower-case s looks like what a decapitated b should look like, and with a little extra effort can actually be made to look s-like.

t: I don't object so much to the extra stroke. But it's too easy to accidentally loop it making it an ambiguous t-l hybrid. And of course, the rule about never lifting the pen means that you have to go back over the word.

u, v and w: More yuck. The forced loopy ligature give the v a hump, turns the u into something that looks like a w. But wait, here we have another midline ligature on the w.

z: What's up with that loop?

I don't mind a focus on handwriting or a good cursive, but for pete's sake, could we have a better cursive system in which:

* s actually looks like an s.
* Loops and stems are found only on the characters that need them.
* The shapes of characters are not distorted to meet the demands a strict baseline ligature.
* Ligature rules are sensible and flexible. (Looks good, and nice hand flow.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:47 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


But... the physicality of writing is lost with a keyboard-- the sense of actually applying something to a surface, and the whole movement of the arm, and the resistance of the ink as it is drawn across the page... and after seeing some of the 70 wmp spew that I've produced while hammering away at the keyboard, the enforced slowness, the meditative goodness of writing by hand (and the editing at source that it can impose), is not necessarily a bad thing.

I used to have beautiful handwriting; I now have chicken scrawl, which sometimes even I cannot make out later on. But I still take handwritten notes when I'm in class or at a lecture, because I don't seem to be able to think or process the information otherwise.

Handwriting is an art; typing is a tool. I do most of my writing on a keyboard like everyone else here, but I haven't forgotten the thrill of making a page of lovely, even, perfect-- and individual-- letters. Your handwriting, as an adult, is a statement of your self, in a graphic, visible way (and no, I don't believe in handwriting analysis). But, still, handwriting was the only way that many people used to express themselves in an artistic sense, with paper and pen.

(On the other hand, back in Grade Three or so, the girls were always better at it than the boys, and I remember that this annoyed them. Some of that residual feeling going on here? Just wondering.)
posted by jokeefe at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2006


And further to that, the images people are posting of their wildly varying handwriting/printing just emphasises how individual it all is. I'm finding it as interesting as seeing photographs of meetups, actually.
posted by jokeefe at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2006


WHy dO aMERICANS miX uppER aND lowER casE letteRs WhEn pRinTINg by hAnD?
posted by A189Nut at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2006


bugbread: "Its [sic] shitty that handwriting is dying though". (I won't swear by "shitty" - that's the only word I had doubts about).
posted by senor biggles at 11:07 AM on October 11, 2006


Two examples of my writing, the cursive that was inflicted on me in Elementary school top (what style is that called?), and the bastard italic cursive I picked up a few years ago bottom.



Note that I only manage a single good example of the cursive s I was taught. After printing and using italic for years, I find the cusive s to be almost impossible. The first example also took me about three times as long to write.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the male/female aspect of this. In my experience, girls tend to generally have better handwriting and stick with cursive longer. OTOH, many a boy I've known has been unfairly docked in school due to handwriting alone. I predicted the death of cursive several years ago, and I'm glad to see it go. I think it is among the many reasons that perfectly smart young men get completely disillusioned with the American school system. Often, it is not the child that has failed in school, it is the school that has failed him (or her, of course).
posted by thebrokedown at 11:18 AM on October 11, 2006


I don't know, A189Nut, but I don't think that's limited to Americans. Also, I am an American, I almost always print, and I certainly don't do that. I think that looks idiotic and I don't know why people are inclined to do it in the first place.
posted by agregoli at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2006


I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the male/female aspect of this. In my experience, girls tend to generally have better handwriting and stick with cursive longer.

*cough*
posted by jokeefe at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2006


I copied all the letters so carefully, that now I am the ruler of the Queen's na-vy!

Little LightOperaFilter there fo' ya!

And Where can I learn this italic cursive? Cuz I can't even read my own writing anymore.
posted by Mister_A at 11:33 AM on October 11, 2006


Stopgap: I wasn't exaggerating when I said I'd forgotten how to write in cursive. Here are my first two abortive attempts, before I printed my response to sgt. serenity:



That was my attempt to write "Hey, I could actually". Not bad, but that H is not a cursive H, nor is the I a cursive I, and there's three "l"s in "actually" instead of two.



That was my attempt to write "Wow, I only...". For some reason, the double-u became a triple-u, and the letter "I" looks like a lower case "l".

So I suppose if I wrote really, really, really slowly, and avoided certain letters (most of the capital letters, for one), I could technically write in cursive/longhand/joined up letters/script/etc., but I'm close enough to not being able to write to fairly say "I can no longer write in cursive".
posted by Bugbread at 11:45 AM on October 11, 2006


It's Shany Aul handyg is dpy Rufi

Clearly he writes print in English, cursive in Welsh.
posted by rogue haggis landing at 11:46 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


senor biggles : "bugbread: 'Its [sic] shitty that handwriting is dying though'. (I won't swear by 'shitty' - that's the only word I had doubts about)."

Ah. I can kind of see that, but I don't see how that can say "handwriting". From context, it makes sense, but there are only two or three letters after "hand". Maybe "handwr'tg"?
posted by Bugbread at 11:53 AM on October 11, 2006


bugbread: maybe I got that word at least in part because it looks very similar to the word right above it, which is more/even more clearly "handwriting".
posted by senor biggles at 12:01 PM on October 11, 2006


jokeefe: (On the other hand, back in Grade Three or so, the girls were always better at it than the boys, and I remember that this annoyed them. Some of that residual feeling going on here? Just wondering.)

I don't remember caring that much about gender differences in handwriting at that age. I do remember being angry that my trouble writing cursive hurt my grade in almost every other subject.

You see, I had the opposite experience. I was so clumsy with a pencil that each letter was a separate chore. I was reading far beyond my grade level, but I felt shut out of creative writing except for a few short poems that were painfully written and re-written with eraser marks worn through the paper. Typing was the first time that I was able to write paragraphs and pages.

