Cursive handwriting is just waiting for its steampunk-like renaissance.
January 23, 2009 4:05 PM   Subscribe

The death of cursive script handwriting continues to be predicted.

Back in 2006, 85% of the kids wrote in block letters on the written portion of their SAT tests. (previously)

Some schools have been seeing students eschewing cursive for a while. some argue in favor of learning cursive first and block printing later. the bbc weighs in (pdf transcript)

And now, another book bemoaning the loss of cursive script
posted by rmd1023 (153 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, right. forgot to add this:
This all puts a damper on graphology.

Have you forgotten or perhaps you never learned? Cursive worksheets for teaching how to write.

why is it even after several previews, I always manage to forget something in a post?
posted by rmd1023 at 4:06 PM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I do the same, perhaps the new 'edit after posting' preview will work for us.
Love this. Loathe cursive. Flagged as fantastic.
posted by dawson at 4:11 PM on January 23, 2009


I last used cursive in the 5th grade when my teacher made me use it in my letter to the state's governor. I do not mourn it's loss.
posted by Science! at 4:13 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?
posted by hal_c_on at 4:16 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this keeps up, cursive will become cool.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:16 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh man... I tried to write a check last month (after a VERY long time). I felt like I'd had a stroke in the previous year and didn't know it: had to slow to 1/8ths of my previous cursive writing speed... "aaaaand... nooooo oooo oooo ...cents. 00/XXX" .

I love the look of nice cursive but I literally never use it.
You know who has really, really nice handwriting? The French. (job hirings often depend on handwriting analysis, or used to)
posted by Auden at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2009


Cursive has been dead to me since 7th grade. LONG LIVE ALL CAPS BLOCK PRINTING!
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and just in case you didn't know you don't have to use cursive when you write a check. I have many many friends who thought checks must be filled out in cursive and were void otherwise. I am also looking forward to the death of checks.
posted by Science! at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yes Science, it IS loss (or non-phonetically, "lost"), and there's little to be done. But I began doing my part by attaching handwritten (in Photoshop of course) letters to my emails, rather than type away (not in cursive, mind, but at least scrawled with my own paw and marking its own tortured path).
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:19 PM on January 23, 2009


I only use cursive to sign my name. I print for everything else, and I could happily go the rest of my life without ever writing it cursive again. It's annoying to use and almost universally hard to read; no one has ever given me a good reason to keep it around.
posted by Caduceus at 4:20 PM on January 23, 2009


I can't hate on cursive. I'm glad I learned it. My handwriting is now this weird hybrid of block and cursive. I think it looks damn cool (if I do say myself) and it's highly efficient.
posted by kookaburra at 4:21 PM on January 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


I kind of prefer calligraphy to all-caps printing. Legibility, legibility, legibility. Say that three times fast.
posted by oonh at 4:21 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Forget cursive, we need to teach Comic Sans handwriting in our classrooms. It will help us keep our competitive edge in a tough economy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


Keep the lowercase L's to distinguish l's from 1's or I's or |'s.
As for the rest, shoot zem, shoot zem the rest.
posted by fleacircus at 4:29 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?

If you don't have to write for any length of time, then no. If you do, the answer is obvious.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


What kookaburra said. Cursive is far faster and more ergonomic than printing. I read a lot of handwriting, and many people's printing is even more illegible than the most slovenly cursive.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2009


I don't hate cursive, but I have always sucked at it. So my handwriting today is a strange hybrid of all caps and cursive. It has gotten so bad that my own handwriting isn't readable for anybody else, thus defeating the point of written communication. So I type and print notes and messages.
posted by razorian at 4:31 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why cursive? Because everyone writes in something similar to cursive when they write very quickly - the letters mush together. If we all learn a "standard" mushed-together handwriting style for writing quickly, then our hastily-written documents will be mutually intelligible.
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I only use cursive to sign my name.

I use something to sign my name. It's certainly not block printing, but I don't know if you can call it "cursive" either. Kinda like a little squiggle...

Forget cursive, we need to teach Comic Sans handwriting in our classrooms. It will help us keep our competitive edge in a tough economy.

I am constantly surprised by the volume of communications I receive in the Comic Sans font. Mostly from talented, successful scientists. I think they like using it in their presentations because it makes them seem informal. Scientists love seeming informal.

Keep the lowercase L's to distinguish l's from 1's or I's or |'s.

Ahhh... I've been doing a lot of math on blackboards lately. Ls are important. I also keep a little loop in the vertical segment of my lowercase Ks. I'm trying to figure out what to do about Vs. I have to a derivation next week that uses both uppercase and lowercase Vs, and I'm not sure how to handle it.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:33 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sister's cursive is extremely readable. Mine looks about the same as it did in the sixth grade when the school sent me to the secretary's office to learn how to type; on a manual typewriter. Regrettably, now that I type on a digital keyboard, all my semicolons come out bold from striking the key too hard.

I'd like to learn how to write fast legible cursive, as printing takes me so long I start dropping words from sentences to try and keep up with the speed I type things at. The very way I think (or not think as the case may be) about writing is mostly geared now to my typing speed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:34 PM on January 23, 2009


Scientists love seeming informal.

Ah, network admins have a similar style in the sense that they aggressively pretend not to give a fuck what people think about them. Ironically, this usually just confirms that they do.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:36 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?

If you don't have to write for any length of time, then no. If you do, the answer is obvious.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:30 PM on January 23 [+] [!]


I write non-cursive checks all the time. Never had one canceled due to my handwriting. This, I assume, is due to the fact that my 3rd grade teacher does not work at my bank.
posted by basicchannel at 4:38 PM on January 23, 2009


Oops... my haste led me to copy the wrong comment. :(
posted by basicchannel at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2009


Do it like a robot to headspin to boogaloo
Took a few minutes to convince the average bug-a-boo
It's ugly, like look at you! It's a damn shame
Just remember All Caps when you spell the man name


My handwriting is an amalgamation of upper and lower, cursive and block, and is nigh illegible to most people (sometimes even me). I had trouble in chemistry when lower and upper cases made a difference, but now IANAC (I am not a chemist).

I, too, like the look of good handwriting. But when I need it, I download it.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Stay on my lawn?
posted by dangerousdan at 4:43 PM on January 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


I still write in cursive, but that's largely because I hate having to lift my pen for each new letter of every word.
posted by katillathehun at 4:44 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I use a weird mix of cursive and print. I cannot, for the life of me, make a good-looking cursive lowercase "r," which is unfortunate, because I have 3 of them in my name. And yet, all I remember of third grade was cursive lessons and reading Beverly Cleary's Muggie Maggie (which is about a girl who hates cursive).

I will not weep if cursive dies, but that's because I spend my days trying to decipher people's horrible handwriting. Actually, I wouldn't be very sad if hand-writing anything declined greatly -- typing is a lot faster! I'm also very picky about what pens I use, so that doesn't help matters.
posted by giraffe at 4:48 PM on January 23, 2009


I went to Catholic school for elementary school and I remember how big a deal it was to learn cursive. Pretty much all I remember of second grade is learning cursive and spending days tracing letters. I remember how I always thought that only little kids write in block letters and cursive as an adult thing. I remember the teacher scolding us all for doing assignments in print when she wanted cursive or that our handwriting was too sloppy.

When I went to (public) junior and senior high, I was like the only person who knew cursive, at least that I knew. Everyone else wrote in print and my teachers would always complain about my handwriting or make a joke that I should become a doctor because my handwriting is so bad. In my senior year, my American Government teacher was going to let me type my final exam essay on a computer because she did not want to read my handwriting. I said I didn't think it was fair I'd get to use a computer while everyone else had to write by hand, and that it would be a distraction to my classmates, so I declined. Fortunately in college I rarely had to do anything handwritten and when I did, I had professors with worse (cursive) handwriting than me.

