What Is Killing Cursive? Ballpoints. Probably.

I get it — you hate writing by hand. But have you ever considered why that is? Is it because typing is easier, faster, and more convenient here in 2023? Maybe so. All of those notwithstanding, I honestly think there’s an older reason: it’s because of the rise of ballpoint pens. And I’m not alone.

Bear with me here. Maybe you think you hate writing because you were forced to do it in school. While that may very well be, depending on your age, you probably used a regular wood-case pencil before graduating to the ballpoint pen, never experiencing the joys of the fountain pen. Well, it’s never too late.

A Brief History of Ballpoints

All things considered, ballpoint pens haven’t been around that long. Although American leather tanner John Loud patented a kind of ballpoint in 1888, it never took off.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Biro. Image via Wikipedia

A few decades and a few designs went by, but none of them made an indelible mark. These early pens were plagued with problems, mostly having to do with ink. Fountain pen ink is quite thin to facilitate flow, and you can’t put that in a ballpoint design — it will just leak out everywhere.

Then came Hungarian journalist László Bíró. For someone presumably on the go all the time chasing down stories, it’s easy to see how he would have wished for a more portable pen.

Together with his brother György, a chemist, they created the viscous, quick-drying ink that you struggle with see today, beginning with newsprint inks. Eventually, they found the right combination of ink and ballpoint and created a pen that didn’t leak too badly. Biro’s biro took off (literally) when he sold 30,000 pens to the British Air Force, who were looking for a pen that would work at high altitudes.

Soon after, businessmen were profiting left and right, because they were free to manufacture ballpoints in their countries. Although Biro may have invented the first functional ballpoint pen, it was French businessman Marcel Bich of BiC who made it into the ubiquitous tool it is today. Bich not only profited from the ballpoint, his design and manufacturing techniques drove the price of them into the ground.

Fountains vs. Ballpoints

So, let’s get down to it. What are the pros and cons of fountain and ballpoint pens? Because they both definitely have their upsides and downsides.

First off, fountain pens are straight up delightful to use. You need way less pressure to produce strokes, which is easier on the hand and wrist. Wonder why your hand cramps so easily when writing? Blame the ballpoint.

I can feel this picture. Image via Unsplash

With a fountain pen, you’ll find that letters flow into each other. This is because you have to lift the pen completely off the paper to get that ink to stop flowing. And depending on your abilities, messy cursive is arguably easier to read than messy print.

But there are downsides to fountain pens, unfortunately. Many of them leak easily whether they’re properly stored or not. They need to be refilled fairly often. The ink smudges easily, even if you’re not left-handed. And even the cheap ones can’t compare to the cost of a ballpoint pen.

But ballpoints have their benefits, too. They are extremely low-cost, so it doesn’t matter as much if they get lost. That low cost translates to convenience. On top of that, they usually don’t leak anymore. But ballpoints are basically bad for you. The thick ink required by the design of the thing means more pressure is needed from your poor hand and wrist. Again, if part of the reason you hate writing by hand is the cramping, well, take a look at your instrument.

So Why the Decline?

Can we really blame typewriters and computers for the decline in cursive? Or the fact that many schools in the United States don’t teach cursive or spend time on penmanship anymore? According to the archive of such hand-wringing articles, handwriting and cursive have been in decline since the 1960s, decades before the personal computer (but well within the age of the typewriter). But there’s more to it than that — people don’t need to write by hand as much anymore, and so they don’t. Checks, letters, and post cards immediately come to mind as things people once wrote quite often, and simply don’t anymore.

Studies have shown that writing by hand is better for learning and development than using a computer, and that doing so can lead to more brain activity during recall an hour later. From my own personal experience, I can vouch that this is true. What do you think?

221 thoughts on “What Is Killing Cursive? Ballpoints. Probably.

    1. Very much my thinking as well.

      Though I also use real ink pen as the need for more permanent marking arises, sometimes the felt tip in a metal tube type that is about as close as you can get to the propelling pencil in tiny thin legible lines, and sometimes the fountain pens, even more rarely a dip ink adjustable width draftsman pen – two pretty thin blades one very flat on the back to ride on a ruler and the other more bent and sprung away from the flat one, held close enough for the ink surface tension to hold a pool of ink by a fine pitch screwthread – turn that thread and the gap between the tips and so the drawn line can get thinner or thicker. By far the nicest feeling ‘pen’ I’ve written with, but do have to be rather careful with it to not make a mess, and really they are much better at drawing straight lines than curving text, at least for somebody like me that hasn’t put the effort in to alter my handwriting letter shapes to look good with a more calligraphy pen wide-thin depending on stroke direction output.

        1. I assume you mean the weird one – Would if I could, but inherited from the grandparent who was a draftsman, so I have no idea where you could get something as nice now. Unless you can find some old draftsman tools (though that pen tip concept may well be much more universal in history, I’ve only ever seen it in context of his tools.

          I’ve seen similar concepts in some modern ‘mathematical’ compass sets not that long ago, but they all look like they would be much worse to use, have less line width variation and not be able to hold nearly as much ink by their shaping. Which I would suggest would render them nearly useless as that nice old one doesn’t hold that much ink in the first place. So I never bought one to try it.

          1. The pen is a ruling pen. They are still made. They can be used with a variety of media, including ink for draughting, watercolor, oil paints, and so on. Viscosity is important, and different media may require a different dressing on the tip. You can dip them into the media, but it is often less messy to use a dropper to directly place it between the blades. Never my favourite when I was on the board (rapidograph MUCH preferred), but there were times it was needed.

          2. Ah thank you Cliff!
            Seems like there are a few varieties of ‘ruling pen’ but one style does indeed match, amazing how easy it is when you know what things are called.

            Though now I really want to buy some new ones, even though I’ll probably never use them. As the old one is so nice and rarely used anyway. Writing really nicely is great an all, but pencils are generally just better…

    2. Not all inks are equally resistant to water. Some of them are pretty resistant while still being pretty conventional, and some of them are actually pigment based. I believe some have a one-way reaction when they “dry” and they won’t be dissolved back at all by water.

      Graphite pencil lead can smear when touched, especially but not only when it’s not perfectly dry at the time. Plus graphite has a tradeoff between hardness and darkness, so if you want a dark line you accept more smearing. I generally got 4B lead for my thin-diameter mechanical pencils so the line would be dark enough despite being thin, and definitely saw smearing over time especially with a notebook I carried around, due to the movement.

      1. The term I’ve seen used in calligraphy forums for ink that dries waterproof is “bulletproof,” for some reason. Most “Noodler’s Ink” is famously bulletproof. But these inks are also kind of a pain in the butt to work with, because they get everywhere when you’re filling the pen. There’s a little left on the lip of the bottle? Well, it’ll dry into a hard crust, then crumble into dust when you open the bottle again. Try to wipe up the dust and you’ll leave streaks of waterproof stain on pretty much anything. Can’t get it off your hands, either. There’s a bit crusted inside the gaskets of your pen, too. It’s just frustrating. If you’re writing to someone on a boat, use it, but otherwise the water soluble inks are so much easier…

        1. That’s why I use a blunt tip 5 or 10mL syringe, although if you’ve not got one an eyedropper is sufficient. I do it at a sink and rinse the syringe and my hands immediately. I also just refill the used cartridge. I’m not sure which bulletproof inks would be hard to deal with and which would be fine that way. “India ink” aka colloidal carbon might be fine? But pipettes come in 100-packs, so you could also do it that way and throw it out after. Or pick a different solvent than water to deal with it. *shrug*

        2. I use a calligraphy pen sometimes, a dip-pen at that, so I am all too aware of the mess. I actually keep nitrile gloves in my kit (leftovers from years of cleaning up wounds) for working with ink and everything stays in a mildly-stained wooden writing slope. Oddly, the hand-cramping is no better or worse with these pens than a cheap ball-point.