And comparing keyboarding to pen is rather like comparing cats and dogs. Give me the leaden thud of a manual or the violent gun-trigger like snap of an electric over a cheap bic and legal pad. Very little can compare with the rythim of type against ribbon and paper turning over the counter in your brain until you heave the carriage back and start over. Give me the distinctive look of monospace characters worn through years of pressure against carbon black over either Times New Roman or smudgy gel ink or goopy dark paste. Certainly, a fine pen on good paper can be a pleasant experience, it is unfortunate that little care is lavished on the keyboard and word processor.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2006


Anyone can print, and print is much easier to read than figuring out how a person writes their letters.

I'm pretty appalled by most of the print writing I see, too, which often looks like chicken scratch. It won't kill you to form letters, people. Not all communication is online.

When was the last time that you got a hand-written letter? It's been years for me, maybe ten.

What about thank-you notes? Sympathy cards?
posted by desuetude at 12:17 PM on October 11, 2006


i wonder if the reason it is so hard to return to cursive from typing is that we get accustomed to the word, rather than the letter, being the primary component...which makes it more like speech...with cursive, though potentially faster than print, you are still required to give attention to each letter...with typing, when you hit the flow of it (and to gain any kind of speed with it) you stop thinking of the individual letters and you simply think a word, and muscle memory or whatever types it out..

...the more i consider it, the more i think what i would like is that patience for handwriting--the ability to slow down the thought process a bit, which would have served me better over the years had metafilter required cursive instead of typing...
posted by troybob at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2006


Stylized small caps for others, bastardized chicken scratches for myself. I get compliments on the small caps all the time. The chicken scratches are a personal combination of shorthand, print, and ideograms. For the record, I stopped writing cursive the moment it was not required and have never had problems keeping up with notes, writing exams, or long-form writing as the pro-cursive crowd fears. I don't hate it, I just have no use for it myself.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:22 PM on October 11, 2006


I used to be quite the prolific letter writer and getter, but I haven't gotten a letter, hand-written, typed, etched, or inscribed telephatically, in at least 10 years. I haven't done anything that anyone would thank me for, haven't gotten sick enough for a get well card, haven't had any relatives die. The most I've gotten were maybe single sentences in birthday cards. Basically, the people who I'm close to tend to do those social niceties (birthday congratulations, Christmas greetings, etc.) in person, by phone if that's not possible, or, in my parents' case, video messaging.
posted by Bugbread at 12:26 PM on October 11, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I much,much prefer cursive, it's faster and it looks much better than my printing (Sharpie on an index card is not my usual medium).
posted by MikeMc at 12:29 PM on October 11, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I learned printing in K and 1st grades, cursive in 2nd, and touch-typing not til 9th (and was terrible at it for years). tNow I write by hand often, but always in print. I can print extremely neatly if needed, but more often it comes out like the first sample if I'm taking notes, or the second if my writing is more leisurely. I can manage a reasonably elegant longhand if I go very very slowly--with the above, I tried to do it quickly and had to concentrate so hard I misquoted Poe...
posted by hippugeek at 12:39 PM on October 11, 2006


All I know is my cursive is beautiful and all you haters just haven't mastered small motor skills.
posted by dame at 12:41 PM on October 11, 2006


I just want to say that the quality of future historical work has just about zero impact on my lifestyle. Perhaps we should stop recycling as well?

OK, I have to go tend to my midden.
posted by Wood at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2006


I will write a cursive letter to anyone here who sends me his or her mailing address.
posted by JanetLand at 1:06 PM on October 11, 2006


All I know is my cursive is beautiful and all you haters just haven't mastered small motor skills.

Nonsense. How else would we have learned to hold our tiny wee-wees while we pee?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:21 PM on October 11, 2006



posted by jack_mo at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2006


As far as I know you wusses still pee your pants, Xenophobe.
posted by dame at 1:56 PM on October 11, 2006


Anyway, Xenophobe, that's less of a motor skill and more of a plumbing issue. Unless, of course, you're talking about writing in the snow... can you manage a little cursive for a yellow-bellied holiday message?
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2006


dame : "As far as I know you wusses still pee your pants, Xenophobe."

I borrow my coworker's pants and pee in them instead.

jack_mo : "Stopgap has the prettiest hand"

I agree.
posted by Bugbread at 2:43 PM on October 11, 2006


Cursive is evil and should die a horrible death. It should be strung up by its toenails and forced to listen to "my humps." It should be kindapped by chihuahua-wielding celebrities. It should be forced to eat a ten-strip of Brown Acid while watching a continuous loop of George W. Bush speeches.

The first "D" I ever got was in Handwriting. I remember having to stay up late every night re-writing all of my homework because my cursive was illegible. Cursive taught me that school wasn't about learning, it was about tedium. Cursive ruined my handwriting. Had cursive never been forced on me, I would be writing in the nice, neat block writing that I used to begin with. Instead, I write in this awful hybrid of the two. Curse you, cursive!

Does cursive help you write faster? I don't know and I don't care. I never had trouble taking notes. I've never found myself thinking, "Man, I wish I could write faster. I would be able to take notes and advance myself in life, but - darnit - I just can't write fast enough!" Sorry, it just doesn't happen.

Look, I'm not saying that cursive handwriting is completely useless. I'm just saying that we don't need to make our children miserable and waste their time with it. Considering how far our students lag behind those of other industrialized countries, are you telling me that you can't think of a single thing that you would rather they spend their time on?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:46 PM on October 11, 2006


Honestly, this is my scrawl for when no one but me has to read it. Notebooks upon notebooks full of this. Except when I wrote backwards. I'd do that when I was bored, or my profs were going really slowly. If I'm writing for other people, engineer-print. Oh, and a page full of notes will slant any which way - I'm left-handed and I readjust the angle of my notebook every paragraph or so. I usually write with the top of a notepad anywhere from 1 to 3 o'clock.

posted by cobaltnine at 3:00 PM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


There is this: I have always disliked my very poor handwriting (cursive), and I have always envied those with great handwriting. Then I came to realize that some people I greatly admired as authors had terrible handwriting and some people with "educated" writing were in fact dopes. Next I realized that I am a fast typist and that my thought outrace my ability to write by hand but that I can say more, faster and with greater ease, through typing. So Now I am at peace with this aspect of a troubled life. Now I need to work on the other parts that are in need of fixing.
Thanks for listening. Or is it reading? It helps.
posted by Postroad at 3:02 PM on October 11, 2006


Considering how far our students lag behind those of other industrialized countries, are you telling me that you can't think of a single thing that you would rather they spend their time on?

