Is cursive dead?

Photo: Aaron Stidwell (aka 21TonGiant) via Creative Commons, some rights restricted

I know, I know, you have your iPad and ‘Droid and laptop and you haven’t used a pen or pencil in weeks or months, at least not to write anything longer than a shopping list or a new friend’s phone number, and even these are probably on your smartphone or tablet.

A number of news stories lately discussing the trend away from teaching cursive in grade schools: there was a story on NPR about some efforts to keep this style of writing alive; the NY Times is hosting a public conversation on the pros and cons of cursive; and, the Washington Post had a story last month on the disappearance of cursive in public schools. And, here’s a link to a story Brian Mann did on his youthful struggles with cursive.

Photo: Mike Thomas (aka urbanworkbench) via Creative Commons, some rights restricted

We called it “script” when we were kids, but officially it’s known as “cursive,” as opposed to printing letters. The big advantage of cursive: it’s faster than printing and, assuming you are better at it than I am, it looks beautiful on the page.

My father was a mechanical engineer and a draftsman. His penmanship (a quaint old word, eh?) was exquisite to look at on the page, but virtually unintelligible. My mother’s handwriting, on the other hand, was not pretty and was equally unintelligible. I take after my mother in this instance.

Do you remember the old triple-lined grids used to teach cursive writing? Here are links to animated guidelines for shaping both upper and lower case letters.

Or, maybe you want to bring cursive into the digital age with this selection of cursive fonts for your digital word-processing.


Apparently, one application of cursive is booming: in the tattoo industry. I found all kinds of “cursive generator” sites for tattoo designers who want to use decorative scripts in their images.

So, what do you think? Should we make an effort to keep cursive alive? Or, is it a tool that’s outlived its usefulness, like carbon paper or ditto machines or slide rulers?

Tags: , ,

1 Comment on “Is cursive dead?”

  1. Laura Rediehs says:

    I still do a lot of first-draft writing and revisions by hand. I take notes at lectures by hand, and encourage my students to do so in classes. My students have to write by hand to take in-class quizzes and essay exams.

    Not only does it remain much easier to carry around a small pad of paper than a laptop computer, and easier to write than to peck at a screen or tiny smartphone keyboard with two thumbs, there is research that shows that you learn better when you take notes and organize your thoughts using handwriting instead of keyboard input.

    I do not think handwriting will ever go away completely, and therefore, learning the skill of cursive writing (and learning to be legible and artistic about it!) is greatly beneficial.

Comments are closed.