Curse of writing

It was disheartening for me to read recently in the New York Times that cursive writing is fading away, as it is practiced less and emphasized less in schools.

You may be thinking that cursive wasn’t of any use to begin with, that your handwriting has declined and that you never use it any more. I really hope that’s not the case.

We all use computers, there’s no argument there. We rely on our typing and keyboarding skills to do our work and communicate with our friends. Still, there is plenty of room—and utility—for cursive.

I’m a big fan of the handwritten thank you note and the sympathy card. Those occasions call for personal comments written in our own handwriting, which is as much a part of us as our personalities.

Not printing. Printing is for filling out forms and making signs. It might be for writing out a Christmas gift tag or recipes. Printing is not for writing letters. The Post Office may disagree, but printing is also not for addressing envelopes into which we place personal correspondence. Written in ink, thankyouverymuch.

We all know people who print personal notes and, I know, I know, it’s better to have a printed note than none at all. I have one friend who is great at sending hand-written notes, always timely and thoughtful. But hers are not only printed, but printed in all caps—just like she talks.

Here’s the well kept secret. Cursive writing allows us to write faster and more efficiently because, but for dotting an “i” or crossing a “t,” we needn’t lift pen from paper and plunk it back down again. Just think how much energy we waste bobbing that pen up and down when we print. Cursive allows the hand to move in steady, rhythmic motions, like waves in the sea.

You say your cursive is illegible? I’ve got a reasonable amount of sympathy if you have arthritis or another debilitating condition. Consider this: cursive demands fewer movements and a more relaxed hand than printing. An NYT commenter points out that practicing our cursive is one way to preserve our fine motor abilities.

If your hand is still relatively young and able, though, I dare say you’d benefit from a bit of practice. It’s worth it.

As a child, learning cursive was one of the most intimidating things I learned to do. I remember at the beginning of second grade, looking up at the banner that spanned the top of classroom’s front wall and trying to figure out what it all meant. Why a capital Q was formed like the number 2. How the creators of cursive got from a block letter to its swirly cousin. I doubted that I’d ever master it. I struggled. I got D’s in handwriting. I worked at it and finally got it right. Where I went to school, we were given no choice. But, oh, how rewarding to have gained this important skill. I still think it’s the most valuable thing I learned in Catholic school.

Yep; etiquette and utility. Two good reasons to save this dying art by keeping up our practice.

Who’s with me (she says, anticipating resistance)?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Technology and Social Media

6 responses to “Curse of writing

  1. Sheree Moyer

    I am with you! Though my handwriting has deteriorated with the rest of my body, I still love cursive. My own blend of print/cursive aside (don’t know when that started to happen) I love the look of cursive, no matter whose hand it is written. It reflects personality and mood of the writer. I only wish my children had been taught to write like we were. Cursive is barely given a nod in public school anymore. I guess since they do not even teach grammar, cursive is considered completely unnecessary.

  2. I agree with you. I think the arts of handwriting and personal letters are fading away. I am guilty of doing less of these. I do still try to send personal notes out to friends and family, and I hand address envelopes as well. I am one of the few people who love cursive writing. I even took a calligraphy class last year and absolutely fell in love with that. Keep encouraging everyone to write more. I always do.

  3. Mom

    Do they even make lines on tablets anymore?

  4. anonnickus

    My sixteen year old daughter has a terribly legible flairless signature. In school cursive writing was not even asked for to perform that small personal task. Agreed. A shame.

  5. ali

    I print because I can’t write. I’m convinced cursive was designed for right-handers. Left handed people can’t see what they are writing in order to connect the letters — which is why so many of us contort our left hand above the print line in order to write. Watch Obama, Clinton or Bush to see what I mean. For a leftie — printing of individual letters is far easier than the contortion necessary to string together letters.

  6. Cursive will soon go the way of morse code. I can’t remember the last time I used it for anything but a signature.

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