Cursing The Curse Of Cursive

Unlike probably most people, I enjoy the act of writing by hand — but I’ve always disliked signing my name. Why is that? I think it’s because signatures are supposed to be in cursive, or else they don’t count. At least, that’s what I was taught growing up. (And I’m really not that old, I swear!)

Having the exact same name as my mother meant that it was important to adolescent me to be different, and that included making sure our signatures looked nothing alike. Whereas her gentle, looping hand spoke to her sensitive and friendly nature, my heavy-handed block print was just another way of letting out my teen angst. Sometime in the last couple of decades, my signature became K-squiggle P-squiggle, which is really just a sped-up, screw-you version of my modern handwriting, which is a combination of print and cursive.

But let’s back up a bit. I started learning to write in kindergarten, but that of course was in script, with separate letters. Me and my fellow Xennial zeigeistians learned a specific printing method called D’Nealian, which was designed to ease the transition from printing to cursive with its curly tails on every letter.

We practiced our D’Nealian (So fancy! So grown-up!) on something called Zaner-Bloser paper, which is still used today, and by probably second grade were making that transition from easy Zorro-like lowercase Zs to the quite mature-looking double-squiggle of the cursive version. It was as though our handwriting was moving from day to night, changing and moving as fast as we were. You’d think we would have appreciated learning a way of writing that was more like us — a blur of activity, everything connected, an oddly-modular alphabet that was supposed to serve us well in adulthood. But we didn’t. We hated it. And you probably did, too.

A Fountain of Reinforcement

Was it the rote memorization of these hieroglyphs? The excruciating attention to detail that our teachers seemed to pay to our handwriting when it came to grading literally anything? Maybe it was the fact that in the States, there’s no real rite of passage attached to learning to write in either script or cursive, except that you escaped the bad marks in the penmanship department. Or maybe it was that regardless, eventually you got to use a pen instead of a pencil. I remember being stoked to write in thin lines of indelible blue ink instead of fuzzy, erasable graphite.

Thomas’ first fountain pen. Image via Lamy

In other countries, kids are forced at some point to use fountain pens. According to Editor-in-Chief Elliot, the German kids all go to the store at some point and pick out their first fountain pen, which gave me an a-ha moment. Is this all that’s missing from the Stateside cursive debate? A little bribery positive reinforcement? Yeah, maybe. If there’s one thing that’s easier with a fountain pen than a ballpoint, it’s the ability to make more creative letterforms. Fountain pens are all about dancing with different pressures to form thick and thin lines in proper balance, whereas hard-pressed ballpoints only produce darker, monoline letters.

The Connected History of Cursive

Believe it or not, cursive has gotten easier over time. From 1850 to 1925, the time of widespread adoption of the typewriter, everyone in the US learned Spencerian script, which is a wispy, high-contrast hand developed by one Platt Rogers Spencer. The Palmer method was meant to simplify Spencerian script, as was the competing Zaner-Bloser script, which was developed around 1900. Zaner-Bloser took over with its two distinct alphabets for print and cursive, but the wide differences between the two in the letterforms led to the development of D’Nealian in 1978. By adding ‘monkey tails’ to each print letter, children grew accustomed to the idea that letters could easily be connected together — and start to believe that cursive is much faster than print.

A Language More Private Than Pig Latin (or: Cursive Is Subversive)

Believe it or not, each squiggle represents an entire word. Image via Pinterest

One could certainly argue that it’s 2022 — we’re used to using keyboards of all stripes at this point, which is itself a skill whether you use ten fingers or two thumbs. We don’t leave notes for each other anymore so much as we send texts or even DMs from across the room. If we do handwrite something, it tends to be hasty and scrawled; a product of the time we’re living in. Writing by hand takes patience, even if you’re fast at it. Just one more thing in shortage these days.

So why bother to learn cursive instead of just a nice-looking print hand? Simply put, once you know what’s going on in cursive, you know what to look for, so you get good at reading all kinds of handwriting, cursive or otherwise. (It’s never too late to learn.) And generally speaking, writing in cursive is faster than writing in print.

And like the Boomers say, cursive looks like a foreign or secret language to many people under 25, so feel free to try to use it as one. (But if you really want to weed readers out, learn Gregg shorthand — it’s like cursive calculus, or advanced algebra, at least.) My mother most of her working life as a legal secretary, and she could probably keep up with a court reporter’s speed while taking dictation on her steno pad, at least until her hand cramped.

Print In a Digital World

Okay, forget cursive. Why even write by hand anymore when you could takes notes this or that way with your phone or laptop? If you really want to learn or remember something, you just can’t beat writing it down.

