Is Cursive Dead?

Hi, SEers! It’s another Mae Day on Story Empire.  I’m going to stray a bit from the usual path to talk about…writing. Confused? Then let me explain. I’m going to show my age by revealing that when I went to grade school we had penmanship classes.

Cursive alphabet written on a school blackboard

I remember sitting at my desk in fourth grade and practicing penmanship loops. I also remember teachers of the time being insistent handwriting must have a forward slant. That was bad news for me, because although I’m right-handed, I wrote with a distinctive backward slant. So every class, the teacher would yank out her ruler and crack my hands. Stupid, right? Did it change things?

Very little.

Eventually, after a few years, I did lose most of that backward slant but never did learn how to write with a forward slant. These days when I use cursive writing—which unless I’m signing my name—is non-existent, I write straight up and down. No slant whatsoever. If I’m really tired or being lazy, the backward slant reasserts itself from habit. Somewhere in junior high school I switched to printing and never looked back. Now I regret that. The whole point of this post is that cursive appears to be going the way of the dinosaurs.

Recently, a co-worker and I had a discussion in which she told me she’d left written instructions for her daughter regarding a school project. Her eighteen-year-old daughter. The daughter later texted to say she had no idea what the instructions said because she couldn’t read them. They were written in cursive.

Now I might not write in longhand script, but I still know how to, and I certainly know how to read it. I find it mindboggling that someone would find cursive equivalent to reading a foreign language. Yes, teaching is done with iPads, assignments are completed online, and even my “day job” is in an industry that utilizes digital signatures with ever increasing frequency. But are we coming to a point when people will no longer know how to sign their name? Will we revert to make your mark when a “true” signature is required? Or will handwritten signatures also become a thing of the past?

I mourned the loss of Avon Precious Doe perfume bottles, L’eggs nylons in plastic eggs, S&H Green Stamps, Necco Wafers and Woolwarths 5 & 10, but I’m not ready to accept the passing of a handwritten signature.

Am I the only one appalled an eighteen-year-old couldn’t read cursive? Think of all the old documents written in longhand that younger generations may never be able to decipher. Historic documents.

old document written in cursive on vintage paper

I never thought I would become nostalgic for a form of writing that was so problematic for me, but I suddenly want to play with longhand again.

How about you? Is cursive passing into history? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments. Ready, set, go!

bio box for author Mae Clair

91 thoughts on “Is Cursive Dead?

  1. I wonder if this is a matter belonging exclusively to the USA, or to the English speaking world. Because in Europe I haven’t seen this trend, and cursive is the first thing children learn to write into, after making lines and graphisms in the preparatory class (grade 0).

    Yes, my handwritting is horrible. But I still use it for notes and all kind of things, even if I write more at the PC now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI, Marina. I hadn’t considered the demise of cursive could be exclusively to the US (or English speaking world). That’s an eye-opening though! It is wonderful to hear Europe takes a different view and children are taught cursive at a young age. I can only hope that the US wises up and remembers the value in something the rest of the world still appreciates. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Even when handwriting is “horrible” it is still handwriting! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I asked and in Finland, France, Romania, Venezuela cursive is taught all primary school (with calligraphy and all) and all notes are expected to be taken in cursive. I am still waiting for news about other countries. I didn’t count the countries which don’t have Latin alphabet (because I heard from those too, that cursive is taught).