          I’d be tempted to question the writer here if my brother hadn’t years ago introduced me to ‘gel’ pens; they’re just ball-points, but something about the ink needs less effort to write with. They’re not perfect – I still love a good propelling pencil more – but I can really tell the difference between a good ballpoint and a cheap one.

        3. Noodler’s inks are not waterproof like India ink is. They easily rinse off the bottle, and remain soluble if they dry inside your pen.

          What makes them “bulletproof” is that they react with the cellulose in paper, and the resulting color is permanent — it does not wash off and cannot be bleached. Unfortunately, natural plant fibers like cotton also contain cellulose, as I discovered when my pen leaked in the pocket of my 100% cotton shirt.

        1. This. I carry a couple fountain pens (and no pencil or ballpoint) in my purse. One of my pens always has Platinum Carbon Black ink in it that I use for signing things. It’s a pigment ink instead of a dye based ink and I’ve tested it. It’s pretty damn permanent.

        2. Diamine Registar is well known and accepted archival ink (atleast in the Netherlands it’s approved for goverment documents). It’s water and UV proof, plus it changes from a light blue to a blue black during drying.
          But it’s advisable to clean out your fountain pen more regulairly if you use it. Then again I use it daily in a fountain pen for about 3 years now without any problems. I hope future historians will appriciate my extra effort in writing my dairy on acid free paper with archival ink.

    3. NASA spent quite a bit of time and money developing zero G pens. The Cosmonauts used pencils.

      That being said there is an argument for the pens as graphite dust can be a contaminant in electronics.

        1. Huh, well today I learned. Thank you! Wish they’d stop perpetuating that particular rumor at Space Camp then. We got an impromptu lecture on government waste there back in… 1998?

          I feel old now. One hopes they have since read the article you provided.

          1. Just the first hit on google. It is no secret that in the early days, NASA (NACA prior to 1958? 59?) personnel used pencils of various flavours, and by the time NASA picked up the Parker pen, it had been on the market for a few years. There are photos from early missions showing clearly the use of pencils and assorted other writing implements. This is a story that comes back every few years, and has since the late 1960’s

        2. Facts change with those who write history, er um rewrite history, especially if it wasn’t carved in the interstellar monoliths. That reminds me, gotta few myths need fixing. Can anybody recommend a good chisel?

    4. Left-handers have roughly the same problem with pencils as we do with many kinds of ink pens. They smear. The reason I don’t like to write very much is because all of the instruments are designed for right handers. This is a bit ironic, considering my hobby is traditional visual arts, including drawing.

      It may not seem that way just looking at it, but even though there’s usually no handed-ness built into writing instruments themselves, the fastness of the material they put down is inherently tied to the direction of hand travel. If you’re a left handed writer in the Western world, you smear your material. If you’re right handed in the Arabic-centric and other right to left languages of the world, you smear your material. I never learned Asiatic languages where they write top-down, but I can’t imagine a better handedness agnostic written language type even if there’s a certain directionality to glyph creation.

      So, since my college days when I could purchase my own supplies I always looked for certain types of materials. Immediate or near-so drying ink for pens, and stiff-backed top bound tablets for notebooks which were of special use when the desk writing surface wasn’t large enough to properly accommodate a left handed writer. Not much I can do about pencils, graphite, and charcoal. They’re messy for anyone. You just wash your hands after. The one thing I notice about the pens I buy these days often aren’t ball points, or if they are, they’re gel ink. The other thing I’ve taken note of is many aren’t ball points at all, they’re a form of felt tip pen, or I use the old dip pen. Old dip pens on high quality very heavy weight paper or rag doesn’t smear (or only minutely). Your materials do make a large difference, and cheap paper will usually produce smearing just like cheap ink in cheap ball point pens.

      1. As a left-hander, I discovered rOtring pens, which kept my hand above the paper long enough for the ink to dry. But also obeyed the school rule that you had to use a fountain pen.
        I bought a big bunch of them secondhand off eBay a few years ago to relive my experience.

    5. Fountain pen writing also doesn’t run when it gets wet, if you use the right type of ink. There are inks that cannot be removed without destroying the paper the writing is on. The greatest thing about fountian pens (other then the feel when writing) is the HUGE choice of inks open to you with one pen. Permanent ink, washable ink, colors, sheens, shimmers, invisible ink, glowing ink, scented ink, etc. You can tailor things to your needs and/or preferences without using up trees or throwing away plastic ballpoints all the time.

    1. Yeah, same here. Who hates writing? I didn’t realise that it was a thing that people hated until just now when I read the article. Never heard of that as a target of hate before. Whereas I know plenty of people who love writing.

      1. I hate writing. Always have since the second grade. I’m dislexic. I’m do research in data communications I have about 30 note books that no one will ever read but me. But I still hate writing.

        1. As a fellow dyslexic I took issue with, “…And depending on your abilities, messy cursive is arguably easier to read than messy print…”

          My mother has beautiful scriptwriting and I can’t read a word of it.

      2. I’d rather use a keyboard. Easier to correct errors, easier for others to read, faster than writing by hand (at least for me). But I’ll write cards by hand and leave myself notes. Notebook entries when I’m doing lab work are written.

        1. I despise writing. I’m a none-too-dexterous lefty, and I’ve never been able to manage to write without dragging my hand across what I’ve written, and oftentimes, even when I work at it, my handwriting’s bad enough that even *I* can’t read what I’ve written. Fountain pens were a nonstarter, torn paper and ink everywhere, and even fine ballpoints dig into the paper. Best thing I ever did was learn to type. :D

      3. I hate it, always have hated it. I’ve gotten scolded by teachers at school countless times for my shitty handwriting. It’s just something i can’t do regardless of the amount of practice, unless i go at like one letter per 2 seconds or so, and then i didn’t have the time nor the concentration to finish my work.
        I was one of the first pupils to get typing lessons in elementary school, and that was so much better. My teacher sometimes suggested i’d write a report by hand first, and then type it on the computer, but fuck that shit – i ignored that. It was life changing, honestly. I can type at many times the speed of writing.

        1. Friend groups are never representative of the wider population because people become friends for a reason.

          I’ve known exactly one habitual fountain pen user in my entire life. Yet I know you’re not lying because of the preceding.

          1. Yes, we all were friends because of fountain pens only lol, really. We were taught to use fountain pens by the school, as was normal in the late 80s/early 90s UK. None of us had any real problems with it apart from the lefties. However the reply was in relation to “people who are forced to write loads they don’t care about” – like I say, the wider population was taught to write with fountain pens and mostly the population didn’t mind writing. It’s only since the regular introduction of easier things (laptops) that people have found writing to be such a chore.

    2. Hate’s a strong term, but I dislike writing. I’m slow at it, my technique means my hand gets crampy after a while (mentioned in article), my writing’s ugly, and it’s harder to sort/link than my electronic notes.

      Now, a lot of this would be “easy” to solve with concerted practice (something I couldn’t want to spend my limited time on any less), but I like my electronic notetaking systems (work and personal), and I have no other reason to write in my everyday life other than an occasional card.