Could some of the non-US MeFites chime in and tell us how you spent your time in school? (I'm betting that penmanship was part of it.)
posted by desuetude at 3:07 PM on October 11, 2006


/
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:21 PM on October 11, 2006




And I type faster than I can write in any style.
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:24 PM on October 11, 2006


I had maybe two classes in college that actually required hand-written exams. I used block-printing, it took forever and caused my hand to cramp up something awful. Other than that, I've always typed everything. Never took notes in college, never wrote letters. The extent of my experience with analog writing has been mostly filling out forms.

I was homeschooled from first grade, and I have a vague recollection of being forced to learn cursive at some point, but I never actually used it. As a child, I just typed up whatever was necessary and printed it off on our dot-matrix.
posted by signalnine at 3:42 PM on October 11, 2006




But obviously my handwriting is not good. But it's generally pretty legible. I was one of those who always got bad handwriting grades, but I never gave up cursive, because it's way faster.

In high school I taught myself to write old German script (as seen here) because it impressed the hell out of the German teacher. I wrote all of my German assignments that way and it affected my English cursive a bit too.

My main annoyance with my cursive (and print) is that I just can't write consistently; letters vary in size, the baseline is all over the place, etc.

I'm sad that people aren't learning cursive any more, and quite surprised. I'm not that old and I was required to use it through high school.
posted by litlnemo at 3:50 PM on October 11, 2006


Sgt Serenity puts a space before punctuation when he writes too!

I wonder if Americans are taught some especially evil and hard to master version of joined up writing?
I've definitely found troubles reading US handwriting before -- I have cursive love letters that still puzzle me: I just can't connect the shapes to any known letters or words.

My handwriting is very like booksandlilbretti's third version, but I can do it very quickly. It's the closest version to the text you're reading here (sans-serif on my screen), and we read much more than we write, so why not write for easy reading?
posted by bonaldi at 3:53 PM on October 11, 2006


desuetude, in mid-70s Scotland, I was first taught printing, then four years later taught that it was completely wrong, then had to learn linked italics. I stuck with a nasty hybrid of the two, for which I was frequently given bad marks. Never learnt cursive, still need a translator for old people's and American's chicken-scratch. Least I didn't learn ITA like some of the other local schools, all of whose kids ended up in rem class when they transferred.
posted by scruss at 3:58 PM on October 11, 2006


I can't even read joined-up writing, let alone write it, so this is good news for me--assuming this, like most other things, makes it over to the UK. I was taught initially in a Scottish school and seemed to miss any cursive writing during the switch to an English school along with long division: two things I've still not mastered to this day. And I'd much rather know long division out of the two.

When in Germany I had to take extra German handwriting reading lessons just to be able to read restaurant menus and the like. I stayed for a year and at the end, there were still a number of extravagant places whose handwritten (chalk on blackboard) menus I still couldn't understand.
posted by Keefa at 4:19 PM on October 11, 2006


handwriting

I type more than 70wpm, but I do hand write a lot of things.
posted by sugarfish at 4:20 PM on October 11, 2006


I learned cursive in grade school in the 1960s after learning to print, and found it much faster and easier. However, I quickly developed my own form of script longhand since some of the "official" letterforms just seemed screwy to me (like the lowercase z), and ended up with the same sort of hybrid that many others have described.

What's sad is that my handwriting has deteriorated significantly since I began typing most everything. My script was never beautiful but it was legible (well, consistent would be a better description - once you deciphered it you could always read everything, page after page). Now I can barely write a shopping list - letter shapes don't come out right, and my brain skips over letters then inserts them later in the wrong place. I don't know if this is middle-aged senility or just lack of practise, but it makes me sad.
posted by Quietgal at 4:23 PM on October 11, 2006


Could some of the non-US MeFites chime in and tell us how you spent your time in school? (I'm betting that penmanship was part of it.)

In New Zealand we aren't taught cursive. I'm not even sure we're taught 'block text' because that seems to be all caps or something else by the descriptions above. I certainly see no reason why my writing should be slower than dragging the pen all over the page, and I guarantee I write faster than most people posting in this thread (I write fast, always useful in exams). All the comments about how much slower it is and 'omg you lift the pen so much' makes me wonder what kind of writing you guys get taught as an alternative to cursive.

We are, however, taught to write. Penmanship is definitely part of the curriculum and I remember doing hand writing drill as far up as standard two (um, about 9-10 years old?). We're only taught one way to write though (printing), no changing to something fancy part way through. I had terrible handwriting growing up because I didn't get glasses til I was 8 despite always being short sighted. It took until about 17 before it came right completely. But it never affected my grades in other subjects and I was always a good student. Bad printing is generally still legible when the letters are all separate and formed in a fairly standard way. My handwriting now is much better than my boyfriend's, and he apparently won a handwriting prize back when he was a kid.

I'm glad we didn't learn cursive. It's ugly and illegible and hard. My time was much better spent learning about what I was writing rather than how to form the letters. I don't think we miss anything by not having it, unemployment is low and take up of tertiary education is pretty good, our society is doing pretty well despite the lack of joined up letters.

