Futura vs. Verdana it ain't
September 8, 2009 8:08 PM   Subscribe

A.N. Palmer's The Palmer Method of Business Writing presents the curvaceous and flowing handwriting system that generations of students learned in U.S. elementary schools, before educational priorities shifted. As neat writing falls by the wayside, some have even pronounced the death of handwriting. Still, bad handwriting can have serious consequences. An op-ed in the N.Y. Times provides hope for the future.
posted by chrchr (61 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I looked at a few pages and thought the word choice for this page's first drill was strange, then I read the title of the next sub-section and laughed out loud. There's got to be some kind of Freudian term for that right?
posted by Kimothy at 8:13 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

(Pages from the second link that is...)
posted by Kimothy at 8:14 PM on September 8, 2009

If an Op-Ed in the New York Times provides hope for the future, you've gotta know somebody copied something down wrong.
posted by mhoye at 8:17 PM on September 8, 2009

Via bleedover, my printing improved tremendously last year after I was assigned six pages of hanzi a week to complete, for my Chinese class.

纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸
纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸
纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸
纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸 纸
家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家
家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家
家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家 家

. . . continue for another two hours . . .

all that writing adds up!
posted by Palamedes at 8:33 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Prescriptions are being computerized. Problem solved by technology.

posted by Doohickie at 8:39 PM on September 8, 2009

OK, my father was a pharmacist, and he would NEVER have filled a prescription that called for 8 times the maximum daily dose. The negligent party wasn't the doctor, it was the pharmacist...or more likely, the pharmacy he worked for, that required him to sign off on more prescriptions than were humanly possible for him to read and evaluate.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

I always had bad handwriting as a kid, but I could write very neatly if I really focused and paid attention. I took some calligraphy as an elective once, and was surprisingly good at it, which was funny when you saw the scrawling I usually did.

After all these years of typing and using the computer, though I can barely freaking write anymore. Even when I pay attention, it looks pretty bad. I've had people say many times that it sounds like machine-gun fire when I'm typing, but hand-writing a thank-you note has become a major chore.

But, god, yanno.... it's not like writing is really that HARD. If we ever get to the point that computers and printers aren't omnipresent anymore, relearning how to handwrite won't take that long. It's not a deeply mysterious art, one we're in danger of losing. Someone who starts at 50, never having written a thing, would still be able to do a pretty good job within a couple of weeks or months.

It's not ironworking or textile manufacture or the mysteries of ceramic glazing, which are all arts with specialized knowledge that really could be lost. It's just writing. If we have to reinvent the whole thing completely from scratch, we can handle it. Really.
posted by Malor at 8:41 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

I moved to a North American school in grade 6, and so I hadn't been exposed to handwriting class, where you were taught to write in that loopy style.
So I was terrible at it (as I remain) and my teachers were exasperated that all I could do was 'print' (as quickly as possible).
I'm glad to be vindicated after all these years.
posted by Flashman at 8:43 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I regard cursive writing like calligraphy; it can be nice to look at, but should anyone attempt to mandate it, it's DIE CURSIVE DIE! For my umpteenth school switch, I landed in a school where the class was far, far into cursive when I had never seen it aside from my mother's handwriting, and I had to switch from printing-but-forced-to-with-my-right-hand to cursive with my left, in short order.

A few drafting classes, though, improved my printing considerably. If I churn out pages of equations, well, cursive has no place there. Cursive, not particularly useful with OCR. We no longer have quills which would dry out if we lift them from the page. People's cursive writing can identify them, but so can their print. I am hard-pressed to classify cursive as anything other than a pretty tradition, like a Maypole dance.
posted by adipocere at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

As one of those "children born after 1980", I suppose it is very odd that cursive is actual handwriting. One of my favorite high school teacher's noted that it was faster because you don't have to pick up your pencil. And I just feels more comfortable to me. But people do point out when I use cursive and that it is odd. I'm in a minority and proud to be so.
posted by CPAGirl at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2009

I personally re-invented shorthand, although I'm the only guy in the steno pool who can read it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:02 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

At primary school (ages 5-12 in NZ system) you had to write with a pencil, however, when the teacher thought your handwriting was good enough you were given an "ink license" and allowed to use a pen.