    3. I don’t hate writing either, never heard people around me complian about hating writing either.

      Writing with a pen (or pencil) is quick, it’s easy (sure it has no “undo” function when using a pen), printing is instantaneous, the ink is cheap, never experienced a paper jam and the media doesn’t even need to be flat. It doesn’t require power, boot-up times or login procedures. Also everything I write isn’t tracked or logged in a way somebody remote could read it. It’s safe, it’s secure as long as it is used properly and when writing on toilet paper it instantly destructs after reading if it’s properly flushed.
      The funny thing about writing is that it can instantly switch to drawing mode, at the moment I do not won a keyboard that can do this, so I’ll hang on to my ballpoint pen for a while. Drawing with a mouse has been tried… it’s painfully slow and the results are horrible.

      But, I have to be honest, most things I write are short shopping list, reminders or appointments and the occasional doodle in the form of a quick schematic accompanied by some short calculations.

      I don’t like cursive writing though, it’s very hard to read, old postcards, old documents, it really takes practice to be able to read it, but is that really the blame of the pen or the way it is used? A style people thought was nice and elegant. We’d just became more practical I guess.

      1. +1! I write a lot, but mostly notetaking, todo-lists and shopping lists (on paper and on a chalkboard) and the like. A pen (or refillable pencil) can’t beat typing on a keyboard. I really loathe typing on a smartphone.
        For anything more than a few lines I prefer a computer keyboard to actual writing.

        My problem is that my handwriting is terrible. It never was really good (I blame that on my ancestry from a family of doctors) but oftentimes I find myself in a store with a shopping list that I wrote less than 30 minutes ago and for the life of it can’t decipher what I wrote.

        Improving my handwriting is really on my to-do list, but I can’t decipher that item anymore ;-)

        1. As an addendum: I was taught writing with a fountain pen (the basic Lamy ABC pen: https://www.penworld.nl/lamy-abc-rood-vulpen.html) and used that up to the end of high school – but couldn’t get the refills in my university town and switched to ballpoints.
          My handwriting with fountain pens was never nice either. I don’t think the ballpoint is to blame for my ugly and undecipherable writing, more that I rarely write longer sentences or texts, let alone anything that needs to be read by others.
          If texts need to be read by others (on a whiteboard or form) I tend to use block letters.
          But that’s also because I was taught writing in the North of the Netherlands, which uses a writing system with a few letters (b, s and f, H and T – and the rarely used q and x) that differ from the writing system used in most of the country.
          I don’t know if it was just my school or the North, just that it was something I first noticed when going to university in the South.

          1. My dad (a stereotypical “Real Programmer™”), when I once commented on the stacks of green-bar printouts of obscure FORTRAN code piled all over his office at work, responded, “Paper is the ultimate backup.” :D

        1. Really? At least a third of the time I’m handed a ball point pen it doesn’t write instantly and I have scribble all over to get it flowing again. And even then sometimes it won’t write where I need it to.. my pencil on the other hand works every time. The only time other than receipts or checks I wrote in pen is when I had a teacher who wouldn’t accept pencil. And don’t get me started on the smeary mess pens left on the paper and my hand.

          1. Writing on a piece of paper placed on a soft surface: pencil usually punctures and rips the paper, ballpoint occasionally punctures the paper,
            felt-tipped pens and fountain pens almost always work. On the downside, fountain pens are fragile and felt-tipped pens eventually get mushed tips.
            I think ballpoints are the best compromise.

      2. I mostly find writing useful for math. While I can type up already-done math pretty quickly in LaTeX, it’s typically harder to actually DO serious math in LaTeX (though copy and paste is sometimes convenient).

        Occasionally it’s useful to scribble a note to a family member or put something on a shopping list.

        But I don’t see any advantage of cursive, other than aesthetic (which for some use-cases is important). I believe research is that printing is as fast as cursive, and both are beaten by a hybrid where some but not all letters are joined.

    4. Perhaps your peer group had nicer to use pens at the times you must write heaps upon heaps of words… I remember all my classmates pretty universally hated the act of writing with the common ballpoint that was often in use, and sometimes ‘required’.

      1. I spent a few months practicing pretty heavily, when I heard that the GED was subconsciously judged on handwriting even they’re not supposed to. I used fountain pens a lot. Then for years I tried carrying a notebook and using it in real life…

        Yeah, still not a fan of using pen and paper for anything practical, I still can’t write legibly without carefully and exhaustingly thinking about every movement, I still write numbers backwards all the time. I consider it almost like a historical art form, something you do in low stakes situations where you really care about theming and immersion and you don’t want to be seen with a screen, because your DnD character wouldn’t have one.

        Other than that I can easily go weeks or months without writing more than a paragraph, even though I probably should because they all say it’s good for your brain or something.

        1. You raise a very important use of hand-writing; typed character sheets take something away from the D&D (or game of choice) experience. There is something about rubbing away your pencilled scores that feels more immediate, increased ability scores are suddenly more special, lost hit-points more dramatic, a change in spell-choice more meaningful. Typing is too easy and the words too ephemeral, each word a place-holder which can be so easily changed.

          And that physical sheet is an artefact, something to find in a box twenty years later and marvel at. The characters I rolled up on a PC and tracked in a digital game are mostly gone, saved to websites that no longer exist or deleted when I was cleaning up a hard-drive.

        2. I’m a keyboard person for nearly everything myself. But I can still appropriate the value of handwriting as a skill, and how much nicer is it with the right tool.

          Talking TTRPG character I have very nearly on more than a few occasions crafted wax slate for just that reason – immersive and fun. Even though I’ve almost never played IRL. I figured I’d use wood inlay techniques to create a template for the character sheet elements and have wax in all the bits that change.

    5. I don’t hate handwriting, but surely I’m not a fan either. That’s probably the result of being a leftie who they briefly tried to convert to use the right hand back in my early school days. As a result i have a horrible writing style and one day after finishing school in the mid 80s I stopped using cursive for good. I use only capitals since then and the very rare signatures I’m forced to write are a mess that neither I can read anymore. I’ve 5 of them stored at my bank, all different; the clerks for years complained that I couldn’t produce seemingly identical signatures, and I joked they would have more luck asking me a sample of DNA, which I would happily give to end that mess.

      1. “I stopped using cursive for good. I use only capitals since then and the very rare signatures I’m forced to write are a mess that neither I can read anymore.”

        Same here!! Thought I was the only one?!? :)

    6. I hate writing. From day one. I’m also a lefty so I was tortured with ‘backwards’ writing. Some say the change from script to cursive was the death kneel. But my down fall was Graffiti on the Palm Pilot. Hand text entry speed went way up, but normal handwriting quality went way down. And I write so little anymore it looks like chicken scratch.

      1. Lord LORD do I miss my TX. It was the greatest note taking tool at meetings. The gizmo let me write almost as fast as I could type, and it took up less space on the table than a laptop.

    7. My grade-school cursive penmanship was terrible, and it lead to me hating to write prose, simply because it meant struggling with writing in cursive. In high school I finally learned to type, and discovered I really enjoyed writing prose. Then in college I took architectural drafting class, and re-discovered printing by hand. Now I don’t mind printing text by hand if I need to. I ditched my cursive signature and designed a (much better looking!) printed one.

      Maybe cursive works for some people, but for me it wasted years of my school life.

      1. My downfall in drafting classes was my patent inability to print neatly :D. My drawings were fine, but any annotations were at best aesthetically disappointing, at worst just this side of illegible. The advent of CAD software for PCs saved me from that particular purgatory.