I still write a lot now and have exercise books filled with note taking about all the readings I do for my PhD. Doing it by hand makes it stick in my brain. I generally see a range of handwriting in the people around me, although both my sister's handwriting is almost identical to mine (despite having different teachers). I like that I can write however works for me rather than to some set standard or form. Maybe that's why I write fast? I wish I could type so well.

posted by shelleycat at 4:24 PM on October 11, 2006




And I just checked my typing speed, which appears to be slightly over 70wpm.
posted by Bugbread at 4:26 PM on October 11, 2006


Oh, and I would like to thank this thread for the following:

- Teaching me that cursive is also called "joined up writing", "longhand", "script", and "running writing"
- Teaching me what the Photocopy filter in Photoshop is for (horrible dark photos turn into (relatively) clean black and white!)
posted by Bugbread at 4:37 PM on October 11, 2006


I would say there's a huge range of handwriting practices in the UK. I conducted a small experiment in my office--10 people--and each had his quirks, and that's not even taking into account the stray Canadian whose handwriting is a total puzzle: 'is that supposed to be a Z?!', 'that letter doesn't even exist', etc.

FWIW, the majority of my teenage love letters were hand-written--which might explain my atrocious record in that department--until the internet really took off when I was finishing high school. I can't imagine I've written a single letter since then. The difference between handwriting and typing is huge. Not only in terms of speed, but also the simply editing tools that are always available: insert a word here, take something out, oscilate between a semicolon and a colon for a minute or two.
posted by Keefa at 4:41 PM on October 11, 2006


Bad printing is generally still legible when the letters are all separate and formed in a fairly standard way.

As someone who has frequently had to decipher other people's writing, I can assure you this is not the case. But anyway, I guarantee you if you go through the effort of actually learning cursive properly, you will write faster than you print. And it is only illegible and hard if you don't know how to do it--pretty much like a million other things (chemistry, math, sex, whatever).
posted by dame at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2006


But anyway, I guarantee you if you go through the effort of actually learning cursive properly, you will write faster than you print.

I disagree. I press very hard when I write (wish I didn't but it's not going to change apparently) and having the pen on the page that much longer is only ever going to slow things down.

Which again is why I wonder how you guys are taught to print. I have great flow and rhythm in my writing, the pen moves evenly across the page and the letters form effortlessly without thinking about them individually. I write faster than I think, and I think pretty darn fast (not always to my benefit). Adding loops and swirls and friction and increased need for co-ordination, I don't see how that can be faster.

I agree that it's a skill that needs to be learnt. I just don't see the point of learning it, any more than any other sideline skill like calligraphy or whatever.
posted by shelleycat at 5:19 PM on October 11, 2006


shelleycat : "I disagree. I press very hard when I write...Adding loops and swirls and friction and increased need for co-ordination, I don't see how that can be faster."

Well, that's probably the difference right there. Most people probably don't press as hard as you, so friction isn't an issue for me (I, personally, dislike cursive, but I've never felt that friction slowed me down). So there's a miniscule amount of time saved by not bothering to lift the pen. If you push hard, then lifting the pen probably saves you time.
posted by Bugbread at 5:24 PM on October 11, 2006


Well, when you learn cursive (in third grade) you learn to write without pressing down hard. In my mind, pressing down is a very juvenile thing to do, not as an insult but because you learn not to.
posted by dame at 5:50 PM on October 11, 2006


Geez, excuse the incoherence. To bed.
posted by dame at 6:02 PM on October 11, 2006


Speech is possible ... with motor acts only on the left [side of the brain], as is handwriting, by the evidence of stroke victims. I am inclined to believe this could change the basic content of writing

Hey, what about us lefties, who use both sides of our brains when we write. Is the basic content of our writing different?

Oh, and,

Metafilter: Our society is doing pretty well despite the lack of joined up letters.
posted by epugachev at 6:15 PM on October 11, 2006


dame: But anyway, I guarantee you if you go through the effort of actually learning cursive properly, you will write faster than you print. And it is only illegible and hard if you don't know how to do it--pretty much like a million other things (chemistry, math, sex, whatever).

It seems the basic problem is that like chemistry, math, sex, and knowing how to play the hurdy gurdy**, school systems are doing a fairly miserable job at helping students master these skills. At which point, it is reasonable to reconsider the minimum level of competence we expect, our methods for teaching, and exactly what methods we expect.

After all the Zaner-Bloser or D'Nealian systems that most Americans were subjected to only date back to the 1960s. We could be using Victorian Modern Cursive (named for the Australian state), or italic cursive, or even a new script.

We could consider that 8-year-olds don't have identical hands, and perhaps shoud not all be expected to produce script of identical shapes and sizes. After all, my orchestra at the same age included kids on half-sized violins and kids that were bumped to cello.

We could actually consider that development is multi-faceted so making grades across the curriculum dependent on handwriting conformity might not be a good idea.

We could even consider that *gasp* there exists a wide variation in human cognitive-motor skills so it might be the case that one script does not meet the needs of all people. I find cursive italic much more forgiving on my tendency to tighten up from shoulder to fingertip than the blobby Zaner-Bloser.

But that would involve turning schools into places focused on learning rather than places focused on teaching and sorting, and we just can't have that, can we?

** What you don't know how to play the hurdy gurdy? Well, it's obvious you just have not mastered fine motor skills or an ear for the finer qualities of European music.

On preview:

dame: Well, when you learn cursive (in third grade) you learn to write without pressing down hard. In my mind, pressing down is a very juvenile thing to do, not as an insult but because you learn not to.

You must have had a Vivaldi or Gingold as a teacher. Most of us didn't have such amazing good luck as to get a handwriting instructor who was willing to work with students on the finer points of biomechanics. Of course one of the other fine points of biomechanics is that that everyone is wired and built a bit differently. What you seem to take for granted, as "juvenile," I've invested a shitload of time and energy since elementary school trying to learn (with mixed success.)

Dysgraphia is a learning disability after all. Please remember that before going all smug about just learning how to do it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:46 PM on October 11, 2006


I hate cursive.



posted by mealy-mouthed at 7:19 PM on October 11, 2006


I press too hard with everything I do, it's the way my body is wired. No amount of training would make any difference and my primary school teachers certainly spent a lot of time helping me write functionally and properly (as I already mentioned I had a lot of issues with this for other reasons). I'm not juvenile or untrained or a little slow (and yeah, it's kinda insulting). Some people just aren't suited to cursive writing. I'd even go as far as the majority aren't suited to it. Why force it on children when it's not necessary and has drawbacks for so many of them? Way to make life harder than it needs to be.