I started to use a pen at high school.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:04 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't recall the last time I had to actually write anything down that someone else had to read.
posted by signalnine at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the whole point of a pharmacist filling prescriptions, rather than some office clerk technician, is that they know what the hell they're giving the patient.

As for handwriting in schools... it was either third or fourth grade for me when I first had a teacher who would allow me to print rather than write. I was happy, and never wrote again.

Of course, as a result I don't really have (cursive) handwriting.
posted by rokusan at 9:13 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

The 'hope for the future' from the NYT is writing in italics? Good lord.
posted by Huck500 at 9:22 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use cursive, as it's faster, though I tend to print in some situations. Then again, I don't own a laptop and despite typing throughout the day, I prefer to write in notebooks using pencils.

I bought myself a fountain pen around 1991 or so and would still be using it if the ink were not impossible to find. I love that pen; everything is so smooth. Gel pens are a decent enough replacement, but not quite there.

Still, I prefer pencils.

I'm a living anachronism.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:23 PM on September 8, 2009

I just laughed quite solidly at what Kimothy pointed out. To relieve tension indeed.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2009

As someone who was schooled in Zaner-Bloser through my first years of elementary school, I can attest that my non-cursive handwriting became gradually more stylized and easier to read and write, while my cursive still looks like that of an eight-year-old.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:45 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I took Russian in high-school, the teacher had us do cyrillic in cursive, and I pretty much lost the ability to write roman letters in cursive, the wires got crossed and I would end up with a weird half roman half cyrrilic mongrel.
posted by idiopath at 9:52 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey is a must-read for anyone interested in this subject.
posted by mrbill at 9:53 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ah, I had a lovely little program called D'Nealian when I was in kindergarten in the mid 80s, was supposed to be a fabulous method of printing which allowed "easy and natural transition to cursive". Then I transferred to a new school for first grade, which was using a more standard "print until 3rd grade, then start Palmer-style cursive".

Uhm, I'm not sure what I write now, but it isn't really either printing or cursive, and even I can't read it after a few months. Of course handwriting was the only subject I consistently got a "needs work" on in school. (My older sister who had D'Nealian all the way through has fantastic easy to read handwriting).
posted by nat at 10:08 PM on September 8, 2009

When I was in third grade we learned cursive and I caught hell for having terrible handwriting. I just couldn't put in the necessary level of effort for something so frivolous. At the same time, I thought calligraphy was great, and I spent a lot of my free time practicing it.

My elementary school had annual handwriting awards (really!), and I was invited to write the winners' names in calligraphy on each award. Of course, I didn't get an award.

Eventually, I was given a private handwriting tutor. I showed her calligraphy, and from then on we spent our sessions with me teaching her calligraphy.

My handwriting remains terrible.
posted by jewzilla at 10:30 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not only is my handwriting illegible, I suffer from right-handed inverted writing. My elementary school teachers plied me with all manner of orthopedic pens, to no avail.
posted by chrchr at 10:40 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a former pharmacist, I should like to add that the problem is often reduced to "bad handwriting on the part of the doctor", simply because the patient can't read it. In fact, the problem is much deeper and occurs on several levels.

First off, there is a great deal of abbreviation that occurs. The great justification for this is that doctors are just so busy they can't be bothered to write things out long hand. Yes I know doctors are busy, but when you abbreviate, by necessity you lose information. Here is the text I went by in the late 1980's. Here is the present online version.

Consider the "time saving" abbreviations for every other day: QOD, every day: QD, and four times a day: QID. Now consider the added element of bad handwriting, or what is even worse and insidious; verbal transcription from a cell phone or a speaker phone at the doctor's office, to a cheap digital answering machine at the pharmacy. At each step you introduce the chance of error, all in the name of "the doctor is a really busy person."