    8. As a former lecturer, half the kids I taught hated writing. They would reluctantly make notes, if they had to, but it turned out most staff just emailed out their lecture notes to the students after giving up on ever seeing them make their own notes. We all knew that the act of writing helped with recall, we all knew that half the kids would never even read the notes we sent, but better they have notes to study than no notes to study.

  1. Up to halfway the ’80-ies (and halfway my school career) I used the “Papermate” brand of ballpoint, and these were of a very high quality, but they just stopped making high quality pens. Then two or three steps down the ladder were the “Parker” pens. These have a lot more friction while writing, and they tend to accumulate blobs of ink near the tip that leave fat parts on your paper that also dry slowly and easily smear.

    Yet another few steps down the ladder are the “Bic” pens (here in Europe), they work reasonably well but not great. After that all the nameless advertisement shit. It’s just hit and miss whether you can draw a line with those things.

    But indeed. I do 98% or mabye more of the “writing” with my PC keyboard. It’s such a fuss to post something on the internet when your text is stuck to a flattened dead tree carcass.

    1. I remember when Uni-ball pens came out and found them to be quite a bit of relief. Later, the Pilot G2 gels pens were even better. After I found myself in a position where I had to take copious notes and the quality of my handwriting was a liability, I tried fountain pens. I found them easier, yet, to write with and they slowed me down just a bit; just enough to make my handwriting more legible.

      1. I love the Parker ballpoint pens but they have flaws. The pocket clip is made from folded metal which catches on cloth and destroys it, particularly soft knits. The narrow barrels encourage cramping, and I’ve had to change to fatter pens. Parker has had more than half a century to improve their design, and they’ve done nothing but try to make them look better. I think they did try a soft-grip barrel, which decomposed.

        1. Great points there. I don’t tend to mind a narrow barrel, it’s when that narrow barrel is shiny and your fingers slowly slide to the point that I get frustrated (like most Parkers)! It’s always made me curiuous though, I wonder why narrow pens make us cramp more – the finger position difference is relatively tiny with respect to finger overall movement.

  2. Our Teachers back in the Grundschule and Mittelstufe tolds us that Ballpoint Pens is killing your Handwriting and years later i have to agree. A Fountain Pen forces you, if propper learned, to write readeable.

  3. Writing things longhand is known to enhance recall.

    The theory is that you exercise multiple sensory pathways while writing: you’re making the somatic movements, you’re feeling the movements as you make them, you’re mentally speaking the words as you write them, and you’re reading the words as they are written. This reinforces the information in several ways.

    This is why you should write down your goals longhand, and not type them into a computer (or your phone). Your brain has a goal-seeking mechanism, and if you activate the multiple sensory pathways it tends to send a stronger signal to that mechanism. This will adjust your perceptual filter: sensory inputs that your brain decides is relevant to your goals will be presented to your conscious mind, while inputs that won’t contribute are ignored.

    It can also be relaxing. Go online sometime and choose an interesting hand-script font and practice it for a few minutes. Maybe have one or two of those scripts in your mental back pocket to use when writing a note to your SO or boss or whatever – makes things a little bit more artistic and makes you a little more notable.

    1. I agree that handwriting is better than typing for memory recall, but I think the reason is because it’s _slower_ than typing (at least for me) and therefore forces me to summarize. When typing notes in class, I could turn off my brain and copy word-for-word much of what the teacher said (or worse, what was on the slides), but by doing this I would forget most of it by the time I walked out the door. When handwriting notes, I’m constantly evaluating which facts are worth writing down, how to rephrase a sentence or two into just a few words or a small diagram, etc. This reformulation of the material engages much more of my brain than simply acting as a speech-to-text engine does.

  4. That may certainly be a big part of it, but the timing is perhaps a bit late here. I’m 54 and as a military brat lived in many states, and Europe. And fountain pens were a cool old oddity to me already as a kid. The shame for younger folks these days is not just an issue with writing quickly. They don’t type quickly either. And the clear vibe is there: if you always have video and audio connections connected – great and cheap voice recognition and text-to-speech – why bother to read or write at all?

    Kind of hard to believe. But I think reading for pleasure is already becoming considered an elitist activity. And I think reading and writing with any skill *at all* is on the edge.

  5. In the late Seventies, used to like the Parker roller balls. These were better than the normal ones. Papermate also had those with the “heart”/pump that could write upside down. I also used sizes and hardnesses of mechanical pencils 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 for technical drawing :)

    1. Wow, that 0.3 must have been easily breakable. I’ve only ever seen 0.5, 0.7, and 0.9. In Pentel pencils it looks like you can get the 0.5 in black, burgundy, green, marble green and marble bronze, the 0.7 only in blue and the 0.9 only in yellow. But personally I use the 0.5 only in black, making it super easy to differentiate from the .7 and .9.

  6. This article doesn’t mention the Achilles heel of fountain pens (in my opinion). You can’t leave them uncapped, even for a few minutes. My wife bought me a beautiful fountain pen. It writes like a dream, and it’s never leaked, even when carried in a pocket. But to use it, you have to uncap it, write, and immediately recap it. You can’t sit and brainstorm for several minutes with it just sitting there, as it will dry up and require some effort to get it flowing again. As a result I rarely use it. Otherwise it’s fantastic.

    There’s another huge difference between the two that should be mentioned. The angle you hold the pen at is much different for a fountain pen then for a ball-point. A ballpoint pen works best when held vertically. If the angle becomes too great it stops writing. A fountain pen is the opposite, it will barely work if held vertically. It works best when contacting the paper at a steep angle. I couldn’t tell you if one of them is superior ergonomically, but I can say that the grip feels very different between the two.

      1. I’ve never met a fountain pen that didn’t temporarily dry up if left uncapped and unused for 10 minutes. Parker pens with Quink, Mont Blanc pens with their proprietary ink — they grow crusty-dry in the blink of an eye.

    1. The fountain pens are variable in how long you can have them uncapped. And it’s not a price thing. That said, I habitually capped mine when using them intermittently for extended periods (taking notes about specific things in classes), so I never had an issue. I only have cheap ones though, so on a couple I still had to shake it a bit when first using it for the day.

    2. I never had that problem, maybe I’m just ham fisted or never stopped long enough that I noticed it happening to me. Or perhaps its not the pen at all but the ink – more rapid drying ink, (which maybe was its big selling feature – less smug risk) might have had some VOC or something that vaporised really readily in comparison to the ink I used.

      I also can’t quite agree on the writing angle – there are a variety of fountain pen shapes out there, so I would be willing to bet you can find if you really want it one that works best when held more vertically – though I can’t see why anybody would want that, it seems alien to the way human hands work to me. But perhaps accessibility reason?

      I’d also say the article fails to account for the fact a fountain pen might be expensive compared to a ballpoint, but that pen body will quite possibly last many lifetimes and the Ink for them is usually pretty darn cheap. So as long as you don’t spill it…

    3. You’re using a bad nib or bad ink. (Or you’re doing your writing outdoors in Saudi Arabia.)
      I use a Lamy (pen and ink), and I live in a hot country, and I can leave my pen uncapped for 30 minutes and it won’t dry out and stop working.

  7. I come from the era where above the school blackboard was a long strip of paper showing cursive letter examples in upper and lower case. Penmanship was important. Later on in school I wrote with a fountain pen that was refilled with a plastic cartridge. I still write in a blend I call printed cursive which is very legible (wish my doctor could write that way). I am trying to find an article that talked about the benefits of physical writing helping with hand eye coordination and cognitive coupling… thought to words. I think lessons in penmanship (or penpersonship) should continue in schools. I do plan on opening an escape room where instructions will be in cursive next to a dial phone…. kids these days will never get out… 😂

  8. Does ball-point pen ink actually dry or does it just soak into the paper? I like fountain pens but I don’t want to buy an expensive one because I’m always losing pens and the cheap ones don’t work well. I figure if they were good enough for Edsger Dykstra they are good enough for me.