I find cursive to be faster than block printing, personally. In high school, I'd finish copying notes in half the time the other people who printed took. I was also one of the very few people who knew how to sign their name in cursive on the SAT in high school, as pretty much the entire room was like "We have sign our name in cursive?"

So yeah, I think cursive is handy to know.
posted by champthom at 4:50 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember, when I was a lad, suddenly 'getting' what cursive script was all about. I then did block printing without lifting my pen between letters.

I proudly showed my father, who informed me that there was a bit more to it than that. (But there wasn't, really, was there?)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2009


Good riddance. I have written in nothing but all-caps block letters since the 6th grade, when they stopped forcing us to use cursive. The only time I haven't was when I had a first-year college English professor that required me to use lowercase to judge whether I knew how to capitalize words (there were a lot of dipshits in that class). And I've actually been complimented on my handwriting multiple times. Actually, I've noticed that the only people who write in cursive are people of my parents' generation, it seems like most people my age and younger use some variation of (all-caps or not) block printing. When signing things like convenience store credit receipts, I use a random squiggle, when signing important things like checks I use a sort of weird interconnected-block-letter method of my own design.

So yeah, fuck cursive.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2009


The only cursive that I ever write is my signature which has degraded to being just the first initials of my first and last names with bumpy squiggles after them. I just could never get the hang of writing cursive legibly and gave up after about five years of torturing elementary and junior high teachers. Anything that I now write is in this cramped irregular left-handed printing that looks like it was written by someone who is recovering from a stroke.
posted by octothorpe at 4:56 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?

So that someday when I'm trying to teach undergrads I won't have to have a horrifying, shocking realization of my age through the realization that they can't read anything I've written?

This is a pretty good argument against any kind of change, as it happens.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:57 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out what to do about Vs. I have to a derivation next week that uses both uppercase and lowercase Vs, and I'm not sure how to handle it.

I sometimes see people write a lower case v with a small horizontal stroke jutting out from the top of the final slanted stroke. (Something like this, but a little more angular.) Would that be enough to differentiate it from the upper case V?
posted by maudlin at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2009


"I do not mourn it's loss."

Lemme guess: Not too keen on correct apostrophe placement either?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Say what you want, cursive haters, but I'm not sending a birthday card to my mother written in block letters.
posted by deanc at 5:01 PM on January 23, 2009


My handwriting is horrible anyway you slice it, but my cursive to the point where sometimes I can't even read it later on. Thus I usually write in block, but I'm kind of shocked by all the people that write in all caps block. That just seems...wrong. And really inefficient if you write much.

Off to practice my cursive now.
posted by Roman Graves at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2009


If you don't have to write for any length of time, then no. If you do, the answer is obvious.

...you should learn shorthand instead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love cursive. I have lovely handwriting as do my mother, sister and grandmother. It's very legible with nice, full curves. My sister's writing is enormous though; she can never write grocery lists on scraps of paper. My mother and grandmother were teachers. I don't recall my mother ever working with me on penmanship and my grandmother never thought my handwriting was especially correct, hers was Palmer to the letter.

When I lived in Europe in the 80s, my friends and family and I wrote letters regularly. Certainly most of my correspondence is via email now. But personal notes, thank you type notes, are all handwritten in cursive. I love the look of beautiful penmanship.
posted by shoesietart at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2009


This thread has made me realize (again) what a giant dufus I am. I remember being positively giddy about learning cursive. But then, I had much older sisters, and being able to do any of the "advanced" stuff they did conveyed tons of grown-up cachet. I proudly managed to learn how to write my name in (horrible) cursive at age 6ish.

And then, finally, in third grade, I walked into school the first day and saw it, above the chalkboard -- the long display of cursive letters! Well, I could hardly contain myself. Practicing those shapes on the big-line paper, or up at the board.

I dunno, it was a rite of passage like getting a driver's license or having a bar mitzvah or something: Today, My Child, You Are A Big Kid.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:09 PM on January 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


So much more is typed now, and I imagine we're the better for that. Also, printing echoes the staccato rhythm of typing. And I never was a fan of going back and fixing i's and t's such that during the entire process of writing you have the ever-renewed feeling you've left something undone. And for people who are not calligraphers or hired for the specific purpose, what does it matter?
posted by troybob at 5:11 PM on January 23, 2009


Goddamn MS Word, I can't even FIND this damn "cursive" font! How am I supposed to write in it?
posted by happyroach at 5:14 PM on January 23, 2009


Ha! You fuckers would have no idea what case my handwriting was in, let alone what it says - ULTIMATE ENCRYPTION TECHNIQUE.

(Sadly my handwriting is write-only because of this)
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


(I wonder if the way cursive is taught in school is part of some learning theory in that it gives an added level of physical interaction at perhaps a critical time in learning to retain information; perhaps the physical process of learning and practicing it exercises a certain part of the brain that facilitates other kinds of learning.)
posted by troybob at 5:17 PM on January 23, 2009


(Or maybe in industrialized societies it gives the potential factory workforce an added focus on the development of fine-motor skills.)
posted by troybob at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2009


COMIC SANS WILL NEVER DIE!
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2009


(If it hasn't been explored yet, I would like to call that aforementioned learning theory the Trojan Horse theory: when a child is occupied with the physical task of writing, particularly with the emphasis on neatness, they are subconsciously absorbing such elements as spelling and comprehension.)
posted by troybob at 5:29 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?

Signing checks and legal documents. But it doesn't have any other utility if you ask me.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2009


If we all learn a "standard" mushed-together handwriting style for writing quickly, then our hastily-written documents will be mutually intelligible.

"Standard" cursive dies an unmourned death the very second you stop being graded on it. Adult cursive is almost universally unreadable in my experience.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I went to a school that made us write in cursive until 5th grade. From 4th to 5th grade we were required to use a fountain pen - no pencil (except for math), no ball-point. When I finally went to a different school, the only rule was that we try to write in legible print with whatever writing utensil was available. I now have very distinctive handwriting that is extremely legible, easy to write quickly, and not at all pretty. It's certainly not cursive, but at this point I can't imagine going back to anything other than I use now. Some letterforms are probably influenced by growing up with clumsily rendered cursive, but I only use print. Block letters are great if you have to label things, but who writes an essay with them?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 5:31 PM on January 23, 2009


So much more is typed now, and I imagine we're the better for that.

I bet you don't like the way paper smells, either.
posted by Roman Graves at 5:31 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


My handwriting is a mixture of cursive, block letters and Palm graffiti strokes. I can't even read it.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:35 PM on January 23, 2009


Cursive died for me when I spent a summer job doing nothing but copy key bits of legal documents from their source to a form which would then be sent out to be typed into a database. I can now print faster than I can write. And, wholly unlike my writing, the printing is actually legible.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on January 23, 2009


I waver between my three types of handwriting. Printing, for things that need to be very clear. My regular cursive, which I think is actually looking pretty good these days. And my speed cursive (perfected during university lectures) which is both fast and pretty undecipherable to anyone else but me. I guess I'm a snob but I think all caps writing (when you're not angry, that is) makes me think of the writer as the strange smelly kid in school who ate the crayons and was eventually sent away. But then I'm the sort of person who likes fountain pens and coloured inks.

Good handwriting is damn impressive and I would very much like to be one of those people who can dash off a fluid and legible note without straining something. I'll add it to my list of anachronistic skills like brewing and archery. In a world of Tahoma and Times New Roman, it's nice to stand out from the crowd.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2009


Maybe learning cursive goes hand-in-hand (ha) with the advancement of reading skills. At some point in leaning to read, you stop seeing the letters and start seeing the words as the fundamental building blocks; perhaps cursive is the literal reinforcement of the idea--the connection of all letters within a word such that the word is the smallest divisible unit.
posted by troybob at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you take the LSAT (the US law school admission test), you have to copy a statement certifying that you didn't cheat. The instructions explicitly say to "write (DO NOT PRINT) the following statement." It often takes people 5-10 minutes to copy the short paragraph.