We haven’t even begun to talk about the analog-to-digital conversion aspect of merging historically handwritten documents within the world of OCR, talked about the irony of handwriting fonts, or even argued that hard in defense of having nice handwriting. So join me for part two, won’t you?

Main and thumbnail images via Unsplash

114 thoughts on “Cursing The Curse Of Cursive

  1. Learned Z-B in grammar school, never any good (they forced me to use my right hand, so I have no idea what other outcome there could have been), and went back to block print as soon as I could. Then, junior high came. One english teacher REQUIRED script. Not block letters. Not typed (I was moderately decent on the old Royal by then). Script. Needless to say, this did not go well. Then high school. Required typing for english class, had access to a computer and printer (IBM 360 with Decwriter or band printer. I didn’t have a type ball for the selectric terminal), but if it came from the computer it was cheating, so back to the Royal I went. Drafting class (and auto and machine shops) was the only place I fit in.

    I do not miss script, but I am glad I learned and can read it.

    1. I learned D’Nealian script as well in Elementary school in the late 80s. I abandoned to weird print characters eventually as I thought they looked goofy but they served the purpose for a little while. I still use the same style of cursive for things fairly often.

      I typically write simple block print in all capitals if I am filling out forms or leaving a message in which I want no chance of it being misread. JUST LIKE THIS ALL THE DAMN TIME. I use cursive if I want “pretty”.

      By 6th grade we could get away with typewritten shit if we had a printer. Bringing files from home could get interesting. If you didn’t save it as WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS or AppleWorks chances are they couldn’t read it. This bit me in the ass with MS Write on the ST at home. And again with Word 5 for the Mac. I never bothered bringing them AtariWriter documents. At one point when they finally got 68k Macs I brought projects in on an external SCSI drive with any software I’d need to view the documents like PowerPoint.

    1. The “simplified” it a bit more (dumb it down, I’d say) and call it “Vereinfachte Anfangsschrift” or so was, man was haben die sich da gedacht :(. I cannot see how that should be easier as the one I learnt years ago … 2 Kids in der Grundschule

      1. If he struggles already with such trivial things, Twain would be unable to learn Hungarian or Finnish, was he alive. German is very logical, the ideal language for any die-hard bureaucrat.

  2. Had to take cursive writing in school 40 years ago, the only time I actually used cursive is to sign my name but at a glance it looks like E with a wagging tail then a C with a longer wagging tail.

    No matter what I did in school, I found writing in cursive was much slower so I tended to not write in cursive at all, flummoxing my teacher throughout middle and high school. They did admit my homework were much easier to read than most other’s homework.

  3. I learned cursive, but as soon as I found myself in classes where nobody cared I switched to print. The reason was simple: it was faster for me to write (I didn’t have to think about letter formations or how to link them together), and – most importantly for the dysgraphic kid I was – hurt my hand less.

    Mind, the operative word is “less”. It still hurt, and as soon as I discovered that I could type stuff I never looked back. No keyboard has, or will, ever caused me the kind of deep-joint pain I get from even just a few minutes of writing by hand.

    1. Oh, do I ever recall the pain of cursed writing. It was so bad, that one day in grade ~4 I just stopped, and refused to do it anymore. It hurt less to have my hand hit for printing than to perform cursed writing. Eventually my teachers have up.

    2. I also have dysgraphia, even with typing. It’s especially bad when I’m tired and the fingers just go to the wrong letters, often repeatedly. No. Not. That. Letter. THIS ONE!
      Computers in schools for schoolwork came along after I was done with school.

      1. I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia as a child when the school system tried to pin me with ADHD and failed. After reading these comments about having dysgraphia and it not lining up with my own experiences I looked up the clinical definitions and symptoms of all three. I am now concerned that I was misdiagnosed as a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia. I have excellent reading comprehension, and I actually write as a hobby (mostly typing) and have no issues putting my thoughts onto paper.

        I certainly do have dyscalculia, my mental math skills have always been poor (which is interesting in itself seeing as I ended up working a number of jobs where doing math right the first time was of paramount importance).

        Either way, I think I need to do some research on this and read more about other people’s experiences with dyslexia/dysgraphia and maybe see about consulting a specialist to get a redetermination.