    1. There are a number of cheap fountain pens that write very well. Some that I am happy with: Pilot Metropolitan or Prera, Lamy Safari, Platinum Plaisir.

      There are even disposable fountain pens for a low-commitment introduction. I like the Platinum Varsity. I haven’t tried the Zebra Zensation. I know there are other brands.

      And there are tons of mid-range pens, in the $50 – $100 range, in various sizes, fill systems, nib size, flexibility …

      Yeah, it’s kind of a deep hole.

      But you don’t have to go too deep to enjoy writing with a fountain pen.

    2. I can recommend some Chinese pens like the Jinhao x450/x750, inexpensive with good construction with reliable nibs (very important) and feed. Those also uses standard nib patterns so it’s possible to get e.g. German made quality nibs to swap the original, though I honestly don’t see the use.

  9. My preference is also to avoid ball point. In the 1970’s and 80’s, I used a lot of rollerball types, but, for the life of me, can’t remember the brand anymore, as I gave up on them due to the combination of the quality declining and being able to get good fountain pens. I went through engineering school using rapidographs for their intended purpose that I always had several and they became a secondary regular writing tool. I still use fountain pens primarily for ink. I have way too many mechanical pencils and lead holders, as well, and there is always a 0.7mm Alvin Draftmatic in my pocket with HB or B2 leads. I MUCH prefer a good writing tool to a keyboard, and the core of my engineering life is still pencil and straightedge sketching. Final plans from the CAD, development, changes, and revision start with the HB on a print.

  10. Cursive is leftover filler in educational curricula from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s dying because it’s utterly useless.

    For over 30 years, almost all written communication has been done using a qwerty keyboard. For professional communication, that goes back to the 1880’s. The few remaining handwritten notes that remain today don’t need to follow the aesthetic tastes of a nobleman’s feather pen from 1700.

    Cursive is only seen to be important in schools because they taught it every year, and they only taught it every year because it’s “important.” Tradition is the primary source of legitimacy for most practices in education, from kindergarten all the way to tenure.

    1. Not really true, being able to write quickly, and legibly by hand that note for yourself is still faster and way more flexible than going to your computer, getting your phone out and tapping out the reminder you needed etc.

      Folks can type fast, but you can’t type fast a little doodle of the shape and dimensions in that corner of the room before you take a trip to the furniture store etc.. Writing is still an important skill, and will probably remain that way for a very very long time to come, less important now than in the past perhaps. But then that is also true of mental mathematics and doing the simple day to day algebra of life these days – ever present calculators mean you don’t have to master the art of doing that sort of thing yourself, yet don’t stop you from needing to know how – as without knowing how actually using the calculator correctly…

      1. I make quick notes and doodles with my pocket computer all the time.

        I have the thing with me always, so I might as well use it. It is faster to do than finding pen and paper, and it synchronizes almost instantly with my non-pocket computers.

        I tried carrying carrying a small notebook and a nice pen once. I carried them everywhere.

        It was nice using that, too, but now it is gone — a long with the notes that I took. I have no idea where it is, and it disappeared while I was not home.

        Meanwhile, I’m on my fifth or sixth pocket computer, and it has my notes from day 1 — over a decade ago.

        1. I never said you had to be writing on paper, I’ve used ‘smart’ phones (second hand) with stylus input long before the smartphone really takes off or Apple even sells a phone for notes. My old HP ‘Windows’ phone is still IMO the best ‘smartphone’ I’ve ever had – had a flip over transparent screen cover and the screen a little recessed so the thing was a tank that would be basically impossible to really harm without trying and some really good stylus focused applications that made it really really handy in school. The Palm device before it was nice too, and in terms of nice to use the modern ones like the Samsung s-pen stuff I’m sure are fine..

          But even if its into your phone that is still using the art of handwriting/drawing and benefits hugely from being able to use a real stylus and not a giant fleshy finger you can’t see through. And is still much quicker than the onscreen keyboard for that quick reminder/ shopping list and massively massively clearer and faster than trying to doodle the shape and dimensions of the space for that furniture shopping trip.

      2. If you need to write a note quickly end legibly, then you still have no reason to use cursive. Invest the time in print letters and legibility rises by a lot.
        You’ll also not waste all that time learning cursive. Random people’s cursive has always been less legible to me than print.

        1. Cursive is quicker than printing, and if you have to learn it you also learn all the skills required to read it, which will be very useful for many people and also to write print – as one is a stage in learning the other. And so probably write print faster and neater all that time later for all the practice you had being taught it. You don’t have to keep using it if you don’t need to/like it, but you almost certainly gained for having learned it.

          But like learning shorthand, more complex algebra concepts, other languages it has merit to have been exposed to it even if you personally will not need it again after all – as the skills its built on are valuable anyway and being able to at least recognise it when you see it…

    2. Much of the training for cursive involved developing muscle memory. I remember doing seemingly endless pages of practice exercises. Loops and loops and loops and loops, figure 8’s and 8’s and 8’s and 8’s,… And then being berated because some loops were too large, or too uneven, or some such problem.

      My handwriting has never been great and I can print much more legibly and nearly as fast as I can write in cursive. The one time when my handwriting was at it’s best was when I was on heavy pain killers after major surgery. It took me probably 30 seconds just to sign my name, but it was beauiful.

        1. “emulating the style of an old nobleman with a feather” sounds like straw man or a gratuitous insult, and was consequently ignored. Quality cursive writing looks fancy, it can’t avoid being so.

  11. US ballpoints may be terrible, but Japanese ballpoints are still excellent. If you’ve ever seen hand written kanji, you’ll know why. The detail required makes coarse writing utensils simply useless. 分かりますか。

  12. There are good, pleasurable to use, affordable, refillable ball point pens. Consider alsi using a gel. I reccomend Uni Mitsubishi pens, in particular. Therer are also very good very affordable pencils. I freqently use fountain pens; those too can be affordable. If you are curioud, try a $4.00 Platinum Preppy. If yoy like that, try a Lamy Safari or a TWSBI Eco. For affordable and good ball point pen reccs see: https://www.penaddict.com/top-5-pens

    1. In my experience the Safari is extremely comfortable however the nib consistency isn’t too good, for instance it is (or at least was) common to find an XF nib the same size as some F and so on.
      Always write smooth though.

  13. The title is Killing Cursive, but the pen has very little to do with it. “M” is on the right track. Cursive is hard to keep legible. (Some that I notice: a, o; e, l; u,v.) I do a fair amount of writing everyday: I print.

  14. For a left-handers like me, basically, the drippiness of a fountain pen gives me far more cramp than a ballpoint does. So, it’s a pity left-handers are hardly considered, but that’s par for the course.

    That’s why typing is so much better for us. For handwriting, are four basic choices:
    1. Position your hand vertically, so you don’t smudge and for a fountain pen *very* vertically (my approach).
    2. Curl your hand round so that you write underneath and hope your wrist doesn’t get in the way (v challenging for fountain pens).
    3. Angle the paper (or a combination of 1+3 or 2+3).
    4. Learn to write in Arabic.