Apparently people have asked about it and block printing is okay if you don't know cursive. More's the pity, if you ask me.
posted by jedicus at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2009


I'm wondering if there's some regional/national difference, by the way, in the deployment of cursive. Everyone in my neck of SouthWestern Ontario was taught cursive and could read and write in cursive, even if not particularly well. During the last few years of elementary school (this was in the late 80s / early 90s), it was made very clear to us by our teachers and our older schoolmates that only immature babies that deserve to be wedgied and/or swirled would show up in high school without cursive under their belt. The printing/childish, cursive/adult correlation was pretty clearly marked.

But when I came to Chicago in 2004 for my doctorate, I noticed that my American classmates would always remark on my "good handwriting," which I found odd. Eventually, during a student government meeting where I was writing on the chalkboard in cursive, there was a pause and one of my classmates asked, "Do you, like, write everything in cursive?!" with this tone of voice that implied that this was really odd to her.

When it came time for us to write our comprehensive exams and we spent 3 hours a day for 5 days straight writing pages and pages of essay questions, I always wrote much faster than the rest of my class and had less hand-cramps.

Since then, I've made a point of writing exclusively in cursive when I teach. Nobody student has dared to complain about it yet, but I'm sure it'll come soon.

Over here in Paris, on the other hand, the students I teach are pretty cool with cursive. Mind you, the French do this infuriating thing with their 'n's and 'm's that make them indistinguishable from 'u's and 'v's and 'w's and it makes me SO ANGRY and I just want to set those "quaint" hand-written restaurant menus on fire.
posted by LMGM at 5:46 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had no idea so many people hated cursive this much. I myself love it simply because I can write in cursive much faster than I can print so it's great for note taking when I am away from a computer (I take a LOT of notes.) I admit that most of the time reading someone else's handwritten stuff is usually easier when it's printed but truly lovely and neat cursive gives me a little thrill. It's just pretty.
posted by lysistrata at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2009


I'm wondering if there's some regional/national difference...

I've often wondered about the generational difference. Much old-people cursive (to me) often has funny corners in it; it looks vaguely Parkinsonian. (Not attributable to age, of course; their earlier writings look like that as well.)
posted by troybob at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2009


I can't believe they teach cursing in the first place.
posted by swift at 5:55 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


when I am away from a computer

What?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm a scribbler. A chicken-scratcher. Fast. Illegible. Cursive(ish).

That said, I've occasionally been known to write in ALL-CAPS without lifting the pen.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:14 PM on January 23, 2009


I have a kind of blend of cursive and printing when I write longhand. Shades of grey, people, often work best.
posted by zardoz at 6:15 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like cursive. I use it.
posted by oddman at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2009


This whole discussion is rather mysterious to me. What's so hard about learning a new alphabet? It's just memorization. I learned cursive in 2nd and 3rd grade, and my 3rd grade son is doing so now. His school uses the same standard elementary format I did. He loves writing in cursive.

The one difference is that I hated the standard cursive capitals, and some of the lower case letters. I found some old fashioned penmanship books and realized that I could do my own adaptation of the block forms. I eventually came up with something more readable and it flows much more easily.

Perhaps I've always been motivated because my father is a doctor, and learned to write in the Canadian school system besides, so his script is nearly illegible to people of any generation. I'm one of the few people who can read it.
posted by Araucaria at 6:18 PM on January 23, 2009


What I love is that "write your name" and "print your name" mean two different things to old people. Write = cursive. This is important when working in a bank, esp. when it's important for your clients to print their names below their signature.

Speaking as a lefty, handwriting in general can go fuck itself.
posted by Eideteker at 6:27 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We called it running writing when I was in primary school (we started to learn it in year 3 or 4; my son started to learn it last year in year 2) and I still do it, although certainly not as taught (sometimes my writing is good but mostly it's not).

This conversation makes me think of the scene in "Brazil" when Lowry is fixing something for his boss and is zooming along on his wonderful computer/typewriter hybrid and then the boss has to sign the cheque which has appeared and it takes him a full minute to sign his name (very badly).

I still wish I could write as easily and beautifully as my Grandma used to. Yeah, I'm old (but I can type fast, too!)
posted by h00py at 6:29 PM on January 23, 2009


(I'm a lefty too and have an indelible smudge on my left hand from the pinky down to prove it).
posted by h00py at 6:31 PM on January 23, 2009


I write in some strange mix of cursive and 'regular' (I guess that would be block? it's been so long that I've forgotten what it's called) printing when I'm taking notes in English.

In Spanish, for some reason that escapes me, my notes are 100% cursive. Cursive has a tendency to flow faster from my hand, which works well while trying to deal with a second language and the attendant mental stops and starts.
posted by librarylis at 6:32 PM on January 23, 2009


In late high school/early college, I found myself using block letters for anything brief, or even for large collections of short notes, and cursive for lengthy connected texts. I found my cursive was quite legible if I double-spaced it. (I also found that if necessary, I could restore informational density with minimal sacrifice readability by using the 19th-century trick of rotating the paper 90° and overwriting my previous text; it works even better if you use contrasting colors. But this is to be undertaken only if one is both, and equally, desperate to save paper and indifferent to being thought eccentric.)

About the time I graduated from college, I needed to disguise my handwriting on a series of five or six short notes. Recalling that I had seen Arrighi's Operina, reproduced and annotated, linked from Metafilter, I employed its Italic hand and successfully concealed my identity. I continued using it, partly for the attention it got from girls and partly because I enjoyed reading my own writing without puzzlement for the first time in years. I even found myself slipping into it without intending to. Now I only use my grade-school block letters when I really haven't got a neuron to spare.

Ah, but the funny thing is, the more I use the Italic, the more it loses its square form and the more the letters connect together. Yep. it's regressing to ... cursive.
posted by eritain at 6:39 PM on January 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


A love letter written in cursive is an object of beauty -- a treasure.
A love letter written in block capitals looks like a threat from a psychotic stalker.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


My mom had absolutely beautiful handwriting. Her cursive script was easily legible, and yet distinctive.

My own handwriting has deteriorated to very nearly illegible crap. It's a mixed bag of learned-in-2nd-or-3rd-grade American style, some strange quirks I acquired as a kid when we were in Europe for a year or so, and my own god-given idiosyncrasies.

Maybe I'll start keeping a pen-and-paper journal again, just to keep the handwriting from bottoming out completely.
posted by rtha at 6:45 PM on January 23, 2009


Fully half of my work day is spent trying to decipher forms that are usually (despite the BOLD PRINT LABEL TELLING PEOPLE TO PRINT) written in cursive. Speaking as a colonial who never learnt cursive, it's annoying. Stop using it (especially not on pieces of paper that will be sent via fax - it won't be legible on the other end). Not everyone has the cultural benefit of going to a North American school and learning cursive.
posted by subbes at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2009


Back in 2006, 85% of the kids wrote in block letters on the written portion of their SAT tests.

Hey, I was one of those kids!
posted by paisley henosis at 6:49 PM on January 23, 2009


Oh wait. No, I'm older than that.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:57 PM on January 23, 2009


I'll give up cursive when they pry it from my gnarled cramped hand.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cursive is all well and good, but why does it have to be Palmer cursive? Wouldn't it be much nicer to teach the kids a lovely italic (which, if you're a tradition for tradition's sake sort of person, is hundreds of years older anyway)?
posted by letourneau at 7:12 PM on January 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


We should be teaching our children to write in wingdings.
posted by Flunkie at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


To all the people claiming to have beautiful/horrible handwriting:
Pictures or it didn't happen. That is a sample of my main handwriting modes. For the last one, I had 4 shouts of rum.