        1. Not exactly dyscalculia, but similar.

          In elementary school, one teacher would encourage “mental calculations”, then the next year, the teacher would force us to write out all the steps. Then next teacher was back to mental calculations, then back to the long way. By the time my class mates and I got to high school, we’d gone from multiplying and dividing 4 digit numbers mentally to needing calculators for more than 2 digits

          Writing, I still use cursive. I’m quite comfortable with it

  4. In Grades 1 & 2, our printing was block letters, not the curved letters in the first image. Somewhere about grade 3 I learned to write cursive. The letters looked a lot like those in the second picture. Eventually, my upper case became a mix of those in the image & sloppy block, but the lower case all stayed a lot like the image. I recently found some of my handwriting from about 6-7 years after high school – my writing, while not beautiful, was clear and easy to read. That went downhill once I started using a typewriter and computers in a work environment. Today I bemoan my poor handwriting – what I write today is incomprehensible tomorrow.
    On a different reply, I cannot find a definition for “zeigestians”. The only place Google finds the word is in this article.
    The Zaner-Bloser link does not go to a paper description, but to a method of teaching cursive writing.

    1. ” Today I bemoan my poor handwriting – what I write today is incomprehensible tomorrow.”
      Like any skill, you can train it. Just write a page a day (copying texts for example) focusing on making it readable. In a couple month you writing have noticably improved

        1. My ex-wife use to be a pharmacy technician. She told me my handwriting was worse than a doctor’s. While I learned cursive in school, I write almost completely in print (my signature is the exception, and like most its first initial-squiggle last initial-squiggle) just to make my writing semi-legible for others to be able to read it. It has been so long that I would have to look up how to write some of the letters in cursive.

          1. I once woke up in a panic because I forgot how I used to write a cursive capital I. Had to search through some old work log books to find examples. Given work logs are written in passive tense, so no “I applied”, “I measured”, etc. and no months, days or numbers start with I, it took a lot of reading to find an example, I think it was “It”.

  5. Strange reading people saying they write slower in cursive. IMHO I can’t see how because with regular text you have to pick up and put down the pen for every letter. Doesn’t matter much anyways these days they dont teach cursive anymore in school anyways. Wonder how this generation is going to sign their name.

    1. Talking of signing, I had a sitch a few years back, forgetting exactly what it was for, anyway the personality was a jobsworth bureaucrat, I had to sign something, I signed it. Then she was all “No, so I can read your name” so I block capital printed it next to it…. “NO, like you sign, but so I can read it” so for a frigging third time, I did a half printed “signature” that was nothing like my signature, and she muttered but accepted it.

      1. Oh my lord! I’m not the only one this has happened to!. A few years ago, a petty bureaucrat at the post office made me do the same after I made my squiggle. I told her that she was forcing me to forge someone else’s signature as the legible version wasn’t mine! =]

    2. I had to learn cursive in third and fourth grade, so the art is still alive. There’s three camps in my high school and my old middle school: the people who never got printing down and didn’t want to ever try cursive, the people who either print or write in cursive perfectly, and the largest camp, people like me who have found a way to blend the two into something fast, but not requiring thought.

    3. For me it was never a case of writing slower in cursive that print, but writing slower in legible cursive than legible print. I could zip along happily in cursive with no hand pain at all, but I’d be the only one who could read the resulting scrawl.

      1. I write perfectly legible cursive, and fast too! Cursive is much more efficient compared with printing block text like a baby, that’s why learning cursive was once mandatory in U.S. schools. Unfortunately, for reasons of political division and the dumbing-down of the population, here in the U.S. the government-run school system decided to stop teaching cursive entirely. So now there are generations of young people who are functionally illiterate when it comes to the written word. I will write a page of instructions in cursive and hand it to a young person, who will look at it and hand it back to me explaining that he/she/it cannot read it. How pathetic.

        1. Please take this as a light-hearted observation, not an attack.
          But what is pathetic? The inability of others to read your writing, or your inability to write in a manner legible to others?
          A common thread in the comments here have stressed both the speed in whipping out cursive writing and the lack of legibility of that same script.
          In any form of commentary, written, printed, or typed, the goal is usually to impart information to be retrieved later. If the goal was for someone other than yourself to interpret that information, then they have to be able to read it for the information exchange to be successful.

    4. Perhaps Some or many find cursive slower, because they have to concentrate more for their effort is legible? In one of my American Radio League emerging communications manuals, has a section dedicated for how to print received radiograms quickly, for the best chance of being legible, , for others to read. Even, that reacquires practice that. In Kansas we are required to write or full name, in cursive, on a pad that is at a position for some, with little space to write THE full signature, on our real ID drivers license.
      IMO Cursive serves no real purpose, I doubt every one writes the signature perfectly every time, regardless, if the use cursive, or block print. In the end, many use this to be elitist, and a reason to kick down on others.