    We had to learn cursive at primary school (UK, 1970s), but typing was the real way forward (learned to touch-type in 1986 using a 68008-powered, 32-bit/8-bit Sinclair QL, and it’s bundled QUILL word-processor). I never looked back.

    1. I’d say its not so much lefties are not considered and rather more than the standard direction of writing and reading is wrong when you consider that some portion of the population are very much dominant on the ‘wrong’ side and would have to be wiping over the just written lines instantly – really working top to bottom (or visa-versa) makes much more sense if you wanted to accommodate everyone equally. But going back several thousand years to put that idea in the minds of the folks most languages evolved their reading and writing concepts from…

      So write backwards right to left and supply a mirror sheet for anybody that can’t just read it?
      I think I’m technically a leftie, so I have actually done that experiment and found I could write more neatly and similar speed to the very much more practised right handed motions the first time I tried it.
      (But I am good enough with both hands that I’ll use a tool in whichever hand I happened to picked it up with in general, so its never really really mattered to me.)

    2. Fountain pens are designed to work by being pulled across the paper, allowing the ink to flow from the tip behind the motion of the pen. I, and most lefties I know, wind up writing with a kind of pushing motion, which makes the nib dig into the paper, resulting in tears, bent nibs, and splattered ink. The same problem obtains to a lesser degree with ballpoint pens (the finer the line the worse the digging-in) and pencils (I’m CONSTANTLY breaking pencil points). I sometimes wish I had had DaVinci’s gift for writing backwards :D

  15. I’d rather use a fine point fiber-tipped pen than either fountain or ballpoint. My personal favorite pen is (was) the Papermate Expresso Extra Fine, which is no longer manufactured. It was replaced by the “Liquid Expresso” which wasn’t nearly as good and is also discontinued.

    There’s a pricy Japanese fiber-tipped pen (whose name I forget), which I used to buy at my local independent office supply store until they went out of business. I tried buying them online but it was a crap shoot, you never knew if you’d get the right width or color until they arrived. There’s probably better implements out there but I live in the midst of an office supply desert and have no access to many of the products that are out there. The choices at Walmart and Target are quite slim.

    The only ballpoint I like is the Pilot Precise, in the 0.5 (or preferrably 0.3) width. Even they can be hard to find so I buy them up when I can. Otherwise I use a fine point mechanical pencil, preferrably Pentel 0.5 or 0.3 in a 2H or HB hardness.

    Sadly, as I get older and more arthritic, it’s become progressively more difficult for me to draw or write for any length of time, regardless of the implement. Sketching out what I want and annotating it on a computer is frustrating as I’ve never found a drawing program that met my needs and was as easy to use (or as portable) as a simple pen and pad of paper.

    1. Spot on. I like fibre-tipped pens but they dry out and have only a short life, so end up being rather expensive. I love the Staedtler fine points, but they don’t last long enough to really be practical.
      My current pen of choice is the Pentel Hi-Tec-C4, which I buy in 10-packs. The line is fine and generally consistent, and while not cheap, they’re not expensive either.
      Just for context, I’m old enough to have started with chalk and a piece of slate at my primary school, followed by dip pens, then fountain pens and biros. I even tried technical pens, which can give a super controllable line, but dry out and require endless cleaning and fettling.
      There’s a market gap for a good felt tip with replaceable points, and refillable inks, but it’s a hard problem and not in the interest of the incumbents.

    2. This is a ridiculous topic. I was born in an era where we were made to learn cursive. I’m not arguing about the quickness of typing here, btw (I type 120 wpm). In my opinion, it’s about muscle memory and control. Think guitar hero vs. actually playing the song on a real guitar. Are signatures a thing that are to be forgotten? I say that realizing the digital nature of things in general but.. I don’t believe pens are the culprit of not wanting to physically write with an instrument allowing to do so comfortably depending on the person and the desired outcome. America’s shitty schooling is killing cursive. Don’t blame the writing utensils used. Go paint something with oil based paints perfectly the first time. I dare you.

    3. “Yes”, to both your favorites!

      I love the Precise pens, as well; they glide over the paper. (There are ballpoints, and there are ballpoints: the BIC pens are AWFUL).

      The Pentel mechanical pencils are my favorites, too, though I only use the 0.7mm and 0.9mm models; I’ve never found a 0.5mm pencil lead that can survive my heavy writing style.

  16. I’d defend various kinds of utensil; each of them *can* have different strengths. It’s just that simple pencils and cheap shitty ballpoint pens dominate.

    The ballpoints can be fine if you look at models that haven’t been the cheapest model available for like 50 years. Rollerballs are sometimes a good option. I use a 0.2mm ‘pentel slicci’ ballpoint at work because it makes very thin lines and isn’t rough and doesn’t require a lot of pressure or scribbling for a moment to start writing. Even my finest fountain pen won’t make 0.2mm with any normal ink, and the smoother experience isn’t that big a deal.
    On the other hand there is zero need for fountain pens to be expensive; something like a pilot petit or platinum preppy is only a few dollars, and you can just reuse the included ink cartridge by using a syringe or eyedropper to add ink from a $10 bottle for the next couple decades. When I was writing a lot, I had to try a few but I got them specifically because I wanted something easier to write with that I could refill myself instead of constantly buying refills. I got a little ink on my fingers, more with the preppy than the petit, but I did also have it shaking around in a bag in sometimes extreme temperatures, which would tend to make that happen. I’m sure if I looked now I could find one for slightly more with no issue, or I could do something to seal the ones I have.
    But I also used thin diameter mechanical pencils with 4B and 2B lead in order to get thin dark lines, back in school when I needed to erase a lot more and had to write calculations on worksheets and such. I also submitted a few take-home assignments written on a typewriter back then, since I could type on the worksheet paper and it was more legible so my teachers appreciated it. Those were and are semi-viable options, if you need to write on a preexisting document and it doesn’t matter how. I have found it easier to use a typewriter than to write slowly and carefully when I need it to be extremely legible. I was part of the set of generations taught cursive, and yet I know I couldn’t make some of the capital letters because I just don’t use them. I do agree though that it’s more useful to write things down if there is any math or drawing you might need do do – including drawing arrows from one thing to another, drawing a line through something or between sections, etc. I always did all that sort of thing on paper notes, “bad” handwriting or not.

  17. As a kid, I found that to write well with pencil, I needed the tip to be shaped “just right” (and held just right) for me to be comfortable writing with it. It needed to have just the right friction. When I tried to use a ball-point pen, I just couldn’t write very well with it, since it had a totally different feel as it moved over the paper and was completely lacking the right friction that a pencil had. It took a lot of practice before I could get comfortable writing with a ball-point pen. There were some plastic-tip pens that had a good feel to them, but they were hard to find over the years.

    One thing that I’ve found that helps is to write over several layers of paper. With just one layer over a hard surface, the pen moves too easily. With a few layers of paper, the tip makes a depression which helps to provide some resistance and give a more comfortable feel.

  18. Writing by hand requires the formation of whole thoughts before you start writing. The digital age brought us delete and backspace, so now you can start typing whatever idiotic ill-formed phrase that the loudest of your internal ad-lib monologuers drums up and then fail to proofread before hitting send/post. Because NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW.

    1. I could just as easily say that since writing by hand is slower, you’re likely to avoid long, complex thoughts that would take too long to write down. Instead, you’ll prefer to come up with ideas that are simpler to express. And since it’s not as quick to correct, you’re more likely to stick to whatever idea you came up with first, and less likely to start over with yet another rough draft when you realize you would like to change something else.