I was taught cursive, abandoned it for block printing when I was in design school, then my block letters started to join together when I had to take a lot of notes in engineering. That is when my years of training in cursive became useful again. The more you write, the more cursive makes sense, we might as well agree on a standard.
posted by dirty lies at 7:15 PM on January 23, 2009


Speaking as a colonial who never learnt cursive, it's annoying. Stop using it [...]. Not everyone has the cultural benefit of going to a North American school and learning cursive.

It's part of the language. Just learn it already.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:15 PM on January 23, 2009


I can't read cursive, especially that taught in the US. N-with-a-tail is no p.

We weren't taught cursive, but a weird 70s "joined up writing". The only worse calligraphers at school were the poor unfortunates who had learned the Initial Teaching Alphabet, and were consigned to the rem class.
posted by scruss at 7:21 PM on January 23, 2009


I had no idea what a handwriting square I am. All my penmanship is questionably legible to say the least, but my cursive is more attractive, faster, and much more comfortable to write, particularly at length. Picking up the pen all the time to print makes my hand cramp up almost instantly, plus the letters vary wildly in size and wander all over the page.

I wonder if my preference has anything to do with the fact that I never learned block or standard print writing at all. We went straight to D'Nealian. It's a little fussy to write in and of itself, but since basically pre-cursive, when I finally learned cursive it made sense and seemed almost easier.
posted by mostlymartha at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2009


I still write in cursive, but that's largely because I hate having to lift my pen for each new letter of every word.

I print, but I don't lift my pen for each new letter. Good luck, dear reader.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


As with several people above, I pretty much abandoned cursive at the first opportunity (end of grade five, I suppose) and now use it exclusively to scrawl my signature. A year or two ago, I became curious to see if I could still write it after twenty-five years or so of not doing so. I took a blank sheet of paper and write "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." And by god, it looked exactly the same as it did when I stopped using it. I don't know what I was expecting, but give me a blunt pencil and a sheet of foolscap and I could perfectly reproduce/forge my homework from Miss Bradley's class.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:38 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nah, it won't die, it'll live on as a huge number of "fancy" fonts used on wedding invitations around the world.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:39 PM on January 23, 2009


Ha...so I just pulled out a piece of paper and tried copying some sentences out in cursive, just to see if I could still do it. It was hard and I really had to concentrate and did mess up several letters. What's more interesting, is that I suddenly realized I was sticking out my tongue slightly and moving it around just like little kids do when they write and like I used to do as a kid!

Seriously, does anyone know why so many people tend to stick their tongues out and move them when concentrating on writing/drawing?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:40 PM on January 23, 2009


Cursive is far faster and more ergonomic than printing. I read a lot of handwriting, and many people's printing is even more illegible than the most slovenly cursive.

Definitely not faster, and definitely not more legible...if you use science to demonstrate it and not anecdotal evidence.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:47 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe learning cursive goes hand-in-hand (ha) with the advancement of reading skills. At some point in leaning to read, you stop seeing the letters and start seeing the words as the fundamental building blocks; perhaps cursive is the literal reinforcement of the idea--the connection of all letters within a word such that the word is the smallest divisible unit.

Although this is a nice idea, I don't think this can really be true. Kids still learn to read in languages that don't have a "cursive-like" script where all the letters in a word are attached to one another.
posted by rebel_rebel at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2009


Cursive is definitely one class I want my money/childhood hours back for. I can think of few bigger wastes of time in my formative years.
posted by mullingitover at 8:05 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bottlebushtree: years ago I started writing a birthday card to my aged grandfather in graffiti strokes and got through a paragraph before realizing. Elegant and efficient (compare a cursive capital T to a graffiti T) and uninterpretable the the masses.
posted by njbradburn at 8:06 PM on January 23, 2009


I stopped writing in cursive sometime in elementary school, and never looked back. Then I got to college and started studying Russian and learned cursive Cyrillic-- the default handwriting for Russian-- which I used on daily written assignments.

It's been years since my last Russian class and I don't remember a damn word of that language. But even now, if I pick up a pen and try to write in cursive, what comes out is Cyrillic cursive. I'm writing English words, but phonetically using the wrong alphabet. If I concentrate really hard, I can make myself write in English cursive, but if I let my mind wander it switches abruptly back to the Russian.

KGB mind-control plot? You be the judge.
posted by bookish at 8:11 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kids still learn to read in languages that don't have a "cursive-like" script where all the letters in a word are attached to one another.

Yeah, i was thinking more in terms of reinforcement, not that it is necessary. I was kinda challenging my first assumption that learning cursive is useless by examining maybe its possible hidden benefits.
posted by troybob at 8:24 PM on January 23, 2009


I never really warmed to cursive. Instead I developed a fairly distinctive printed hand - but then again, I'm a cartoonist, so I had tons of interesting models to work from, and a definite need to be able to letter my own comics when I fooled around with them. Cursive in word balloons looks incredibly awkward.

Over the years, I would see interesting letterforms in other people's handwritings and appropriate them for my own hand; letters that started out as straight swipes became something definitely my own as I stopped thinking about them.

Demonstrative link from when a little 'show off your handwriting' meme went around one of the art sites I'm on.

(And yes, the comic book I'm working on has dialogue that looks like that. It's not 'standard' comic-book lettering - but it's not trying to be a 'standard' comic!)
posted by egypturnash at 8:30 PM on January 23, 2009


I love cursive. Engineering student that I am, however, I write nearly as many print letters for variables as I write words in cursive, though.

I've had a bit of an obsession recently with trying to learn how to write in the old-fashioned script, which I cannot read at all (or couldn't the last time I saw any, rather). print is generally not beautiful, and while my scrawl is this weird jumble of unconnected letters, variations on arcades and that other thing on the same letter, randomly interjected print letters (I shudder to think what my ABCs of Handwriting Analysis would conjecture my character to be like), I do adore doing "calligraphy", in both the funny shaped pens and the simple "beautiful writing" senses.

@Roman Graves: caps lock people might just be engineering students ;) that's how my dad writes and that's how I write in some of my assignments (that I turn in on engineering paper anyways)
posted by rubah at 8:31 PM on January 23, 2009


Does ANYBODY have a good reason why cursive (varied, non-standard, hard to read if not familiar with that person's writing) should be revived?

It is an art form if done correctly, and is good for your soul. Cursive writing is also part of our shared culture and heritage.

Zen in the Art of Archery also explains, in a different context, why practices such as cursive writing (or archery) are beneficial.

As well, I must say that when I was learning Japanese, I was happiest when practicing writing kanji, or Chinese characters, often for an hour at a time. Mastering kanji, or really writing them well, is tremendously satisfying. And you can tell a lot about a Japanese person by how well they write kanji. However, computers and cell phones have really impacted penmanship, which is a shame.

And, as amazing as it seems, all Japanese students learn cursive writing in roman script starting in the 7th grade.

So things like cursive writing are a treasure. The practice of cursive writing is intrinsically good. It's something you can really master if you try.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:02 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, my Dad, who went to trade school, has pretty awesome, draftsman-like printing and handwriting. Simply amazing, yet it's normal for people of his generation.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2009


letourneau is right. It's a strange notion that "good" handwriting should have all the letters joined up with bizarre, unnecessary loops. Take a look at some of the beautiful, legible and fast hand written scripts (usually italic based) written by people likeTom Gourdie.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2009


You can take my cursive when you pry it from my... no wait, that doesn't even make sense.

Anyway, cursive is easier, and I'm lazy.
posted by pompomtom at 9:06 PM on January 23, 2009


@Roman Graves: caps lock people might just be engineering students ;) that's how my dad writes and that's how I write in some of my assignments (that I turn in on engineering paper anyways)

People who learned drafting pre-CAD were exposed to technical lettering, which tends to use all upper case letterforms, with capital letters in a larger font. I.E.