I do write loosely and freely despite the pressure thing, and barely lift the pen from the page (there are trails between some of the letters, I don't go out of my way not to run things together if it suits me to join them). I don't see how specifically keeping the pen on the page and pushing it to the start of the next letter or adding extra loops and things to prevent the pen from lifting is faster or easier than lifting it slightly as the pen is repositioned. Movement through air isn't slow, lifting the pen a little isn't arduous or time consuming, it's all just part of the natural movement. I can adjust as I go along so the words stay in a straight line and I can shape the letters or words in the way that is most efficient for me at the time. Words and text are still written as chunks, I'm not sitting here labouring over individual entities.

I see no reason why one way of writing is automatically faster than another. Surely it's practise, you're fastest at whatever you prefer, use most often and suits you best. We sit hand written exams in my country, and many of us write pretty verbose answers. Not having cursive doesn't mean we're all able to write less or are mysteriously slower than other countries. There is no disadvantage.


I tried to make a writing sample but both photographing and scanning looked like shit. My notes are done on thinnish paper and the lighting in here isn't great. I don't have time to make something workable.
posted by shelleycat at 7:26 PM on October 11, 2006


One reason no one's mentioned to favor printing: it's silly to do math in cursive, especially with Greek letters present, and easier not to switch writing styles each time you hit an equation.
posted by Upton O'Good at 8:25 PM on October 11, 2006


mealy-mouthed, wtf was that on the bottom?
posted by MarkO at 8:26 PM on October 11, 2006


This cursive writing thing... you mean, some people actually use the Brush Script font while writing by hand?

Seriously though, if you generically mean "cursive" to be "glyphs strung together by a running line, unlike how it is done in print", then I'd pretty much have to say that cursive is dead in other languages as well. My mother tongue, for example; handwritten notes in Telugu from the turn of the last century is darn near illegible for us 21st-century readers. Reason: back in the 19th century, they strung all their letters together. We no longer do.
posted by the cydonian at 8:36 PM on October 11, 2006


As someone else mentioned way above in the thread, the only way to write in Russian is to use a form of cursive handwriting, if that tells you anything. I suppose you should just be glad that using the Latin/Roman alphabet means you have the option to print the characters.

I generally print in English because it looks neater (to me), but I wrote in cursive for years in school. I was never subjected to the horrors of a strict system of cursive; I seem to remember the teachers just wanting handwriting to be legible, not identical.

If I try to write in cursive now I'm liable to slip into Russian. It's one of the ways I distinguish between the languages when I write.
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:43 PM on October 11, 2006


This thread is wonderful. "Bad" handwriting is so damn interesting!

I cherish a scrap of paper upon which a friend wrote "pajama pants? Power? & its inversion? Augusta Farm Co-op."
It looks like "poison ants? Power? Grits invasion? Agenda for GOP."

My honest-best guess at mealy-mouthed's sample: "This is what notes taken in college looked like, as long as I wrote sounalur, once. I meant alcohol to sofimnu it again. Woc to lielmem watchful to furnace um nutus!" ???

Bugbread, your first cursive sample reminds me of a favorite professor's handwriting. I used to pick individual words from the chalkboard and copy them super-sized into the margins of my notes.

somethingotherthan, re distinguishing via different writings: I recently realized I write poetry in a slightly different hand than prose (rounder, more careful). Convenient, as it makes poems easy to find at a glance when flipping through a notebook.
posted by hippugeek at 10:57 PM on October 11, 2006


I'm hoping block printing goes away too, and we just have cheap keyboards every 100 ft to type things on.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:55 AM on October 12, 2006


mealy-mouthed, wtf was that on the bottom?

That was my note-taking scrawl I used in college to keep up with lectures.

"This is what note taking in college looked like. As long as I wrote something once, I never needed to reference it again. Woe to whomever wanted to borrow my notes!"
posted by mealy-mouthed at 4:01 AM on October 12, 2006


Great! Now I can stop recalling my third-grade teacher as the Terror of Tiny Town and refer to her as Ozymandias instead. Up yours, Mrs. Sbarra!

(Although I admit it is quite nice to be able to whip out the cursive when the occasion demands.)
posted by melissa may at 4:53 AM on October 12, 2006


Shelleycat:Some people just aren't suited to cursive writing. I'd even go as far as the majority aren't suited to it. Why force it on children when it's not necessary and has drawbacks for so many of them? Way to make life harder than it needs to be.

Are you kidding? That isn't an argument for anything. You could say the same thing of plenty of school subjects and the answer is (as always) because it's still a worthwhile skill. (And I have seen very few arguments in this thread that the skill isn't worthwhile except from people whose motives are questionable, ie, people who haven't mastered it.)

And I think I am in a better position to judge which is faster having, over the course of my life, printed and written enough to do both well. If you can master both, cursive will be faster. That isn't to say print isn't fast. Just that cursive is faster.

You must have had a Vivaldi or Gingold as a teacher. Most of us didn't have such amazing good luck as to get a handwriting instructor who was willing to work with students on the finer points of biomechanics.

It had nothing to do with my instructor. (In fact, because I was in the "advanced" group, we pretty much did the workbook by ourselves while the teacher worked with the other kids.) Rather, I started off pressing hard, then realized that didn't work very well and stopped doing it. I was seven, not an idiot. And I don't find the whole OMG I am so physically unsuited argument compelling at all. I am totally clumsy and deficient at other small-motor tasks. I hold my pen wrong (still--almost got held back for that one) and write in a totally ass-backwards position. I can still do cursive.

Anyway, I'm content to disagree at this point, but I do find the whole "I can't do it, therefore it's worthless" argument really sad. I can't do physics but I don't think learning physics is worthless. You are right, though, that different systems and accepting a little more variation would probably be better.