      1. I just remembered something, in HS in the early ’70s, in mechanical drawing block printing was required. Even with that, the legibility was part of grading our work. In the end, eligibility is what’s important. Be it block print, cursive, or shorthand.

    5. >I can’t see how

      Because you have to slow down to join the letters properly without messing them up. The speed factor comes from the fact that you’re doing little loops that only vary by some small detail or a kink somewhere to distinguish them as letter, but you have to get that right. If you haven’t got 10,000 hours of hand writing under your belt, it just doesn’t happen with any consistency. A typo is a total stop.

      And then you have to go back to dot your i-s and cross your t-s after you’ve already written the word, but from the mess you can’t find where you’re supposed to put them because you can’t tell l from t, so it takes extra time as well.

      In the end, to make it legible instead of just a mess, it takes more time than just writing words letter by letter one at a time, distinct and individual.

    6. I’m dyslexic, and in order to write ‘joined-up writing’ (as we call it in the UK) that is legible to me, let alone anyone else, I have to go really slow. While I might have to lift the pen between letters for print text, that at least makes each letter somewhat legible so I can write somewhat faster.
      Fortunately I almost never have to handwrite for other people to read any more, but I can still remember the relief when I changed schools and was allowed to use pens other than a leaky, scratchy, illegible, fountain pen, and also I wasn’t graded on my handwriting, but instead on what I actually wrote.

      1. Probably because it really doesn’t take much time to pick up a pen 2mm or so, so that’s not really a factor. What IS a factor is that if I DO write fast, in cursive, it becomes illegible, and not as much when using normal letters.

  6. I leaned cursive and for quite a while I used it all the time. When I started more math and science I learned to print very fast (We called script “printing” and cursive “writing”.). And I switched to fountain pens and rqpidographs to eliminate hand strain. Note: if you strain or cramp while writing with a fountain pen you are doing it wrong.

    Teaching high school for some years after 2000 I realized this is just not taught anymore. Every student had their own ridiculous knot of fingers, fist, and writing instrument and only a few could write legibly. It is a shame because you can write all day if you know how to fold a fountain pen and move your arm instead of your wrist. You mention changing line width with pressure. I would call that using a nib for calligraphy or something like that. I use a fountain pen with close to zero pressure, which is the main advantage.

    Here is a hint for the I/me thing. “Me and my fellow Xennial zeigestians learned a specific…” separate or rearrange. You wrote “Me learned a specific…” and it is good form to put yourself second “My fellow Xennial zeigestians and I learned a specific…” depending on emphasis.

    But today I am quite out of practice and stumble in writing. In fact I’m moving more and more to dictating to my computer. If I live long enough I’ll forget how to type!

    1. Fountain pens didn’t help me at all, not least because I couldn’t STAND the scratching of the nib against the paper.

      They’re also more delicate than ballpens – but not fragile; I remember once when one of mine fell off the desk and impaled itself on the bare wooden floor of the classroom at something like a 70° angle… it still wrote afterwards – complete with drop shadow! – but it scratched so badly I had to throw it away soon after.

  7. They had us do these exercise forms (non-letter squiggles) before cursive teaching began. For some reason, I was best in the class at those, but my cursive was middling. At high school, 80% of the teachers hated cursive, so I got knocked back to a semi-joined print. Then as information flow got more intense last years and heading into college, I was struggling to write fast enough, and it degraded to something near MD levels. I don’t know if a quick, flowing cursive would have helped all that much, it was formula dense by then.

    I was horrified anew with my writing a few months back, when I was on the phone and jotted down some info… OMG do I have neural degeneration or something, surely I don’t write that bad.. took me way too long to realise why… I used my left hand, I’m right hand dominant. Though I call myself “sesquidextrous” one and a half handed, since I have fairly good co-ordination with my left hand, more than some, but it’s not as good as my right for full ambi… dunno if it would level up with more practice.

  8. I just read an article by a college professor. He said he would write notes on student papers in cursive.
    Also, on cards and in letters.
    His students would come up to him and ask him what he wrote to them.
    I think being able to at least read cursive is a must.
    And they are starting again to teach it in K-8.

  9. Hmmm some comments remind me of my Catholic Nun reinforced painful learning experiences in cursive. Cursive is supposed to be slow as it is a showy laborius form of communication. Nobody got time for that today.

  10. It’s the Palmer method or nothing, baby! I had terrible handwriting in school. Then I went to college and majored in engineering. They made us stop writing in cursive and print. After a while, I couldn’t write cursive any more at all. Good riddance!