PROJECT ARCHITECT: BROTHERCAINE.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:09 PM on January 23, 2009


Oops, hit post too soon. I assumed that such technical lettering practices started carrying over to more informal writing, with the size variation being dropped. I personally think it's an abomination, as readability suffers when there are no variations in case.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:10 PM on January 23, 2009


What I love is that "write your name" and "print your name" mean two different things to old people.

OI!! Less of the 'old', ta.
posted by pompomtom at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2009


Longhand writing is like playing an instrument, if you don't practice, you'll stink at it. Since I do most of my writing with a keyboard, when I must write with a pen I use longhand whenever possible.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2009


If you can't read and write cursive you're pretty much functionally illiterate. What's next, people who only use words of three syllables or less? Giving up on that whole "spelling" and "grammar" thing completely? Do you also wear velcro shoes 'cause that whole "tying a knot" thing is too hard?

Some of the people mocking cursive in this thread are the same people who would be laughing at teenage fast food workers who can't figure out the change to give without the calculator working. Guess what? YOU'RE THE SAME. Congratulations on your achievement.

Being able to do sums in your head is a basic skill of a minimally educated person. Being able to actually write instead of printing like a toddler is a basic skill of a minimally literate person. If you can't write you might as well be scratching pictures of aurochs on a cave wall with a pointy goddamn stick while wearing a fur loincloth.

Christ on a cracker. Is it normal to feel this old at 32?
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on January 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


hal-c-on: did you read the study you quoted?

The results show: (1) pupils taught the manuscript form of handwriting exclusively wrote as fast or faster than those taught to make the transition from manuscript to cursive handwritings;

Well, yeah. Making the transition from manuscript to cursive would be hella difficult. Not much argument about that, although this is not too relevant to this discussion.

A few points:

1. Most people, as testified to in this thread, who have been trained in cursive, have since changed their writing to a combination of printing and cursive. (My writing is similar, and, in fact, has come to look like my father's, trained in cursive in the thirties, and had reverted - or progressed - to a combination of cursive and print. Often quite legible.)

2. I mean, who uses he cursive capital Q any more? It looks like a fancy "2." Fuggediboutit.

3. Those who print in all caps are misguided. There is a reason that some letters are capitalized and some are not.

4. I read several hundred essays a week, as an English teacher. I don't care whether they write in cursive or in manuscript form, as long as it is legible. However, some who have been taught to write in cursive write illegibly. Compounded with bad spelling, I spend way too much time deciphering some students' writing when I wish I could be concentrating on what they are writing. AP Exam guides often recommend that students with lousy handwriting (20%, in my experience, 35% amongst the boys who attempt cursive) simply PRINT their responses. Reading lousy cursive is torture.

5. Should cursive be scrapped? Boy, I do not know. There have been some good arguments on this thread about how cursive facilitates the flow of thoughts, but, I teach high school; it is not my area of study. I do appreciate beautiful cursive script: it is strangely easier to read than workmanlike printing; however, it is of course becoming a lost art.

6. Blame the Internet for everything. The death of newspapers, civilized discourse, and communal politics. And cursive.
posted by kozad at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


For real cursive script beauty, one looks to Arabic (الله الأب), Hindi (अल्लाह), and Thai (อัลลอฮ). Those writing systems are simply gorgeous, and what's wonderful is that the are functional, readable scripts, in contrast to English written in Zaphfino or other wildly ornate typefaces.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being able to actually write type instead of printing writing like a toddler luddite is a basic skill of a minimally literate person.

Seriously, if I wrote things out by hand all the time, cursive would be the way to go. Instead I type a lot, on computers, cell phones (full keyboard), typewriters, and even 10 key adding machines. If I'm writing on paper, it's a post it note, a check, or a thank you note, and even that little bit irks me immeasurably. Almost everyone I know who does write cursive writes illegibly. My cursive on the other hand is extremely legible, but so ugly I'd rather take the extra few seconds to print something (or it's a form with printing required).

If you want to sign something, you might as well use a chop. If you want beauty, you should be using calligraphy. If you want fast, you should be typing. Cursive is like the swiss army knife approach, excellent for general purpose in communications, but second best at any one facet.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:58 PM on January 23, 2009


I prefer the in between world of Denelian letters.
posted by Mister Cheese at 10:00 PM on January 23, 2009


2. I mean, who uses he cursive capital Q any more? It looks like a fancy "2." Fuggediboutit.

Ever since I saw it on the Simpsons, I've used it on and off! a capital Q just doesn't get much use in the first place.
posted by rubah at 10:04 PM on January 23, 2009


Quite so.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2009


Jesus H. Fuck it's 2009, learn to fucking type.
posted by device55 at 10:06 PM on January 23, 2009


While we're at it, can we have shorthand back, too?
posted by Xere at 10:08 PM on January 23, 2009


Haha, fuck cursive. It ruined my handwriting in 3rd grade, and gave me my first D. Fuck cursive right in the big-ass-fancy-uppercase-Z-that-I-could-never-do-properly. Fuck my third grade teacher who made us do a completely unnecessary amount of handwriting to practice our stupid cursive. Fuck that third grade teacher for making me think that education was all about tedium and mindless repetition. Yeah that's right fuck cursive and may it burn in hell. My children will learn how to be fast fast typists like me, and will never have to hear that stinking hellish third grade cadence "write the question, write the answer, write the question, write the answer." An end to cursive is a victory for adults and children everywhere. It is a gift to humanity that we must all rejoice. Fuck cursive. Cursive is over. Cursive is done. I won. Fuck cursive. It is over.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:11 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you take the LSAT (the US law school admission test), you have to copy a statement certifying that you didn't cheat. The instructions explicitly say to "write (DO NOT PRINT) the following statement." It often takes people 5-10 minutes to copy the short paragraph.

I was going to point that out and add that, as a die-hard printer, that certifying statement was the ONLY section of the LSATs that I ran out of time on, embarrassingly.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:12 PM on January 23, 2009


also, pre-fucking-vi-ous-fucking-ly
posted by Afroblanco at 10:13 PM on January 23, 2009


Anyway, to be more rational and less inflammatory, cursive is a useless skill. American children lag behind other children in important areas like science and math. If you want to torture your children in cursive, you can enroll them in special extracurricular activities, and they can hate you for not letting them do something fun like ballet or karate. Don't make the other children suffer because you think that cursive is cool. Use public education dollars to teach kids useful things like math, science, music, art, english, computers, whatever. Hell, I'd love to see information literacy classes become mandatory. In a country where 60% of people still think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, I think some information literacy is needed pronto.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:17 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


As much as I like cursive, I completely share the Q and Z hate, and I'll even raise you a G and an I.

My Qs are always a single counter-clockwise stroke, and look unmistakably like a Q; that clockwise 2 is just stupid, unless you start at the baseline, which you're never taught to do for some reason.

And the Z! What the fuck is that? Talk about your N-with-a-tail. There is no reason--NO GODDAMNED REASON WHATSOEVER--not to make a normal, zigzaggy Z except to distinguish it from that fucking 2/Q abomination.

G? It's too fucking complicated, and bears not even a passing resemblance to a G. Why not a big g, like the big y?

As for the I, well, you end up on the wrong side, and that's just fucking irritating.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:37 PM on January 23, 2009


This whole "write your name" versus "print your name" is a false dichotomy.

It's "write/print your name" versus "sign your name." One is supposed to be legible, and the other a signature.
posted by explosion at 10:40 PM on January 23, 2009


What I love is that "write your name" and "print your name" mean two different things to old people.

Or to curmudgeons. The man I have in mind is, yes, starting to near so-called retirement age, but I get the impression that he has been his forthright, cranky self at least since he was twenty, if not about twenty years longer than that. He is a member of my academic advising committee.