And shelleycat, I'm sorry that still came off as insulting. I don't think pressing hard is, in essence, juvenile. It just seems so to me because I learned not to do it when I was little, so it strikes me as a little-kid thing.
posted by dame at 6:14 AM on October 12, 2006


This has been a fascinating thread, thanks to all involved.
posted by aramaic at 6:37 AM on October 12, 2006


but I do find the whole "I can't do it, therefore it's worthless" argument really sad

The same could be said of the "I do it, so it must be important" argument.
posted by aramaic at 6:44 AM on October 12, 2006


(And I have seen very few arguments in this thread that the skill isn't worthwhile except from people whose motives are questionable, ie, people who haven't mastered it.)

People aren't arguing that it isn't worthwhile, they are arguing that it isn't necessary. And it's not. In case you missed the argument, here it is:

Cursive is unnecessary because there exists another system which is easily mastered and understood by a large number of people in society. If you use that system, you don't have to use cursive.

And I think I am in a better position to judge which is faster having, over the course of my life, printed and written enough to do both well. If you can master both, cursive will be faster. That isn't to say print isn't fast. Just that cursive is faster.

You are totally begging the question here. You haven't proved that cursive is faster. The exact same argument can be flipped around and said that you truly haven't mastered print well because if you had mastered it, you would be faster for you than cursive. The argument is the exact same, and your sample size of one doesn't prove anything.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:46 AM on October 12, 2006


You could say the same thing of plenty of school subjects and the answer is (as always) because it's still a worthwhile skill. (And I have seen very few arguments in this thread that the skill isn't worthwhile except from people whose motives are questionable, ie, people who haven't mastered it.)

Well, I, for one, am not saying that curisve is a worthless skill. I am saying, however, that there is a panoply of other skills that are far *more* worthwhile.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:11 AM on October 12, 2006


dame: you seem abnormally passionate on this subject. Care to expand on your position a bit more?

I don't think you're coming off as you intend on this subject. It's rather presumptious of you to assume so many things, such as:

1. you have written more than others here
2. you have mastered cursive, so therefore everyone else should as well
3. you find value to cursive, so therefore everyone else should as well
4. people have inadequate cursive skills because they haven't tried or "done it right", or because they are immature

This isn't the way you attack most subjects, so maybe have a nice arabica bean blend and come back and hit us up again? This has been such a wonderful thread, and your aggressiveness seems to be out of form.

Plus the fact that probably 75% of the posters in the thread have eschewed cursive altogether but you're only targeting one.

And since you posit that it is undeniable that cursive is faster, I therefore posit it is undeniable that print is FAR more legible. Witness the samples posted mid-thread.

Which do you value more? Speed or legibility? I don't care if it takes someone TWICE as long to print, which it surely doesn't. Some of the samples above are simply not able to be read except by their own author.

So hurray, 3 seconds saved by the writer, 3 minutes wasted by the reader.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:34 AM on October 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ynoxas, I suspect you're right. I wasn't meaning to be aggressive (though mostly I am, so I'm not suprised that air came through).

But anyway, my position is simply that cursive (whichever form) isn't worthless and that choosing to deride somethnig because you sucked at it is dumb. Is it the most important thing ever? No. But it's like the PE thread from a few days ago: because the majority of MeFi's nerd-demogrpahic sucked at it, it should be revamped, thrown out, eliminated. Yet plenty of other folks found math utter torture and loved PE or penmanship or whatever; imagine the response to those folks saying math was worthless.

That is, "worthless" is a very strong judgement. You can not like it or whatever, I don't care. But to decide something lacks value entirely?

As to your list:

1. I wasn't saying that. I think I was unclear by using "written" to mean "used cursive."

2. I don't think people should have to master it. I do think that deridnig it because they found it hard to master is objectionable.

3. Yes, I do wish people could accept that is has value. Again I come to the physics example: I hate physics and find it inscruatable, yet I accept that it has value. That doesn't mean I have to adore it or even think about it very often; it just means that it isn't worthless.

4. Well, yes. If your skills are inadequate, you haven't learned to do it correctly yet. That isn't a value judgement. My cooking skills are inadequate. My arguing skills are apparently inadequate. Whatever. If you care you work at it and if you don't, you don't.

Which do you value more? Speed or legibility?

If you write well, that isn't a choice you have to make. Good cursive is both fast and legible. Then again, I found most of the above samples legible. And in years of editing hand-marked copy, I've found plenty of totally illegible print.

Finally I was picking on one poster because I found it utterly absurd that someone who had never even attempted to learn something felt qualified to deem it useless. Honestly, as presumptive as I have been, that is worse.

23skidoo: Neither of us has really proven anything. So this all just jawing in the end. I think most people accept that cursive is faster, though. I was in particular arguing with someone who decided printing was faster, depite not having done both. In that case, having done both would give me the edge.

Now I really have to work.
posted by dame at 8:24 AM on October 12, 2006


I think booksandlibretti wins the penmanship award for this thread. I wish I could write like that.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:01 AM on October 12, 2006


Lazlo: not only is her penmanship better, it's hot.

Yes, I really said that, and meant it. I probably should have said "hawt" but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

...but that raises an interesting issue (well, for me anyhow) -- is better penmanship attractive?
posted by aramaic at 9:10 AM on October 12, 2006


...but that raises an interesting issue (well, for me anyhow) -- is better penmanship attractive?
posted by aramaic at 11:10 AM CST on October 12 [+] [!]


Yes.

And b&l's writing is hawt. Her 2nd example is the kind of writing I expect to see on the note left on my pillow.

dame: thanks for the follow-up.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2006


dame: Rather, I started off pressing hard, then realized that didn't work very well and stopped doing it. I was seven, not an idiot.

Well, I wasn't an idiot at 7. I wasn't an idiot at 10, 14, 18, 22, 28 and 32 either. And after hours of work, finding just the right tension for tasks such really good handwriting, or musical performance is still really difficult.

Anyway, I'm content to disagree at this point, but I do find the whole "I can't do it, therefore it's worthless" argument really sad. I can't do physics but I don't think learning physics is worthless. You are right, though, that different systems and accepting a little more variation would probably be better.