    1. I went to Fresno State. Worked in civil engineering for 32 years at Geotechnical Engineering-Testing in Mobile, Al.
      I also had my engineering graphic courses.
      in 1979 it was all by hand!
      I never forgot how to write or read cursive.
      Plus, I have good printing skills to boot.
      I did write my course papers on an old mechanical typewriter though.
      I can use AutoCAD, Excel, and many other computer programs in the geotechnical profession.
      In college those were the days of IBM punch cards, Fortran, Cobol, and I guess a form of Basic.
      I can program in Basic, C, C++, Python, and am learning Rust.
      Just for fun on Rust as I am now retired.

    2. I learned the Palmer method as well, but my cursive was never very good. Later on in high school I took a couple of drafting classes, and in the first class I learned to print careful, clear letters on engineering drawings, which I loved. But in the second class the instructor wanted us to print on architectural drawings using heinously unreadable fancy slanted glyphs (I still loathe any architectural drawings that use that pretentious font.) I did not score high marks because my brain wouldn’t let me print something that unreadable.

      Eventually I ended up printing almost everything as it’s faster for me to print than to write. My handwriting remains ugly but legible.

      As far as typing goes, I was pretty fast with two fingers from about 3rd grade on. It was obvious to me by 5th grade that my career path was going to be entirely on computers, so by 9th grade I knew I had to learn to type with all ten fingers. I took a typing class that was entirely attended by girls, as in the 1970s typing was considered a “secretarial job”, and not something done by Men With Important Careers. Came out of it with a solid 50WPM skill, which has served me very well for the last 50 years.

  11. The cursive style that I was taught decades ago is still being taught in my state. There are subtle differences between this style and the styles in the other states, usually in the lowercase p and b. Yes, each state is different.

    You can even download fonts that do the joining (or not) directly from our education department. For free.

  12. I’m a lefty. I still suspect that cursive is not as friendly to left handed writing since you are pushing the pen or pencil and not pulling it back across the paper. Since some left-handers write with the arm curved in an odd angle over the paper which results in them dragging rather than pushing the pen, it seems likely that the characters are better written when pulling back the pen rather than pushing.
    I’ve blamed my always poor penmanship on being left handed. Besides the poor legibility of my writing I also find others cursive writing also hard to read. While cursive may be faster for some, I’m not quite sure the difficulty others would have reading it makes the additional speed worth it. If the whole purpose of the writing was for someone else to read it then any “improvements” in the process should not reduce the text’s ability to be read.
    The US Declaration of Independence is written in a clean, careful, flowing script. I think there are very few who would argue that a plain text version is faster and easier to read.
    Cursive writing should be relegated to caligraphy. As a stylized form of writing that places a higher importance to style over function. If you’re jotting something down, consider who is going to read it and make sure that what you put down is not misunderstood or difficult to understand.

    1. I am a lefty too. And had to learn cursive in school. Wasn’t bad. Being a lefty, I did have to be careful of smearing the ink. I don’t mind cursive writing and it is ‘much’ faster than printing each character. There is a place for printing and cursive writing. Sad to see if going by the wayside. My wife and I still uses it for writing snail mail letters (much more personal than typing text) and a little ‘extra’ text in say Christmas cards and of course for writing checks. Don’t you just hate it when someone sends you a typed ‘form’ letter?

    2. Being a lefty caused all sorts of issues. Using a pen was often a smeary mess (esp those eraseable pens, remember those?). Which is why these days my weapon of choice is a 2mm lead holder. And teachers would always whine about me writing on the “back” of the pages. I finally solved that issue in college by using legal pads.
      But my usual writing is a mix of print and cursive forms. I can still do an acceptable cursive but it takes time.

    3. This former second-grader took one look at the Peterson card showing the contorted way us left-handers were expected to hold the pencil, and noped right out of that. A semi-permanent smear on my pinky knuckle was a small price to pay.

    4. I’ve seen a few southpaws write lines of text backwards, resulting in lines that look as though they were done left to right with the right hand. But to do that requires plotting out in advance what the whole line of text will be.