He and I had an appointment scheduled one day, to undertake an addition to my study list or prepare some other such morsel of bureaucratic tripe. My immediately prior meeting, with another member of my committee, had ended promptly—on account, I was told, of a short-order all-department meeting, called by an university administrator and scheduled for that very time. Wondering if I had just been pre-empted, I made my way down the hall to his office, where I was welcomed with a grin and the words, "Ah, there you are. You know you're my excuse? Would you believe some big shot"—you could almost hear the asterisk, big shot*, and the footnote, *read: waste of skin—"has called an 'emergency' all-department meeting? Got an urgent need for another Vision Statement or something." I assured him that yes, I would believe that, and we shot the bull about his research project for a while.

Coming eventually to the scheduled purpose for our meeting, we reviewed the proposed coursework—"'Course you should take that, kid like you ... they make you get permission from all the 'grown-ups' for that. Ridiculous." I took out the half-filled form, and he inspected the sign-offs of my other committee members and added his own. Signature and printed name, it said, as though our department secretary didn't know all the signatures (well enough to forge them) and needed a reminder whose it was. "Well, that's not really printed, you know? I mean, it's written in block letters, by hand. Nothing ever actually impacted the paper; it's not printed." Moments later, WordPerfect was open and a piece of paper with one line on it was emerging from his InkJet, and moments after that he set his scissors down and handed me that one line and a glue stick.

We regarded our newly-filled form with amusement—for amusement, read: the pleasure of keeping company with someone exactly as dorky as you—and then he said what we were both thinking: "Well, that isn't exactly printed either. It was sprayed on, wasn't it." And then some epiphany sent him digging through drawers and junk boxes. He explained, as he searched: Some friend of his had been to a historical printing museum, which among its replica presses also boasted a working Mergenthaler Linotype. For a small donation, they'd cast a Linotype slug of your choice. And his friend, for whatever reason, had made and brought him a slug with his name on it. He soon dug it up, and inked it from his fountain pen as I peeled the previous rendering off the form, and finally my form was filled with a properly printed name. We walked to the department office to submit the form (and to make a photocopy for his files, or his scrapbook of snark, or something; it was very clearly a voluntary photocopy and not a mandatory one). He addressed the girl behind the counter: "Now, I want you to know that I am 100% obedient in some things ..."

Yes, "write your name" and "print your name" mean two different things indeed.

posted by eritain at 10:45 PM on January 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


I stopped using cursive the first moment I could, which was in grade 7 when I started taking classes in English. (All my classes until that point had been in French.) I felt very sneaky printing my notes, and I was the only one in my class to do so. My handwriting was infinitely clearer, however.

Today, mostly I type, but I still write things out a lot. I like to write in my free time, and I spent a lot of time writing notes in a moleskine, all printed. I can print pretty fast.

My biggest problem with cursive is that I never learned how to do a whole slew of letters properly. A bunch of the funky capitals, for instance. And most importantly (for me), a lower case z. I just can't get it. And that's tricksy, as there's a z in my last name.

My signature is an epic fail on that score, to this day.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:45 PM on January 23, 2009


The teaching of cursive writing in primary grades is actually excellent for the development of fine motor control. I am hard pressed to think of a physical education activity that could be its replacement. While we use our hands all the time, there aren't many things we do that require quite so much delicate control. It's probably worth keeping just for the skills development.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on January 23, 2009


Seriously, if I wrote things out by hand all the time, cursive would be the way to go. Instead I type a lot, on computers, cell phones (full keyboard), typewriters, and even 10 key adding machines.

Which is exactly the argument made by people who can't figure out the change they need to give back from a $5 bill from a $4.17 charge. They don't need to do math, they use a calculator/cash register instead.

Being unable to read and write in cursive is the same as being unable to calculate basic sums in your head. In both cases you'll mostly get by just fine in life. In both cases you're badly undereducated.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cursive writing is also part of our shared culture and heritage.

Yeah, well, I could say the same for quill maintenance, slide rule calculation, punch-card punching, horseback riding, and a dozen other skills that used to be widespread and normal.

I stopped writing longhand because it was incredibly slow compared to what I can type; other than very brief notes at work during laptop-free meetings, the only time I put pen to paper is for shopping lists and rent checks. I don't even know what I'd use cursive for, never mind finding the time to practice it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:57 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seen any better latex cursive fonts than these?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:06 PM on January 23, 2009


Handwriting was taught as part of elementary and high school curriculum, because computers and printers at one time didn't exist, and typewriters were terribly expensive.

A pen was cheap, being a goose-quill and a bottle of ink, or a narrow piece of chalk, or a bit of lead filed to a point. You needed to know how to write by hand, because it was cheaper, and you needed to know how to write cursive, because it was quicker and more economical than block-letters, as your nib need never leave the paper (or slate).

Now, computers are everywhere, and it's simpler to learn to write like the computer displays... you are only ever going to need it to jot down a quick note here and there, or the odd bit of check writing. So, cursive is dead and useless.

Unless you like jotting down notes. Unless you like owning a fountain pen or .9mm mechanical pencil or gel pen, and want to write with it. Unless you love your moleskine, or engineering notebook, or 8-squares-per-inch graph paper.

Then, like me, you laboriously re-learn your alphabet, and the way it is drawn with a fine writing instrument on quality paper. You will never achieve the beauty of script that educated elites in the 18th and 19th century had mastered, simply because they were taught and tested on it since early childhood, but you keep practicing, anyhow, because repeating the e-to-a ligature over and over and over beats doodling jets blowing stuff up on your notepad during long meetings.

Cursive will never die, because the satisfaction of putting thought to print through pen to paper is curiously powerful, even in the age of thought-controlled computers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:45 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I write letters sent through the US mail to my friends about the latest vinyl records that I actually paid for and listened to on my tubed stereo, I often use cursive. It's much faster than cuneiform. Really, quite an advance. Oh, time to flip the album....
posted by caddis at 11:46 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tomorrowful writes: I don't even know what I'd use cursive for, never mind finding the time to practice it.

Just hypothetically, imagine that you were involved in a somewhat contentious dispute over the custody of your children, resulting in your not being allowed to spend as much time with them as you wished. A period of two years will elapse before your next chance to negotiate custody. In the interim, you decide to start a journal to document the time you spend with your children, especially since, now that the legal matters have been settled and she feels she is in a more secure situation, your children's mother relaxes a bit and you find that you're spending much more time with them than you had initially expected. This could eventually be material for renegotiating the parenting plan, so it will be important to keep track of. You jot down quick notes by hand just before bedtime and have to write quickly and neatly to avoid falling asleep in the middle of a sentence. At first the notes are simple statements of fact, but then you find that you are documenting treasured moments like the day your son first rides a bike by himself, loses his first tooth, your daughter's amazing description of a dream or that first date with a special woman.

Just hypothetically, you might find the experience of writing in cursive becomes a little more than merely utilitarian.
posted by Araucaria at 12:06 AM on January 24, 2009


Which is exactly the argument made by people who can't figure out the change they need to give back from a $5 bill from a $4.17 charge. They don't need to do math, they use a calculator/cash register instead.

Being unable to read and write in cursive is the same as being unable to calculate basic sums in your head. In both cases you'll mostly get by just fine in life. In both cases you're badly undereducated.


So when you don't have a pen, you piss your message, or write in blood with a chunk of broken glass?

Anyway, I can write cursive, I just don't find it ever fits my needs or lifestyle. Using chopsticks instead of a knife and fork when you aren't from a chopstick culture or are eating a chopstick-style food is an affectation, not a mark of refinement. Similarly for me writing cursive. When I do write cursive, I type first and then transcribe, which gives you an idea of the relative efficiency for me of both types of communication. I'd be happy to have great penmanship, and be able to write more than a quarter as fast as I think, and maybe someday I will.