Pharmacy schools tell students various lies. One is that the FDA works to ensure patient safety by not allowing "sound alike" drug names to come to market. This is total bullshit.

When I was head pharmacist at a particular store, my second misfilled a Losec script with Lasix, a diuretic. The hard copy mysteriously disappeared, and frankly I never learned the full story if there were adverse consequences.

The point here is that the FDA has a wretched, if non-existent, effect on the rational nomenclature of drugs. Lasix-Losec was an accident waiting to happen AND IT DID!

Another little lie that pharmacy schools tell students is that there is something called the "Pharmacist-Physician relationship". Absolute nonsense. If I had a question about a document created by a doctor, I would have to call and leave a message just like everyone else. 99 times out of 100, a representative would call me back, not the doctor...

But I'll let you all in on the biggest secret of them all about bad handwriting of doctors. IT'S THEIR GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING NAMES!!!!!!!!!!

Consider that in a typical pharmacy you might have, say, 300 or 500 drugs. Only rarely did I ever have a genuine problem reading what the drug was. Now consider how many surnames there are in a community. Let's go "old school" and call it "the phone book". Now consider that most large medical facilities have very generic, pre-printed prescription blanks that lack a pre-printed name. Believe it or not, young doctors are not taught to PRINT their names along with their signatures if there is not a pre-printed name on the document. There ought to be a law, I tells ya!!!

Here in Seattle, Harborview hospital is renowned for it's world class trauma treatment center. But for YEARS, I had to fill their scripts which were entirely legible EXCEPT FOR THE DOCTOR'S NAME!!! I can't tell you how many hours I spent calling Harborview just trying to find out who the human was who wrote the script!

Right before I left pharmacy in 2002 Seattle Cancer Care Alliance beat out Harborview for the illustrious distinction of Worst-in-Seattle "who the fuck wrote this prescription". You can't believe the telephonic run-around it takes to track down such a simplistic piece of information.

Yes, I understand that since 2002 some prescriptions are being transmitted in an electronic format that is unambiguous, i.e. TEXT. This is a good thing. But we are still a long way from the promised land.

To this day, I have nightmares where I'm "just filling in for a day" at a pharmacy, and everything turns into a clusterfuck. Weirdly, in my dreams I can recall little details of the job that I had totally forgotten about...
posted by Tube at 11:47 PM on September 8, 2009 [84 favorites]

Handwritten prescriptions have always been part of a deep mystery to me. The doctor writes up something completely illegible, you bring it to the pharmacist, who then says: "Oh. Fucuponix. 200 mg, 3 times per day." This leaves me scratching my head, and wondering whether the pharmacist has supernatural powers or he's simply making it up. Obviously, that second-to-last link and Tube's comment do not make me feel any safer...

The idea that "cursive" handwriting somehow became obsolete in US schools in the seventies and eighties is also a "WTF America" moment for me. I am a product of the Spanish and German primary school systems, both of which placed, at the time, a great deal of emphasis on good handwriting. Since mine was pretty rotten, I remember spending day after day of filling up calligraphy notebooks. The Gemans are (were?) particularly old-fashioned about this, to the point that ballpens were verboten, only pencils and fountain pens being allowed (something behind which I suspect a powerful German pencil and fountain pen manufacturing lobby headed by Pelikan, Staedler and Faber-Castell).
posted by Skeptic at 1:30 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I read that NYT op-ed yesterday and I almost posted it until I saw the authors were just shilling their books and their preferred handwriting method. No thanks, I'll stick with print. I guess it's fine but I wasn't particularly intrigued with the idea of revamping my handwriting. I haven't used cursive for years and suspect that most people are same, I doubt the death of cursive meme is untrue. Handwriting will probably be at the bottom of the priority list for a long time to come.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:44 AM on September 9, 2009

Who else here has essentially forgotten how to write in cursive?
Who never learned in the first place (really learned, not just passed the test in fourth grade)?
posted by caddis at 4:18 AM on September 9, 2009

My handwriting used to be legible until I got a job where, if they could read your signature, it meant they knew who to blame. I developed an illegible scrawl which has persisted to this day.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:39 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

To cursive or not to cursive aside, the post has answered a mystery for me-- why my adult kids' (both born after 1986) handwriting looks like a third grader's. I've never said anything to them, but I always wondered.