  13. My mom had the most beautiful cursive writing that I have ever seen. It was like music on a page. I learned cursive in second grade I think and loved it. I got my first fountain pen at about 12 years old and used it all through high school. In freshman year I took drafting and fell in love with the block letters and the ability to make it look like it was machine made. Any reports or papers I had to write in school were done in cursive with the fountain pen and teachers would allow me to write in cursive while telling others they had to write in block. By the way the first time you pull out your bottle of ink to refill the pen you get alot of questions. I still write in cursive sometimes just to stay good but most everything else I write in beautiful drafting block letters because anyone can read it. I no longer have a fountain pen as they have gotten ridiculus in price. :(

        1. Reminds me a joke. A Catholics priest made it to heaven. He asked to see the original text of the Catholic cannon law. After awhile there was a scream that startled all of heaven and hell. When the priest asked what that was about; the priest said the original text, said celebrate, not celibate.

    1. I decided a couple of years ago to improve my handwriting, and now I use fountain pens almost exclusively (it’s much more enjoyable to write with one). But I have to keep careful track of them, because even the cheapest Pilot or Muji pen will set you back $30-50 once you throw in the converters.

  14. Thank you – nearly 50 years ago in the UK I was taught D’Nealian cursive almost exactly as you show, including wacky capital Q, and with a fountain pen and special lined paper, but never knew it had a name!

    Try writing “minimum” in it – pretty unreadable.

  15. I learned writing in script but as soon as my older sister started to write in print, I thought it was really cool and emulated her. My handwriting was never great, so even the teachers were glad I switched to computer print outs as soon as I got a computer and matrix printer. The upshot was that I didn’t have to fill a full sheet of paper since printed text is much small than hand writing, and I also cheated with larger line and letter spacing :)

  16. Learned ‘handwriting’ at school, only later found out the Americans call it ‘cursive’. No fountain pens, just regular old biros. Trying to write block letters (upper or lower case) is painfully slow.

    As for signatures: anywhere so old-fashioned to still demand one instead of using some method of actual authentication will get at best a begrudging squiggle in protest of their incompetence.

    1. I have to be pretty sure those who analyze hand writing, can analyze both. The point taken, about using hand written authentication, but would would you suggest to use to replace hand writing? I lived in the US all of my 66 years. Hand writing is common term here. Cursive and printing is used to distinguish, what is being used. When I was in school, those of use who tried out, the cartridge “fountain pens”, went back to the Bic ball point pens.

      1. Here (UK), “handwriting” is any joined-up writing (where the majority of text is drawn in a continuous motion with exceptions only for bars and dots, added after the rest of a word is written), and “print” is almost always block-capitals for OCR use in forms, and basically never used day-to-day. I cannot recall anyone who writes with separated lowercase or mixed-case characters unless for a specific purpose (e.g. signwriting where one is replicating by hand a logo that incorporates such).

  17. I used to write exclusively in cursive, now it’s a mix of block and cursive depending on context. I will say that at least for me I can write considerably faster in cursive than block (though legibility is another matter lol).

  18. I did fourth and fifth grade in a private school in Australia. I had already had a course in cursive writing (never could figure out why the cursive Q looks so much like a cursive L) and imagine my surprise when they issued us fountain pens and started to try to teach us how to write in italic! I was not very good at it. Eventually, I came up with my own style of “fast printing” for taking notes. My wife says it’s very readable. It’s sort f a hybrid between printing and cursive. I don’t write very much any more, I mostly hunt and peck.

  19. I never got on with joined up writing at primary school and subsequently reverted to using block capitals whenever I could – still do in fact – using relative size to denote case. Yeah there was some flack with some of the the grammar school teachers, but most were just happy to have something they could read easily.
    Imagine my joy when I sat down to the first day of my first job and was presented with a stack of blank COBOL coding forms and half a dozen new pencils :-)

  20. I had really gorgeous handwriting as a kid… at least, until the late 80’s when the school system I was in did a crash change of the required style to the simplistic barely cursive thing they considered “modern” and use to this day. Attempting to change over completely borked my muscle memory and I just have a messy half-assed script now. :(

  21. Having suffered poor hand-eye coordination and several changes of writing regime back at school, my handwriting has always been like something on an old time doctor’s prescription form. A mess. An unitelligible mess – one that even I cannot read.

    What I ended up with as my best handwriting (which lasts for no more than 75 words) before I discovered typewriters and word processors was a mixture of cursive print and cursive flow (someone called it “interlaced”). It doesn’t stop my signature looking like A[squiggle][loop][squiggle]

  22. I wrote everything in cursive from about 3rd grade until I was a freshman in college. Got a homework back with a note from the TA: I can’t read this. I looked at it, and said, “Neither can I.” Block printing from that moment on.