As for calculators (and tables), I used to do calculus in my head, but it's a stunt, and when it comes down to real life you should use whatever methodology minimizes your error rate (assuming you work in accounting, engineering, or any field other than maybe guess your weight carnie).
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:13 AM on January 24, 2009


...or are eating a chopstick-style food...

Actually, chopsticks are the best way to eat popcorn and not get butter on your fingers.
posted by troybob at 12:44 AM on January 24, 2009


Yeah, I use chopsticks for cocoa coated truffles and boneless buffalo wings too, so perhaps I shot myself in the foot with that analogy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:49 AM on January 24, 2009


I did ok in cursive, but it definitely wasn't my favorite class. I forgot it shortly after 3rd grade and don't miss it.

But now I find myself living in a place where I have to write 这样的东西. That does not go fast unless you adopt some cursive steps, and trust me, if you don't standardize it, it's impossible to read. Fully 90% of the handwritten notes I have to read, I cannot understand. Oddly enough, the halfass radical-based cursive I use to write Chinese has so far been 100% legible to other people.
posted by saysthis at 12:52 AM on January 24, 2009


I'm one of the oldest native English speaker/writer at the lab I'm in, aside from the PI. I'm the *only* person who prefers cursive. (and yes, everybody worth even a grudging iota of respect never uses comic sans, at least more than once)

Then again, I text message in proper grammar and punctuation.

Cursive to me is a timesaver; I can write more words per unit time than I can print. It's readable, and... I almost hate to admit this but... I can tell the mood I was in when I wrote whatever it was that I wrote.
posted by porpoise at 12:55 AM on January 24, 2009


I remember the first time that it occurred to me that I could no longer write in cursive -- I was on a jobsite, I was running a metal carpenter crew building out a bank, I was writing a note on a piece of sheetrock, tried cursive and it was gone. I was 28 years old, 1983, started in construction at 14, all those years of reading blueprints and writing more than a few of them killed the skill. I was really surprised and more than a little horrified; I felt like a total dolt. My cursive was a scrawl anyway, pretty much illegible, which had made me feel like a total dolt anyways, compared to people with beautifully flowing script. Cursive envy.

I trashed my back, became a mainframe programmer (CoBOL, mostly, some assembly) and that finished cursive completely -- EVERYTHING WAS IN CAPITAL LETTERS, obviously nothing in cursive, often we'd fill out forms showing users what their forms would look like, all printed by hand.

When I got my first passport, I spent HOURS practicing writing my name, as I didn't want to carry around a badly written signature for nine years, I actually got it pretty nicely done.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

I just wrote out three pages of cursive handwriting; it was painfully slow, there's just so much I've forgotten, or never learned in the first place. Oddly, it's much nicer tonight than whenever I quit cursive (high school) but man oh man is it slow going. My printing is faster by far but nothing like typing and surely nothing like a puter, on which I can write maybe seventy wpm, probably 80 on a good day.

I love to write, spitting out words, go go go. I can't keep up with the stream of thought when it's flowing even on the fastest typing day, printing by hand is a huge PITA, so much gets lost. And taking notes is a horror show, I lose very much there unless I've a puter handy, lose plenty even then, compared to what I'd like to capture.

I agree with the sentiment upthread, that there is nothing like a love letter written in a fine hand. And a love letter written even in my print is by far better than a typed page, and a love letter ought to be thought out anyways, the amount of time spent writing a love letter is not wasted, in fact it's a pleasure, one of the best activities in life, in my experience. A love note -- Hey There Sugar Britches -- Don't forget to bring whipped cream, I can't wait to lick it off your thighs (you've got just the darlingest thighs, have I ever told you that, Sweetie Pie?), and get here EARLY, 'k? I'm dying to see you !!! It's been three hours and my soul is an aching void, a cold dry wasteland, I can't wait to kiss your beautiful face, I'm bereft, I'm acheful and left-footed, I'm hurtin' like a bastard on Fathers Day, Get Over Here Fast !!! -- okay, sure, write it on a puter, print that baby out, sign it seal it leave it on her windshield, no problem. But a love letter is important, at least it is to me, a love letter is a gift, important to give, important to receive. I've written far more love letters than I've sent, I believe I've sent more than I've received -- no telling. It doesn't matter. I'd rather err on the side of abandon than caution in this business of love letters, of love in general. Life is short. And maybe many people think they've sent more love letters than they've received. Maybe they're right, maybe they have, maybe they too are fools for love.

last. Poetry I always write out and I like to print it by hand, I mix it up, CAPITAL letters and lower-case letters, I just enjoy how that feels to my hand and my eye, I don't believe I'd write poetry in cursive even if I had the finest hand in the land. And poetry on a puter? No way. Unh-uh. It just doesn't fit. I've done it, it's cute, it's fun, but it's for shit, in my experience, it's like having a cat and you're a dog person, which I've done, it'll do in a pinch but really it's just not as fun. As in love letters, there's no hurry in poetry, writing poetry is like building a house for love not money, there's no hurry here, I'm putting it together word by word, thoughts or feelings may jumble up and try to hurry out but they're just going to have to wait their turn as I stroll down the page with my favorite black pen, writing about love or fresh bread or the horse I had when I was a boy, maybe the differences and/or difficulties in women from Chicago and Austin or whatever else it is that catches me and no, I don't show it to anyone, it's for fun, unless it's for love, and then I show it to her, maybe, depending
posted by dancestoblue at 10:19 PM on January 24, 2009


I once fancied myself a writer and wrote in cursive but generally was not able to read a word of it. I sign my name in cryptic scribbles that closely resemble the aforementioned cursive although not on purpose. Post its, grocery lists and declarations are block, caps and generally without punctuation.
posted by GratefulDean at 11:46 PM on January 24, 2009


In Birmingham (UK) in the 1960s we learned 'Round Hand' rather than cursive - it's a simpler style. The particular type I learned is called 'Marion Richardson'. I can't find an example online but some stats: 'The Marion Richardson Round Hand is equally popular in the Midlands and Southern England (32% and 31%); this is presumably connected to the originator's personal links with Birmingham and London.' I like MR because it is very plain, so you can develop it into a personal style.
posted by communicator at 4:04 AM on January 25, 2009


I'm rather torn. You see, I don't use cursive anymore for a variety of reasons. When I joined the military, I learned the block caps style used for filling out logs (extremely standard to ensure legibility), and I was never to wild about how cursive looked. Instead, I created a block print style that attempts to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, if a little long to write. I've gone through each letter and determined which form is the most ideal (though some are still in flux even now). For example, I write my a's and g's in Times New Roman style. However, when writing quickly, my style can degrade somewhat, and I can understand the need for a quicker way to write. Also, I love looking at good penmanship, and those who still write in cursive tend to practice theirs more.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:28 AM on January 25, 2009


my journals up until five years ago were all written in cursive, which i will admit is nearly unreadable to others. (convenient for privacy, i guess.)

but i do note that there is some kind of difference between the sorts of thoughts i come up with while freewriting in longhand versus typing on the computer. each act seems to access different parts of the brain.

i read SAT essays for a living. awhile back someone or agency reported that cursive writers were more capable of complete, elaborate thought in the time-restricted writing portion of the test. i did my own study and found no such correlation. (though so few write in cursive my sample size was undoubtedly too small. it made me wonder about the study though. i read hundreds of essays a day. what was their sample size?) some of the smartest high school seniors have the weirdest, most distinctive handwriting—in fact i can sometimes predict a higher score based on handwriting alone. the more juvenile the handwriting, the less sophisticated the thoughts tend to be. (perfection of form seems to be more likely in the stupid, paradoxically.)

one thing i would note, however, is that there is a time factor: you are only allowed 25 minutes to write the SAT essay. those with easy, quick skill in the handwriting department do better, regardless of whether it's cursive or printed. and i don't suspect that they'll be changing the essay to typewritten anytime soon, if only to prevent fraud. (i suspect also that with typing people would see just how dismally, pathetically short the thoughts are of most high school seniors. at least with handwritten essays, dumb people can write big and look like they have more to say. they try it all the time.)

as a homeschooler, i see my fellows fret over cursive all the time. is it a necessary skill or not? i usually tell people it isn't something to have fights over, but is a nice skill to have. our young one started homeschooling after third grade and hated cursive. but he wants to be a cartoonist. so what we told him is that knowing how to perform a variety of easily legible handwriting was an important skill. he writes a cursive journal of his World of Warcraft adventures, and his cursive writing (though probably not orthodox) is far better than mine. and his cartoon printing improves all the time as well. it helps if someone sees the *purpose* in it. it's true that many people get along without it. but i wouldn't want to be one of those people who *don't know how*.
posted by RedEmma at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I learnt cursive in school as well, and though I wrote fairly well in it during my primary school years, I never got that into it, probably because even then I thought the cursive taught in US public schools looked kinda stupid--those q's, z's and i's that have been mentioned. Plus, in a pathetic attempt to be rebellious and cool in junior high school I started altering my handwriting, eventually adopting the half-script, half-print style that's evolved to what I use today.