      So I could say that if you like to write by hand, you’re the sort to cling to some simplistic, ill-informed idea and never give anything a chance to change your mind going forward because of all the effort you put into it originally. It wouldn’t be fair, but it would be about as kind as what you said. :P In reality, writing by hand is worthwhile, and planning things out ahead of time is too, but it’s not so one-sided.

      I think the most important thing is that people actually express complex ideas from time to time, no matter if they typed them quickly or wrote them slowly. I suspect the need to draw out parts of an idea is enough of a reason to write things down either physically or digitally, so typing or writing the letters of the words that go alongside the idea is less important in those cases.

          1. That, neighbor, is EXACTLY where my brain dragged me the MOMENT I read “Immanuel Kant”, because clever people like me who talk loudly in restaurants know that this article is a plea for help in a mechanized society. :D

  19. At school, I was subject to the various edicts of different teachers.

    In my time I have used traditional Cumberland brand pencils (the wooden ones), ball point pens and was forced to enjoy the delights of ink pens – cursive and italic nibs both. Whilst my Schaeffer ink pen was a joy to use, it never improved the quality of my cursive.

    At the end of the day, my handwriting is unintelligible not because of the tools but the fact that I have poor fine motor control and a tendency toward hand cramps.

    These days, I tend to use an ink roller or a mechanical pencil for notes or sketches and I print my cursive in an attempt to be able to read back what I have written – my ink pens have all been retired to the dusty depths of my desk drawer, long may they molder.

  20. Some corrections: (like many others already wrote)
    You are putting all ballpoint pens into one bucket, which is utter madness.
    Same for fountain pens.
    A bad fountain pen is torture to write with, and inferior to any cheap ballpoint.
    Good (I prefer UNI, opinions differ) Ballpoint pens are a joy to write with, can make much finer lines, are a godsend for left handed people.
    A very good (and worn in) fountain pen on good paper is also a very pleasant experience.

    As usual: cheap mass produced things are bad. Good quality pens of either kind are available and feel and write beautifully.

    1. They also conveniently managed to misrepresent the timeline in claiming that a decline since the 1960s couldn’t be due to typing because PCs didn’t exist despite the proliferation of increasingly cheap electric typewriters by that time. They also neglect to add that cursive was widely taught up until the beginning of the internet era, which implies another force is what pushed it over the edge- for instance, the switch from requiring cursive in school to requiring typed papers.

  21. If you look at my desk as work, you’ll find tablets and sticky notes on the desk. Take my tablet (that’s paper tablet for the millennials) to meetings for notes instead of laptop. The writing is sometimes printing, sometimes cursive. Mostly done with a mechanical pencil, but pen works fine too. I am also a lefty. Point is I use writing quite a bit still. But documents and such of course are done with a word processor like Writer (home) or Word (at work). My wife still writes ‘hand written’ letters to people as it is a LOT more personable to handwrite rather than a cold generic computer generated letter. Also when sending Christmas cards, they all have a hand written letter on, or in them. Cursive dead? Not yet here. Oh and of course for signing legal documents, and writing checks for bills, subscriptions, etc. That said, it a generational thing. My kids don’t write checks that know of. Bills are paid on-line. That silly cell-phone seems to be their ‘connection’ (not mine) to everything. They all learned cursive though.

    As for pen type, I don’t pay much attention to what I am using … unless it stops working :) . I just write what is needed.

  22. I tend to do a lot of work on paper, because it’s much easier for me to think about design or implementation details while slowed down to block printing speeds and drawing little diagrams. Heck, every time I design (or even copy) a circuit, I usually re-draw the schematic on paper a few times before it makes it to KiCAD. So I go through a lot of graph (or dot grid, for preference) paper, and I cycle through a lot of different writing implements.

    I’ve tried fountain pens a few times, but they seem optimized to writing and writing only? I’ve been going back and forth lately between gel pens — specifically the Frixxion kind, with the ink that turns clear when exposed to heat — and extra-fine felt too pens, like the Sharpie Pen line, and just various mechanical pencils.

  23. Nope. What’s killing writing by hand is computers.

    I write so much more on a keyboard that my handwriting which was once excellent, has suffered just from a) not doing it b) impatience at getting text onto the page when I’m much faster with keyboard.

    1. i worry that the same fate awaits keyboard use as everyone are a bunch of screen tappers now. movement towards newspeak and a reduction of verbosity and the twitter mentality, humans will eventually start using a form of shorthand as their primary language.

      1. Swipe typing is really great for speed vs tapping. But mistyped words are often very non-obvious to the reader. You end up substituting an entirely wrong or unrelated word if you don’t proofread what you write.

  24. what killed cursive for me was my second grade teacher. she couldn’t handle my rebellious streak so her solution was to stick me with the first graders, neglecting to tell anyone about this. next year i advanced directly to the 3rd grade. so there were some serious gaps in my education as a result. this, as well as some experiences in college, have led me to my present distrust educational establishments. im with pink floyd on this one.

  25. In my case, I blame the TRS-80 Model I. After I started using it, I began writing everything in block caps (it didn’t have lower case). Still do to this day, although I do write smaller caps for lower case letters.

  26. Although my handwriting has never been great, the thing that stops me these days is nerve damage. There are those of us who lack the ability to coax readable text out of whatever type of pen you present us with, and for whom the keyboard is a godsend.

  27. Cursive writing, over the years, has given me issues.
    I started learning one style, in the late 60s, in Europe. Moved to Australia and teachers claimed my style was “wrong. So I had to re-learn how to write.

    Fast forward to the 80s, serving in the military. Writing entries in a log book, and now ANY form of cursive is “wrong”. I had to change my writing style again.

    Log entries must me legible, and some cursive can be incredibly hard to decipher, so I could see their point. Even so, it was a pain in the butt.

  28. The Palmer Method (ca, WW 1) and nuns with rulers did it for me. Hate! Getting accosted for holding the instrument to tightly, finger bent inward instead of outward curve and holding it too near the point. What’s the point? Having to use my elbow and shoulder instead to move my fingers to make all those loopy loops. Fingers alone win when doing fine motor control. I win! We were not allowed to use a ball point. I need feedback. The low friction of an old fashioned pen is too light especially that the paper is never stuck down flat. I had to do excruciating movements of up and down to try and write at all or there would be wisps of lines between every letter.

  29. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was young, I had the opportunity to go to school in (West) Germany. Starting with grade 2 we used FOUNTAIN PENS to write. Except for the occasional inky mess it really helped with writing fluidly.

    I had to stop using them, because fountain pens aren’t very compatible with flying. The pressure differences make for interesting ink failures.

    On the upside, some of the high end Japanese ball point pens are almost as effortless.

  30. I don’t use ballpoint pens often, but rather fineliner pens (‘Stabilo’ in my place). They produce a much better writing.

    And they are using ink, too, like in the school days.
    Man, even back in school many of us pupils were switching from using ink pens (Pelikan, Lami etc and compatibles) to fineliners and gel pens.

    Btw, why does Hackaday always come up with such ridiculous assumptions about what people are used to? 🤷‍♂️ This confuses me!
    It makes me constantly question sanity of others and of myself.

  31. Why does every article about the decline of cursive writing sound like it’s a problem or at least sad.
    I think it is simply useless. When I need to write a short note to someone, it doesn’t matter if it takes a little longer to draw the letters one by one. If I need to write a text longer than a few words touch typing is the only way to go.
    Calligraphy as an art form is nice but why would we teach that to all children? I don’t need to know how to churn butter or skin a pig. Why did I need to learn cursive. It was just painful and served no purpose.