  23. A really interesting article about what’s for me a foreign concept, script. If you wonder why, the reason is simple, french school teach to write in cursive, period. Don’t get me wrong a lot of french people use script. It’s just that you simply don’t learn it in school. And there is no issue, no debate, because everyone can read and write un cursive. A vast majority of teacher from kindergarden to university use cursive. Because yeah even if the government try to introduce tablet in school we’re still attached to the old good board (there even school that still use black board to say the least).
    Personnaly I never switch to script simply because to learn to properly write in script. Right now I can do it but it take me forever (like literally 10 times longer than in cursive XD)
    To come back to the article I was stun to learn there was different cursive style with name and all. Because I was teach only one style I was left to beleive there was only one, which is completely false, and that’s a bit sad in my opinion.

  24. Your signature can be anything that you want it to be.. anything. My signature is the Pi symbol. I’ve used it for my signature for 30 years or so and there’s nothing anybody can do but complain about it, and I’ve heard it all.

  25. I too am a signer, though I’ll usually put a middle initial in there too. Sounds like my handwriting learning experience overall, really except that my 5th grade teacher unilaterally put me through remedial penmanship for a good chunk of that year.

    Interesting to know that the lined-plus-a-center-dotted-line paper was called Zaner-Bloser paper, these decades later. Nowadays my hand writing is almost exclusively printing, in a style not unlike that of an architect, but I do write a lot of things down, as writing or drawing is one of the better ways I’ve found to internalize information; I go through a lot of graph and dot-grid paper, and in particular, any circuit design I’m going to put in a layout program I’ve already drawn on paper three or four times.

      1. My wife asked for graph paper several weeks ago. Instead of searching for an old tablet of graph paper we have, I went to that website, and in addition to regular graph paper, I printed out some Cornell style examples. She liked those better.

      2. I print (don’t use cursive) fairly small, and usually used college-ruled paper in my school/teaching days. Narrow-rule was available but hard to find. With that website I printed very-narrow-ruled paper that was ruled perfectly for the size of my printing. As well as graph paper in all sorts of sizes and formats, as I like to hand-draw before putting it to the computer.

  26. I’ve recently re-discovered writing letters by hand to old friends and family. I’ve been using a nib and ink and sometimes a fountain pen on an old writing slope. At first I was slow and wobbly with blotches, but now I find my handwriting has improved a lot.
    The best part are the replies I have been getting via mail, email or phonecalls. People love getting a letter and tend to respond much more candidly than otherwise when we communicate with emal or messages.
    All in all, its brought me a lot of joy and I’d recommend everyone to get a nice pen and paper out and write to someone.

  27. A little surprising, the number of people (like me) who read Hackaday and eschewed cursive for block printing. Possibly a correlation? Clarity among engineering/tech people?

    Just occurred to me: in the days of quills and fountain pens, cursive used more-or-less even pressure while writing. Block printing means returning the pen point to the paper after each letter, without excessive pressure, else you’d get blotches and splots. Requires more care with those types of pens. Enter the ballpoint, and pressure differences aren’t as critical, so printing can be faster.

    Like many others here I could block-print as fast as my junior-high (showing my age) and high school mates could write cursive. Yes, one can probably write cursive faster IF that’s the way one always writes, but the quality does tend to deteriorate. Takes a lot of practice/use.

  28. I have a smushed middle finger on my right hand right at the end, where I hold a pen; it is mostly delicate scar tissue, so I always had problems writing as a child. I even spent a significant period one school year in detention writing ‘lines’, solely in an attempt; by my teachers, and parents; to improve my handwriting.

    My handwriting only got decent as an adult after I came across an old treatise – 1600’s, that sort of timeframe (All hail the internet), that the wrist should be held parallel to the writing surface and the fingers should be used as little as possible, most of the motion coming from the arm. Holding my wrist parallel to the table still feels a bit of a strain, but I’m much better than I used to be; my fingers I only use for flourishes, occasionally. The way we were taught at school never, ever, mentioned the position of the hand, and so most of us held our hands practically at forty-five degrees to the paper with the pen sloping down at a diagonal. Think of this as, if you were drawing rather than writing, the difference between getting pencil lead on your wrist, as opposed to pencil lead on the edge of your hand (Does this have common name in English? The part you would karate chop someone with – the blade of your hand?).

    Holding your wrist in this way means that you are much less likely to flex your fingers back and forth but instead use them to vary pressure on the paper, which makes the lighter loops in letters easier to do.

    I generally write with a pencil. Where I need to use a pen by choice for something other than jotting something down, writing a letter for instance, I use a cartridge-based rotring drawing pen as I find the flexibility of the nib nearer to what I want than practically all modern fountain pens.