I had completely forgotten about the Palmer method "drills" of endless loops and scribbles on a line (thank you for that OP), and I can't help but think that learning such fine-tuned motor skills must have other applications than "anachronistic" cursive writing. Kind of like touch-typing, which my kids disdain, but I wonder if I, and my generation, are so much better at touch-typing (or "keyboarding" for god's sake) because we were drilled in the fine motor skill of handwriting for years and years. (And yes, I am better at touch typing, more accurate and faster, than most young people I know.)
posted by nax at 5:07 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why does nobody discuss the more shocking thing -- that they've changed the capital cursive Q at some point in the 90's! No more giant loopy 2!
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:09 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I ever get some writing by an older American, I need another American to decipher it. Palmer method is completely illegible if you weren't brought up with it.
posted by scruss at 5:12 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Third grade. Fat pencil. Big Chief tablet. Endless repetition. Cramps.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:57 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: my laptop broke this August, so I bought a pen + journal notebook w/ thick unlined sheets, and relearned to write cursive — now my habit of writing works, which habit when computerized (even with no-distractions/zen-type gadgets like WriteRoom) was a neurotically fussy affair — I have commitment issues with sentences, and also fonts (how much of my writer time was in the Font Chooser?), which with ink you get over — on paper I even prefer typos to crossing-out! I also keep a smaller scratchpad for sketching poems before cursively commiting them to The Journal. Try it if your handwriting sucks like mine did and you want to Get Stuff Written No Matter How Bad It Is.
posted by mbrock at 6:04 AM on September 9, 2009

Comrade_robot: "Why does nobody discuss the more shocking thing -- that they've changed the capital cursive Q at some point in the 90's! No more giant loopy 2!"
What cursive insisted was a Q was the bane of my existence. Every literate circuit of my brain rebelled against it in what I would later recognize as the same sort of reaction non-ironic "l33t speak" draws; you don't use what are obviously numbers along with letters, and I don't care how many loops and whirls and flourishes you stick on them, it doesn't make it right! If cursive has to die entirely for that, I firmly support throwing the bathwater out anyway--you can always get a new baby.
posted by Drastic at 6:05 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

See, here's a secret -- if you extend the top loop of the 2 around, you can make it look kind of like a Q and less like a 2. The new Q, though, is so ... so ... inefficient. You have to do an O! And put in a line! You might as well be printing!
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:15 AM on September 9, 2009

I bought myself a fountain pen around 1991 or so and would still be using it if the ink were not impossible to find. I love that pen; everything is so smooth. Gel pens are a decent enough replacement, but not quite there.

Allow me to introduce you to the the single greatest pen since the invention of paper:

Uniball Jetstream.

If you could mix melted Swiss chocolate, the paints of the Sistine Chapel, and the color of the eyes of a Nordic princess, you would almost approach the ink in a Uniball Jetstream. If I were to compare writing with a Jetstream to writing with a Mont Blanc, I would say it is analogoous to putting on an IWC watch instead of strapping a cuckoo clock to your wrist.

But I would not make this comparison, because compared to a Jetstream, a Mont Blanc feels like scrawling cunieform on a clumsy tablet.

The Uniball Jetstream is the only pen I have never lost. It is the only pen I have used until the ink ran out. It is the only pen I have bought a refill for.

If I had a blog about pens, I would post about the Jetstream on the first day, and then declare the topic closed to all future discussion.

This pen will improve how your write. This pen will improve what you write. This pen will improve what you think. This pen will save your marriage and save the company. This pen will save the day.

The Uniball Jetstream comes filled with new and brilliant ideas. All you have to do is glide it over the page.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:45 AM on September 9, 2009 [33 favorites]

Pilot Precise Rolling Ball V7.