    1. “Calligraphy as an art form is nice but why would we teach that to all children? ”

      Because children shouldn’t be programmed, but supported?
      It’s upto them to decide what they find interesting in the end.

      A school should make children aware of things, teach them culture, the history of the nation and the world. Not just teach what’s “useful”.

      Because, they’re the future. And in order to be ready for the future, someone needs to know the past.

      Otherwise sport class, art class and physics/chemistry class would be all useless, as well. After all, how much is the percentage of pupils going after a career in these fields? Is teaching it worth it?

      Ok, other example. Here in Germany, we spent most of our school years learning about world war 2, over and over and over again.
      Going by same logic, what practical purpose does this old stuff have? It’s not our fault, after all. We’re technically not responsible for the crimes of our ancestors, we weren’t born back then.

      Well, we pupils nevertheless realized that old mistakes/tragedies should never repeat, so we understood the importance of the whole matter.
      We were tired of the old story being told over and over, but we got through it.

      Ok, another example from the US:
      By learning cursive, children are able to read history documents on their own. Reading, say, an unaltered photo copy of the US constitution. Or the letters of historic celebrities, say Thomas Edison or one of those US presidents. That will make the past so much more real! Also, being able to do that gives the people power. They can double check original documents, to make sure they’re not being lied to.

      Being able to stay in touch with the past gives us the ability pave the road to the future.

      The Japanese do exactly that and are very successful, I think. Tradition and progress are in harmony.

  32. I can’t even read cursive.

    I get the appeal. It’s more artsy, but also much more difficult to read for me. Especially when the person writing it can’t write perfectly, it’s just becoming a blurry mess to me.

    I’ve never been able to write properly myself. Never got the right position. I can’t write one page of a notebook without pain. My muscles cramp up, my fingers start to hurt, my shoulder starts to hurt. It’s a disaster. Also had this in school and the same reason why I rarely took notes in schools and could have done much, much better at school if I had a laptop back then.

  33. I expected the space pen to be mentioned. It can write in zero gravity, because it uses pressurized ink cartridges. I replaced all my pens with Fisher Space Pens. They last a lot longer and don’t refuse to write if not used in a while. I’m thinking of 3d-printing a pen and using the pressured cartridge.

    1. I have a few and like them for select uses. Taking notes when using telescope is good because the paper gets soggy and no other pens write. I also use Write in the Rain notebooks for that for the same reason. For day to day I think the ink is too smudgy.

    2. Love the Space Pens. I keep losing whatever current one I have, though, which is quite annoying.

      I could never get the hang of writing with a gel pen, I always ended up with streaks dragged across the paper. Fountain pens are the same, but I never used a real quality one either. In engineering college, I always used 0.5mm mechanical pencil to take notes. Once Apple came out with the pencil v1 and I paired it with the Goodnotes app, I replaced my paper notebook with the iPad and pencil, and never looked back. I’m still stuck writing in a lab notebook for work, but then I use whatever cheap crappy lab pen is laying around….

  34. At my junior school (in the late 80’s), we had to use fountain pens, and write in ‘joined-up’ writing. As a dyslexic, my handwriting was barely legible (despite getting 2-3 times more teaching in this than most kids), and after many years I could finally write somewhat legibly, but so slowly it was useless for taking notes. Until I went to my senior school, where no one cared what kind of pen you used, or if you used cursive, as long as it was legible. So I switched to using fibre tipped pens and not joining up letters, and the speed and legibility of my writing went up massively.
    That’s without mentioning the practical benefits of not using a fountain pen (practically all of my school stuff had ink stains on it). So now, for me, fountain pens are a definite step backwards, and cursive did nothing but make it harder for anyone to read what I’d written. Despite that I was taught ‘properly’, for many years, any advantages never made themselves known.

    (These days, my preferred note-taking tool is a mechanical pencil)

  35. At primary school I hated my fountain pen it leaked looked ugly … and always wanted a ballpoints. Then later in high school I bought my first Montblanc and … stayed with fountain pens.

    My son now uses Fineliner (don’t know how these are called in english).

  36. I use Sakura Pigma fineliners for writing. Best of both worlds: they don’t leak, last a long time, but also require very little pressure and allow for slight variations in line thickness. My handwriting is quite small, and sort of halfway between print and cursive as a result.

  37. I know in my school at least, “pen fights” were a regular occurance between those of us who did have a fountain pen – a quick flick and you’d send blobs of ink flying across the classroom. I remember coming home more than once with blue blobs all over my white shirt. Can’t do that with a biro!

  38. ” What do you think?”
    That this is a clickbait article for old people that didn’t even look into its citations. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was GPT generated.

    The link of “writing by hand is better for learning and development than using a computer,” doesn’t link to a study saying that at all. It shows an FMRI study of different handwriting tasks like writing a grocery list vs phone numbers, done on tablets and how these tasks might relate to neurological disorders. “This study provides baseline behavioral and brain activity results for fMRI studies that adopt this handwriting test to characterize patients with brain impairments”

    The link “handwriting and cursive have been in decline since the 1960s” does at least go to a digitized book from the 1960s. But it was not saying writing’s been on the decline since then, rather that writings pinnacle had come in the 30’s. “In most of the larger schools of this country handwriting was taught more skilfully between 1900 and 1920 than at any other period before or after. Since 1930, handwriting has been on the skids in most parts of this country.”

    Even further the statement “First off, fountain pens are straight up delightful to use. ” is completely objective, and easily negated by anyone else including myself simply stating, no they certainly are not. They are messy, scratchy, and involve many repetitive movements to supply the ink. The only nicer thing about fountain or quill pens is the ability to make and refill the ink without much retail involvement.

    Many MANY pens.. some that are quite inexpensive including write quite smoothly and without effort. The only time there is any real amount of resistance is on exceedingly cheap pens the like of which you pick up free on a store counter.

  39. What is cursive?

    No really. What is it?

    I learned “cursive” as a child back in the 1980s.

    My writing is pretty sloppy, but so is my printing. That’s just because I’m at a computer all day long barely using it. But I can still read my own writing. And I can usually read the writing of others who are around my same age so long as it is reasonably neat.

    And I see people around my age posting those stupid memes about using cursive as a secret code that the younger generations won’t get. Ooooh, being old makes you sooo smart! You THINK you can read cursive.

    But when I try to read the cursive of my grandparents or earlier? It looks much “cleaner”, however that is objectively measured. And I can spot letters that I recognize. But reading it is almost hopeless! It practically IS a secret code to keep us GenXers from reading it that they took to their graves. What gives?

    Was there a different cursive character set that was taught back in the 1920s and earlier?

    1. I think the ability to read what was written is a key to the demise of cursive. Cursive lends itself to the style of the writer. Go look at any log books from the 1800’s and it’s tricky just to make out the letters. Go a century earlier, and some letters were formed differently. On the other hand, go look at historical engineering document. Most cursive went by the wayside long ago in technical documents and blueprints because other people had to read what was written unambiguously. Imaging reading a specification in cursive.

      I had to learn cursive in the ’60s using a fountain pen (ball points were still relatively new and were forbidden at my school) and I still love writing with a good one, but as soon as I learned drafting in middle school, I began to write both fast and legibly while printing. As I grow older, nobody can read my cursive but my fountain pen still serves me well and my printing is still readable.

    2. Cursive is a style of writing adapted to not lifting the writing implement from the writing surface during any word, although i, j, and t need to be dotted or crossed at some time. (There is an alternate form of t that does not need crossing.)

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