Um, where did I argue that it was "worthless?" I've spent quite a bit of time, probably more time than anyone in this thread who is not a professional calligrapher, working on improving handwriting and learning various systems to improve speed and legibility.

I'm looking at this from the point of view of someone who is both an educator, and a learner who has struggled hard to overcome a mild learning disability in the case of handwriting. And I also seem to raise the same argument over and over and over again in regards to PE, math, and physics as well. Whenever I see a subject draw such intense antipathy from its former students, I start looking at the methods used to teach them.

Perhaps physics and math are "inscrutable" for many because the methods used don't work for all people. Perhaps a student has a mild cognitive kink that needs individual attention. Perhaps PE is hated because asking a few dozen random kids across the spectrum of physiological development to compete isn't a good idea.

And there are many skills that are useful and valuable which are not taught in schools, taught as electives, or taught as after-school activities. Home Economics is extremely valuable, but I don't have strong opinions about its status as an elective.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:53 AM on October 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wait a second, I was an idiot at 18, but then again, so are most people.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:57 AM on October 12, 2006


People aren't arguing that it isn't worthwhile, they are arguing that it isn't necessary. And it's not.

Exactly. Learning calligraphy also has worth and also should not be a primary school subject.

And it really really isn't a necessary skill. My entire country doesn't learn it. And we're doing, argueably, better than the US on many things (record low unemployment anyone?). We're certainly not at any kind of disadvantage because we don't get taught this one thing growing up. Our society isn't somehow poorer for it, we still produce art and literature and great science. We just do it whatever hand writing works rather than some specific form pressed apon on.

Again. Entire country does not do it. Not just me, four million of us. (OK, my grandma does it do probably more like 2.5-3 million of us).

I've talked to many people in other countries who found their progress at school suddenly declined when they switched to cursive. Look how many people in this thread post about poor grades across other subjects because of it. Yet my handwriting was literally terrible and I got great grades in everything and learnt a lot (including skipping a year) and have always generally been considered a very good student. There is detriment there. More importantly, there is no detriment here where none of us are taught this skill.

So while it might be a nice thing for some people to learn, why force it on them when it has problems for many and really makes no difference overall?
posted by shelleycat at 12:34 PM on October 12, 2006


Finally I was picking on one poster because I found it utterly absurd that someone who had never even attempted to learn something felt qualified to deem it useless.

I didn't 'deem it useless' by the way. Am just trying to point out that my country doesn't do it and yet this makes no difference. Therefore, I don't see how it can be a necessary skill to get by in a westernised society, since we do just fine without it. There is a wide gulf between necessary or important and useless, this writing skill falls in there somewhere.

I also didn't say 'printing is faster'. Just that whatever suits each person best, they do the most, have the most practise at is faster. Some arbitrary change is writing style to something that doesn't work for me is not going to make me write faster, and I'm still totally confused as to how you all think I write if you think that's the case.
posted by shelleycat at 12:39 PM on October 12, 2006


And I don't find the whole OMG I am so physically unsuited argument compelling at all.

I'm curious: you're not a left, are you? I can tell you that, as a left, cursive isn't a whole lot of fun. For that matter, writing by hand in general isn't a great deal of fun as a left. First of all, if you're not careful, any sort of fountain pen will result in a page (and hand) that's covered in smeared ink. Second of all, the main benefit of cursive, as I see it, is that your pace increases as you fluidly "pull" the pen across the page. Pushing the pen, however, seems to be a far less fluid motion. I don't have very concrete evidence to back this up, but I've fooled around with writing backwards across the page a few times; I didn't do it for any great length of time, but enough to notice that it felt like a far more natural thing to do.

As I said, writing in general as a lefty is a bit irksome. On top of writing issues (hand position, the aforementioned "pushing), writing in binders--and, to a lesser but still noticeable extent, notebooks--is an exercise that closely approximates Chinese water torture: if you've never tried it, grab a pen and a binder and try to start writing, beginning with your name in the top left corner of the page. It's $#*&ing annoying.

I learned the basics of cursive in grade one and two and had no problems sussing it out. But I was never good at it. Honestly, I'm not a great printer, either, and to write cleanly for someone other than myself takes a great deal of extra time that, frankly, isn't worth the trouble. I'm only twenty-four, so I lucked out and cursive really wasn't a big deal when I was in grade one and two. It was just one of those things that you learn. I still know how to do it, for the most part, but I don't. I can't decipher what I've written even a few months later, so I don't know what historians would do with it ;)

I haven't actually tested myself recently, but I imagine my typing is in excess of 70 WPM when I'm just writing off the top of my head, which has to be four or five times quicker than I can write legibly. When I was in university (up until last spring, when I finished my B.A.) I was forced in essentially every class to write my final by hand, which bothered me quite a bit. It seems counter-intuitive to me, since I can't imagine any reason I would actually physically write anything that important by hand. It's slower and causes my hand to cramp up, resulting in a great deal of frustration and work that is of lower quality than I would otherwise produce. I would say that on papers I wrote on a word processor, my median score was probably in the 93-94% range, whereas handwritten midterms and finals were probably a full 10% lower.

Interestingly, a number of people I know preferred the hand-written midterms and finals because professors were a little bit more lenient since it was written by hand in a compressed time, but this never worked to my benefit.

On a final somewhat related note, I remember when they first put Macintosh computers in my library (I was in grade two). They had the Apples before that, but the Macs are what I really got into. My friends and I used to use them to write stories during recess and lunch time--long, Hardy-Boys-esque tales of criminal intrigue, almost invariably typed in some ungainly, nearly undecipherable font (even bubble font). I still have them in a box somewhere, I think.
posted by The God Complex at 1:07 PM on October 12, 2006


I WRITE IN BLOCK PR... oh sorry. I write in block print, all the time. The only cursive I use is my signature, and that's kind of a rabit mutant cursive where I don't lift the pen at all accross first/middle/last name and the i-dot.