Palmer I like very much. My third grade teacher (Mrs. Watson) who taught me was a cruel cruel wicked western witch. I scribbled for years just to spite her. But she did not ruin Palmer for me, I came back to it in spite of my spite of her. I don't use the 2 Q though.
posted by bukvich at 7:15 AM on September 9, 2009

If I ever get some writing by an older American, I need another American to decipher it. Palmer method is completely illegible if you weren't brought up with it.

I grew up on D'Nealian, and I can read Palmer just fine. But if I ever need to read anything written by people who grew up in Germany, I have the same problem. (And I'm not even talking about Sütterlin, which is clearly from another planet — even the de-Nazified non-Fraktur-y cursive they took up after the war seems to be just different enough to break my brain.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2009

My father learned Peterson cursive as a child, and he has the best handwriting of anyone I have ever seen. My own cursive (I think I was taught D'Nealian, but I have no clue), while better than anyone else I know, pales in comparison to his - it is almost disgusting how effortlessly beautiful his handwriting is (he gets complimented on it nearly ever time he has to write anything, and I am definitely jealous.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:39 AM on September 9, 2009

I hated cursive. I taught myself one of the italics as an adult, which has some sensible rules like using ligatures where useful and appropriate, and lift the pen where necessary. Most characters start from the top down, rather than the double-stroke from the bottom forced by my elementary-school cursive.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:49 AM on September 9, 2009

My elementary school had annual handwriting awards (really!)

Two-time winner right here. Though you'd never know it. (Very nice storybooks, actually, each one. Much better than a plaque.)

The only problem I have with writing (other than it not being legible to others -- bug or feature?) is that I do so little of it that my hand gets tired/sore/stiff incredibly fast.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:15 AM on September 9, 2009

I love writing in cursive! As a teacher I had to print everything because my students were never taught script. My handwriting is a combination of print and cursive, very stylized and rather easy to read. I admit to a bit of floofiness in my writing, with crossing my sevens and zees (zeds) and other goofiness.

I had many students from other countries and cultures and I nearly went crosseyed trying to read all that cribbed script. I'm not going to get into the giant, loopy writing of my American educated students. They'd gobble up large amounts of paper, using purple ink that made their homework mostly unreadable.

I'd beg them to type their assignments but to no avail. Apparently typing and handwriting aren't really taught as subjects any more. More's the pity.

In high school fountain pens with cartidges of ink became popular and we all used them. There's nothing like a fountain pen and cursive for elegant class notes.

Now I use gel pens and I get the fluidity I like, without the hassle and expense of tracking down those sweet ink cartridges!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:23 AM on September 9, 2009

My handwriting has always been terrible. I learned to type by the time I was twelve, on a manual typewriter; I was the only kid in my junior high school who turned in typed papers.

When starting college, I scored astonishingly low on my handwritten writing placement test. So I had to suffer through remedial writing, even though I'd gotten straight A's in English all throughout high school, because of a skill I turned out not to even need in college.

These days, I even resent having to sign a credit card receipt. Handwriting can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.
posted by MrVisible at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2009

Bah. Palmer is teh suck. Either print it in block letters or go full Spencerian.
posted by mhum at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2009

I attended elementary school in the late 70s and early 80s, and studied cursive writing in grade 4. Rather, I studied after my parents got so pissed off with my teacher (a complete nincompoop) that they transferred me to a different class midway through the year.

My sister had the same teacher for all of grade 4, and her handwriting is excellent. I only got a bit of training in handwriting, and so mine is pretty bad, but it's nothing compared to our younger sister who learned cursive handwriting six years later (the point is, by that time it wasn't something they taught, and so she didn't learn it), in the late 80s.

Her handwriting looks like Fred Flintstone's, which is hilarious, because she is a geneticist with "PhD" after her name.

I spent a lot of time learning how to write Japanese "kana" and Japanese characters. Handwriting is something the Japanese still care a lot about, so I took the time to learn it correctly, and I'm going to make our sons study calligraphy.