However, since living in Romania, where students are still rigorously taught penmanship, I've a newfound desire to reacquire good writing skills. I don't know what form of writing is taught here (they do use the French p's), but it's got a very distinctive, retro (in my mind, anyway) look that I vaguely associate with my grandparents' spidery writing style.

And I would agree with five fresh fish's statement that the value of teaching cursive is fine motor skills. There's not many things that everyone in the population needs to do in one form or another, especially at that age, that will teach that sort of thing. (I personally feel that it's helpful in training kids early so that they can have at least legible handwriting later in life, but it seems this armchair theory has been shot down by this thread.)
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2009


Cursive, or some variant thereof, is still a very popular choice for tattoos. In England, the Edwardian Script font is possibly the most common one used.
posted by K.P. at 10:28 AM on January 25, 2009


Good. It makes it that much less awkward for someone with dysgraphia like me. Pretty handwriting is an art or hobby, not a mandate.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2009


Although, as mentioned above, I rarely if ever use cursive I am very glad I was taught how to write it and more importantly to read it. The uses of reading it are numerous, from the symbolic (I am sure there is an entire generation of American grade schoolers coming along shortly who will be unable to decipher what Jefferson wrote on the Declaration of Independence) to the practical (I wonder how many personal letters and wedding invitations and birthday cards and condolence cards are never delivered because the letter carrier cannot read the address). I suppose the answer is just to wait until all the old people die off.

Incidentally, eritain's story brings to mind the use of the inkan or hanko in Japan (and by extension, the use of seals in SE Asia) where western culture uses signatures. Read the Wikipedia article here to learn about it if you do not know what the previous sentence means.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2009


Many opinions in this thread sound really strange to this non-USian. I went to elementary school in Germany in the early nineteen-eighties and learnt cursive exclusively. We learnt how to read print and how to write cursive. More specifically, I learnt to write like this, and I learnt how to write with a fountain pen.

To this day, this is how children in Germany are taught to write, though sometimes a simplified version is used, but elementary teachers still insist on fountain pens.

I am a highschool teacher, so I see a lot of kids' handwriting, and the kids who learnt the simplified version often have a horrible handwriting, while the ones who learnt the standard version have a handwriting that is more pleasant to the eye.
posted by amf at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had extensive training in cursive in primary school, and I've kept up the practice. I was freshly re-motivated when I saw a truly gorgeous example of cursive several years ago. Reading the writing was pure pleasure. Really excellent cursive qualifies as fine art. I also really enjoy writing on a good vellum with a fountain pen.

Some people are exceptionally good at this, and they should be encouraged to keep it up as a beautiful art. Others, like me, appreciate fine cursive and [strive to get|wish they could be] within a stone's throw of that kind of skill. The rest of you can suck it deeply.
posted by illiad at 5:46 PM on January 25, 2009


Let's just change the whole internet over to Brush Script and be done with it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:04 PM on January 25, 2009


This thread is like walking into a weird looking-glass world for me. You people are making me feel old, and I am not yet 40. I can't imagine a day in my job without cursive -- lots of note taking, peer-reviewing, editing and marking up documents . . . all done in cursive. And most of my co-workers tend to use cursive when annotating documents and writing memos. Printing? Sheesh. That would take much too long. Not enough time in the day. I really can't imagine university or high-school note taking without a decently fast cursive hand. My writing isn't great, but most people make out my chicken scratches. I have, though, dumped some of the weird Palmer method capital letters for simpler forms.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:46 PM on January 25, 2009


I really can't imagine university or high-school note taking without a decently fast cursive hand.

I believe the Kids Today use laptops, note pen and paper.
posted by Justinian at 11:33 PM on January 25, 2009


I invent my own cursive-block hybrid.
posted by saxamo at 12:44 AM on January 26, 2009


I believe the Kids Today use laptops

Yeah, probably .. . myself, I don't find laptops to be faster than pen and paper for keeping good notes. Quite the contrary. Also, with pen and paper you can make diagrams, quickly write down mathmatical, chemical, etc. formulas, easily write greek and other symbols used in science, quickly annotate and correct your notes. Maybe it is my method of learning, but I have always found that the act of writing something out is enough to learn it. Typing just doesn't have the same effect.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:21 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


At my school, in the late 60's-early 70's, we learned to write cursive with fountain pens and weren't allowed to use either block letters or ballpoint pens till age 11.
posted by bentley at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2009


Forgot to add: I went to a French school (not in France).
posted by bentley at 7:34 AM on January 26, 2009


In a few years from now we'll be talking about how predictive text killed keyboard skills.
posted by yeti at 7:50 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a question about exams in the US. Do you not have to write essays in them? I did a philosophy course with the Open University recently, and I was crapping myself about the exam. It wasn't the content, it was sitting down with a pen for three hours to let words flow freely from my head on to the paper without my hand falling off. I thought about printing, but I'm so slow at it that it didn't seem to be a viable option.

I type pretty well, I've worked with computers for the last twenty years so I have some facility with a keyboard. I've hardly picked up a pen in all that time, other than to make quickly jot down rough notes. Over time I've noticed that the more I do this the more I get an intense pain in my hand as I write. I don't whether it's lack of exercise for the relevant muscles, or whether it's because I've forgotten how to hold a pen properly, but any extended period of writing was causing problems for me.

Halfway through the course I decided to write each assignment out on paper before typing it up to hand it in. During the revision period I was writing at least one essay each night. It paid dividends in understanding the subject but my primary concern was training these useless hands to survive the ordeal.

The idea of printing my way through three whole essays seems incredible. I doubt I would have finished the first.

At my school, in the late 60's-early 70's, we learned to write cursive with fountain pens and weren't allowed to use either block letters or ballpoint pens till age 11.

It's similar in the UK. We started with thick pencils, graduated to fountain pens and then wrote with ballpoint pens.
posted by vbfg at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2009


The computer would like to stop you to let you know that your phrase is a typical one, it found a match quite easily.

"Aargh!"
posted by nervousfritz at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2009


So, it all boils down to this:

If you write in cursive well and with ease, you almost certainly prefer it and think all others are philistines.

If you write in cursive poorly or with difficulty, you think it's an anachronistic holdover that cannot be done away with soon enough.

What a shock, people mistake there personal proclivities for general truths.
posted by oddman at 11:25 AM on January 26, 2009


Oddman, I'd say my attitude is more one that teaching the same skills to everyone regardless of aptitude or functionality is both a strength and weakness of public education. A little flexibility is useful, but letting people avoid all the things they can't master easily makes us a nation of lazy gits. To tell the truth, I wouldn't have bothered to defend those who don't learn cursive if Justinian had said literate person rather than minimally literate person.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2009


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