I can calligraph, but usually what I write with a dip pen is very sharp meticulous block printing instead of high-speed nobody-needs-to-read-it-but-me note-taking block printing.
posted by Foosnark at 3:40 PM on October 12, 2006


You guys (er, that's Lazlo Hollyfeld, aramaic, and Ynoxas) made me snicker aloud. Usually people just make fun of me for my lazy "g"s.

I should set up a little business -- "note on pillow (must place yourself): $5 via paypal; shoutout (includes a small doodle): $10; dirty words: $1 each." Not a bad business model, since I already have a scanner. . . .
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:26 PM on October 12, 2006


I wish I could find the link for this, but I once saw a website about dyslexia that said that "overtraining" learning disabled students (i.e., making them practice penmanship more than ordinarily deemed necessary) helps improve their ability to organize their thinking and improve their general reading and writing fluency because of the biomechanical connection. Just about every teaching method advocated for dyslexics today uses a multisensory approach. The practice time devoted to penmanship in school was a crude attempt at this. When I was in kindergarten, I initially attempted to imitate the "script" handwriting of my parents and other adults, but the educational system insisted that I learn "print" first (this was done because it was assumed children did not develop the motor control for cursive until 3rd-4th grade). This, however, is changing: some school districts and programs these days are teaching writing in a hybrid "italic" style similar to that many of those posting here have developed later in life. While a "standard" style of penmanship gets taught in any given school system in the USA (it can vary from district to district due to the system of governance in which there is local control of districts through school boards), and it is usually Palmer Method, it is also known that after the "method" is mastered to an acceptable degree, variant syles are considered acceptable in the later grades. (My cursive style has settled into something close to Spencerian handwriting which admittedly many people find hard to read because it is rarely seen today and I tend to get it tiny and press lightly on the page.)
I know that the generous helpings of penmanship practice dealt out in grade school helped me better manage my dyslexia: when printing, I often got letters reversed (and still do if tired or under stress). If you have to slant the letters in the direction the lines of text are supposed to go in, it is harder to get letters reversed or mis-formed generally. I dread forms that tell you to print because it increases the chance that I will write something with letters reversed. That said, I've been told that my handwriting in English is as unreadable as Arabic, but my handwriting in Arabic is very good!
posted by bunky at 6:57 PM on October 12, 2006


American cursive is a relic from the era of offices before widespread use of typewriters. It's quite dissimilar from the joined-up writing taught in the US; cursive, to most Brits my age, looks like our grandparents' handwriting. I suspect the reason it's still taught is thanks to teaching materials that survive from the early 1900s.

My joined-up writing isn't as fluid as it once was, but it's still quick and fairly neat: closer to 'italic' than Palmer method. I don't think I've printed a sentence -- and by print, I mean in caps -- since childhood, unless explicitly told to do so.

Could some of the non-US MeFites chime in and tell us how you spent your time in school? (I'm betting that penmanship was part of it.)

Oh, we had joined-up writing classes. And French and German schools are very big on it, each with their own distinctive national styles: fountain pens are still a mainstay of the classroom.
posted by holgate at 8:19 PM on October 12, 2006


Pillo-Notez v0.8 beta by booksandlibretti

Invoice #00001

Customer: Ynoxas

Pillo-Note 4"x6" card - Beige cardstock, black ink

QTY: 1 Writing style: 2

Text: "Had a great time! I'll call you next time Cirque is in town!"

I predict 16 months till you're bought out by Google.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:40 PM on October 12, 2006


check your e-mail, ynoxas. :D
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:18 PM on October 12, 2006



posted by mayfly wake at 11:53 PM on October 12, 2006


I live in New Zealand and did learn cursive at school (I'm 33). First we were taught to "print" and then to "write". After that it was left up to us which we chose to use.

I'd always printed--even *gasp* my signature--until just recently, when the discovery of some nice inky pens somehow started me using cursive. It wasn't even a conscious decision, it just seemed natural. Now I love the way my new joinedy-up writing looks and love the smooth way my pen flows across the paper.

I think being able to write legibly with pen on paper is still an important skill to have but whether printed or written makes not the least bit of difference.
posted by sarahw at 1:06 AM on October 13, 2006


Mayfly wake:

This isn't supposed to be an insult, but I think your printing looks fairly normal, while your cursive looks childish.
posted by Bugbread at 5:34 AM on October 13, 2006


Cursive is a half-outmoded technology. The intent is to minimize the number of times you have to lift the pen from the page and this was very advantageous when we used pens that flowed easily, or inkwells and blotters, because it reduced drips and blotches. These days, the advantage tends to be speed, although even modern pens do get blotchy sometimes. When done correctly, with a loose enough wrist and elbow, and with enough practice to make it second-nature, cursive can be quite a bit faster than print. However, if you rest weight on your arm, flex your wrist too much, or hold the pen incorrectly, cursive writing is more difficult.

I went to grade school in the US, and was taught how to draw cursive, but not the proper technique for writing. It was my grandmother, who had handwriting lovelier than I could hope to accomplish, who told me that I was doing it the hard way. She was taught to write in boarding school in a British colony. She learned and taught me formal posture, and I suspect that has something to do with it. Poor handwriting may, at least in part, result from holding one's body in a position that's awkward for the purpose of controlling the fine motions of extremities. I can't slump and write properly.

I always use cursive to write in my journal and to write personal letters and cards, and use my own version of capital letters. I think DenOfSizer is right about the feel of the pen; I buy the comfortable kind for letters and such. However, I tend to take notes in a kind of half-print born of science classes and laboratory labeling. Technical language needs to be printed to help avoid mistakes.

Writing prescriptions in messy cursive is just silly. A signature, on the other hand, should rightly be a complete mess that's unique to you. Printing your signature makes it easier to forge.

This isn't supposed to be an insult, but I think your printing looks fairly normal, while your cursive looks childish.

I think that's a matter of perspective. I agreed with Mayfly.
posted by zennie at 9:10 AM on October 13, 2006


Pillo-Notez

Behold, a real live Pillo-Notez.

Yeah. Suck it haters!

(Many thanks to b&l for being such a good sport and playing along.)
posted by Ynoxas at 12:45 PM on October 13, 2006


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