It's funny: I see my son write a "5" or dot an "i" or cross a "t". In each case he does all the strokes in the wrong order.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:34 AM on September 9, 2009

My handwriting is uniformly awful. Between never having really grasped the Palmer method (my fifth grade papers still show a mix of both block and cursive in spite of the fact I was supposed to be writing in cursive and ink exclusively at that point for at least two years) and the fact I was trained to letter in both drafting and architectural styles has rendered my day to day scribble into a gelatinous mess that spills across all lines and into margins like a movie monster from the fifties.

Oddly enough, if I have to write legibly, I can still letter reasonably well, even though I haven't done it on a day-to-day basis since the advent of CAD systems. Apparently people are still impressed with architectural lettering enough to audibly gasp if I'm doing it for an audience... bet your fancy pants Palmer method can't do that.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2009

My mother refused to teach me how to write when I was a child. She was afraid I would pick up all her bad habits. My father taught me instead -- that man had lovely penmanship.

Thirty years later and my writing looks exactly like my mom's.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

1f2frfbf's comment reminded me of the last time I saw anybody care about handwriting in person (other than myself.) There was a fellow in my 11th grade mechanical drawing class that had his own idiosyncratic lettering style which our 11th grade teacher liked. I lettered exactly like in the textbook and didn't think I was envious. But somehow I must have been because I got the most enormous schaedenfreude buzz the first week in 12th grade when we turned in our first mechanical drawing assignment and the new mechanical drawing teacher told him in front of our whole class that he would not get a passing grade with that style of lettering.

The other thing I remember about mechanical drawing (and art) class was that I had to put up a fit to take the classes. My counselor and my parents both said "those classes are for the dumb students."
posted by bukvich at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

What pastabagel said. It's better than therapy.
posted by variella at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2009

nebulawindphone mentioned Sütterlin, the old German script.

Mathematicians who were trained in Germany still use Sütterlin letters for certain mathematical symbols. And you can't just use normal letters instead, because the corresponding normal letter means something different. If, like me, you're not German, this seriously slows down your writing; if you're taking notes in a class taught by such a person, by the time you've written the damn Sütterlin letter you end up hopelessly behind.

But I'm not Greek either, and yet I have no trouble with Greek letters. Perhaps this is because my brain wants to interpret Sütterlin letters as equivalent to the ``normal'' ones but doesn't treat the Greek letters in the same way because they're not even nominally the same alphabet.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:21 PM on September 9, 2009

madcaptenor you have given me an inspiration. I do believe the next person who sends me an e-mail in comic sans is going to get a reply in fraktur if I can figure out how to do it.
posted by bukvich at 3:04 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Uniball Jetstream doesn't come in micro (0.5 mm). Fail! Try the Uniball Signo 207. It's just about perfect.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:29 PM on September 9, 2009

.... Why is that entire NY Times article one big frickin' image??
posted by webmutant at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2009

It's funny: I see my son write a "5" or dot an "i" or cross a "t". In each case he does all the strokes in the wrong order.

ha! Is he following the general rules for stroke order for kanji?
posted by emeiji at 9:41 PM on September 10, 2009

Ah, penmanship class. Every day, from grades 1 through 6. This was Catholic school and they were serious about it.

I hated every second of it, but it was required. I'd taught myself how to print before I went to school, but I made the characters look like those in books I read. So, my lower-case a's looked kind of like little 2's. I also thought it was a waste of space to use that paper with the huge spaces between the lines, because I'd learned on normally lined paper.

Endlessly drawing all those curves, swoops, circles, etc. And having to make them all SO BIG and ROUND. Ugh. No wonder most of my female classmates took to dotting their i and j with circles instead of plain dots.

I was so relieved to be done with it.

Now, my handwriting is mostly legible, but smallish and spiky, rather than loopy, and kind of a print/cursive hybrid.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2009

My pen of choice: a circa 1948 Parker 51 aerometric with an extra-fine "accountant's nib", full of Noodler's Legal Lapis ink.