    I work in systems administration, and have for decades, but I take most of my notes in a paper pad. My writing is now (over the last decage, say) much more legible, and although I can write the same word ten times over and get ten different variants in letter size and angle practically no-one has a problem reading my writing – even when I’m using the cursive ‘r’ and ‘f’. I include teens and youths in that group.

    I’m pretty fast taking things down – faster than writing in print – and my hand rarely cramps up anymore, which used to be an issue.

    As a note: my father wrote everything in block capitals, and it was almost its own type of cursive with strokes going from one letter to the next; he could get things down quickly, as long as there was not much to actually write; a few paragraphs at most.

    So, I hope that if you try those tips that I’ve found useful, from above then you may find that over time it will help your own handwriting, I’ve found them more useful than all of the handwriting drills I was forced to do as a child. And, I am still embarrassed by my handwriting, though others have said they like it. It’s not beautiful, but it is legible, fast and cursive. (Just don’t ask why I can use three different types of cursive ‘f’ in one sentence – I don’t know).

  29. I’m a lefty and glad I was taught cursive. If you are barely proficient at it: it is faster than ‘block’ non-cursive. As a lefty I had challenges: On high school hand-written papers, I had to tape a piece of paper to the bottom part of my hand to keep from smearing the writing. It’s sad that they are dummying down the skill sets today.

    1. Would be proud to be called that ;-). I looked closer at the D’Nealian, and that’s what I learned also, in 1969 ish (58 frigging years old, when did that happen?) they tried to make me right handed on many things so I do a bit of both now.

  30. Anybody else pick up on the extra letter in the special study of small letters picture? Seems like they decided an e or an F needed extra representation or we had another letter back then. Hmm

  31. Learnt cursive and enjoyed it (France had the same foutain pen policy as Germany it seems) and switched to block letters thanks to many years into graffiti. Now I still enjoy very much writing (few pages daily, even though my work is 100% computer related) and my handwriting morphed to a very fast block lettering mixed with cursive links everywhere (because I don’t raise my pen enough when I’m writing fast). I keep writing samples of each years of my life to see the evolution of my handwriting when I’ll be old.

  32. In junior school (UK 8-11 years old) in the 1960’s we had to use ink pens and ink wells. Basically one up from a quill! Use of a Biro (ballpoint) was punishable by slipper on bum or ruler on knuckles). That’s Catholic education for you. You could use a fountain pen and I remember my first Osmaroid pen with a lever to suck up ink via the nib into the reservoir.
    Interesting to read people’s comments and experiences. My writing is legible but a bit juvenile unless I make a real effort as I tend to write very large. Still quicker than printing individual letters.

  33. When I got my Ham license, I had to do 20 wpm Morse Code so I practiced in block print since I was an Engineer. What a great compliment I got when I handed in my work; it was the neatest they had ever seen. AG9L

  34. Wonderful article, and a bit surprised, given this is Hackaday, that the correlation between cursive writing and more energetic brain and manual manipulation functions is markedly increased in that process. Printing certainly doesn’t so-engage either cognitively or manually.

    1. It could have done without the tongue in cheek generational stuff, though. More about the topic, and pleasures of it, less about people and judgements, or how people are convinced etc.

  35. Please no generation or arbitrary age references anymore to make a point, like “boomers”, “people under 25”. It’s almost always loaded with something judgemental and negative, and does just further divide people. Media also has a responsibility for the climate it creates amongst people. Just say the generation of your parents or whatever used to do this, but people (no need for “kids” or age) are not taught this or that anymore as much and it’s foreign to them, unfortunately.

    Much more neutral, less aiming at making generations (which are never that clear cut anyway) argue against each other. No fake admiration, no fake superiority or all that bullshit. Just real neutral history. Why is that so hard for people?

    It would be much more pleasant to read.

    1. The time references are necessary to seeing how cursive has evolved into something completely irrelevant. Not to say it’s dead, but to think less of someone because they don’t write cursive, or in your own choice of cursive (usually determined solely by what year you learned cursive), or even may not have learned it at all, is to be a snob. It has nothing to do with ageism.

  36. @Mike said: “Please take this as a light-hearted observation, not an attack.
    But what is pathetic? The inability of others to read your writing, or your inability to write in a manner legible to others?”

    Hello Mike. Answer: Both. Writing, like speaking, to be effective requires a common set of rules that all participants agree to and practice. Cancelling the teaching of very efficient cursive writing in the U.S. serves only one purpose; to force a generational divide for political gain. Please do not call into question the legibility of my cursive writing. As I said, “I write perfectly legible cursive, and fast too!”

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