This pen is also the last thing my wife bought for me before she died back in June.
posted by mrbill at 2:14 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ewwwww D'Nealian. Our elementary school switched from Zaner-Bloser to D'Nealian sometime around 1990, after I'd learned cursive. Suddenly the first-grade wing was full of horrid flippy vestigial letter-tails created by kids who had mastered neither fine motor skills nor constructing complete thoughts in writing. Thousands of clunky little "one day I will learn cursive" end hooks just digging into the eye. D'Nealian print makes me long for the thoughtful aesthetic appeal of Comic Sans or even Sand.

I had horrible handwriting as a kid, but somewhere around tenth grade my penmanship crystallized into something legible and even moderately visually appealing, and to this day I have no idea how that happened.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:32 AM on September 13, 2009

I think I'd have more luck reading Hangul than Sütterlin.

My troubles with handwriting started in P4. That's when we went from printing, which I was decent at, to something with "ligatures". It wasn't quite D'Nealian - it did this weird thing to letters where smooth curves became convex kinks. The lower-case R was especially troubling - mine still comes out looking like, well, arse.

Least we didn't end up like the poor buggers who first got taught ITA ...
posted by scruss at 7:01 AM on September 14, 2009

Yeah...Catholic school in the 70's here. I have gorgeous penmanship...and a serious fear of wooden rulers wielded by ladies in black dresses...

People always comment on my handwriting, and I've always thought it was really strange that they did...but now I understand. I do it because it's so much faster than printing. I usually pack lunch for my son in the morning, and I always slip a note inside his lunch box, and printing it, especially printing it to match the way the school is teaching him to write, takes a ton more time than if I were to dash off a note in cursive.

On the other hand, my great-aunt, who is in her late 80's, loves getting letters from me, because she says I'm the only one in the family that knows how to write correctly. Hee.
posted by dejah420 at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2009

I had already learned both block letters and a Palmer-like cursive when the appalling nudniks who administered my elementary school decreed that learning and using D'Nealian was mandatory, for all students, effective with the new school year. "I am D'NEALIAN thy Hand, which have brought thee out of the land of Palmer, out of the house of Zaner-Bloser. Thou shalt have no other hands before me," and all the rest of it.

At the time I believed it would have been more appropriate to roll it out gradually from the lower grades, and let the older students age out with time. I now suspect, instead, that the need of consumable handwriting books for the upper grades just barely compensated the Scott Foresman representative for a professional disappointment, namely dealing with educrats so gullible that they plumped for the sale before he'd got round to bonking them. And what is the rational use of hundreds of people's time and attention, compared to the satisfactions of a salesman?

Well, however you may weigh those, my school did opt for the across-the-board switch, and since then I never face an irrational new policy without the brief, subconscious recall of a model alphabet somewhat more attractive than an opossum's bunghole. Perhaps, contra Keats, there is more ye need to know than that beauty is truth, truth beauty—and it is certainly the case that my own print and cursive never attained to the trusty geometricity or consistent fluid grace of the models I learned them from—but it's clear to me that neither logical syllogism nor aesthetics had any part in our conversion to D'Nealian.

For my part, I carefully scribed in the extra hooks on print letters and the breaks after cursive 'v' and all for the few weeks it mattered, and then gaily disregarded the whole business and resumed the letter forms I'd been taught in the first place, using block letters for short notes and cursive for longer compositions. Those models, with one change suggested the next year by a teacher with some sense (namely, a loop at the angle of my uppercase cursive L), served me unchanged until Metafilter showed my Arrighi italic around the time I finished my bachelor's degree. But that's another story (a happy one, be it noted, wherein materials, circumstances, and preparation conspired to give me a genuinely attractive handwriting for the first time ever). Until then, I'm darned glad to have had cursive. For all the computers in the world, pens are still awfully widespread, affordable, handy, and necessary.
posted by eritain at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2009

s/showed my/showed me/ dang it
posted by eritain at 3:59 PM on September 18, 2009

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