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is amazing! I am so thrilled to hear that. I had a close friend in Romania who sadly passed away last year. She was a school teacher and taught English as a second language. I’m sure she taught cursive as well. Thank you again for sharing. This is so encouraging to learn—and makes it all the more important that the USA follows suit!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  3. Great post, Mae! I read somewhere that learning to write in cursive helps kids learn focus and fine motor skills. I remember in school we worked on our cursive writing for weeks. My kids had maybe one week–maybe. I even bought those special notebooks with the lines (you remember the ones, so we could learn capitals and lower case) for them to use (my son’s penmanship is atrocious!), and I don’t think they ever used them. Maybe once. Sigh. I still love reading handwritten notes from my mother, and my great-grand aunt, and so many others. Reminds me of them. I hope the schools come to their senses and keep it. At least enough for kids to learn to sign their name and read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d forgotten about those old composition books until you mentioned them. I wonder if they still make them today. It’s going to be such a loss if cursive fades away. I know technology changes things but some things should stand the test of time and I believe cursive is one of them. Like you, I treasure handwritten notes from my family members and ancestors. Their handwriting is part of who they are/were, reflecting their personality.
      Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts, Julie!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is something so soothing about cursive writing. I treasure cards, old recipes written by hand and handed down through generations, and old photographs with little notes written on the back. The writing is familiar and soothing, transporting us back in time. Such a rare gift. I really hope we don’t lose this way of transcribing our thoughts and capturing memories. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, Mae. Such a joy reading the comments, too. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I treasure old cards and recipes too, and especially those photos with handwritten notes scrawled on the back. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the many comments, Natalie. Like you, I hope we will always have this soothing element to transport us back in time. It’s something I hope future generations will come to treasure as well. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This has bugged me for a while. “Messy handwriting” was always on my early school reports. It got better and eventually got compliments instead. These days, I have several styles of handwriting, depending on the mood and the job in hand, from the lazy scrawl to the one that looks half decent. I would hate to think that what I write coud no longer be read …and yet, my four year old granddaughter has been usng a tablet since pre-school, where it was a requirement!
    ll the old letters and historic manuscripts and documents will be cloed to future generationsif we are not careful…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:

    My wife was just making the point that some of the same points and more all because the teaching has gotten well off the concept of learning in favor of making test scores. Computer skills and penmanship both have value. My daughter had to use her handwriting skills to sign her taxes and addressing an envelope because they couldn’t be e-filed. I still write notes for myself but it’s messy since I don’t use it enough. Still handy to have the skill and read it when necessary. BTW, my wife is a teacher…

    Liked by 3 people

    • P.H., thanks for the reblog.

      All the teachers who have responded with comments on this post have been in favor of keeping cursive alive and saddened to see it decline. It sounds like your wife feels the same way. I also found her mention that teachers have gotten off the concept of learning in favor of making test scores. She must see it all the time. That would be hard to manage, especially when people are called to teaching because they want to educate others and take join in helping children learn.

      Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I used to teach cursive writing, and back then, my penmanship was pretty good. Never wonderful, but decent. I hardly ever use it anymore, though, and I’ve noticed it’s gotten worse with time. A friend of mine who’s passed away used to give handwriting analysis classes, and those were really interesting. She analyzed a page of cursive for each person in Scribes, and she nailed our personalities really well. And experts have analyzed handwriting for businesses and criminal cases. Thought this might interest you: http://www.handwriting-graphology.com/handwriting-analysis-chart/ Maybe we’ve gone to digital writing so no one can know our true, deep selves:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had no idea you once taught cursive. Because I rarely write longhand mine has gotten very bad, too. I think I’m going to start practicing now and then just to keep it active.

      I LOVE handwriting analysis. I had mine done once, but it was so long ago, I forget what the result was. Thank you for the link. I hopped over briefly, but want to visit when I can study it and dwell on the information. Things like this fascinate me. And what a great point that handwriting analysis have been used for criminal cases and other types of examination. What a valid point! I seem to remember that in some of the old detective novels and movies, too!

      Like

  8. My penmanship leaves a lot to be desired. The last government agency I worked for sent some of my reports to the NSA to crack the code they were written in. They couldn’t crack it. they came back to me, and I had to explain that my handwriting is a very complicated form or shorthand. No one can read it. Sometimes, not even me.

    I proved that recently on a shopping trip to my local Wal-Mart. I haven’t a clue what I wrote on the shopping list. It could have been Spark Plugs. It could have been Pizza. I ended up buying both.

    At the least, good hand writing would save me money!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg, William! Your comment has me in stitches. From the NSA to spark plugs and pizza, LOL!

      It’s really bad when you can’t read your own shorthand/writing. I’d love to see what a handwriting analysis would make of your scribbles! 😀

      Like

      • Probably figure me at about five years old and that I’d been turned loose with a magic marker. That or someone who should be receiving electro shock and a daily basis!

        Seriously, when I was in grade school, I had more than one teacher that tried to help. If it hadn’t been for them, I’d probably never be able to read anything I wrote. When I was a police officer (and this was before laptops and etc), I used to carry a Royal portable typewriter so I could write my reports. It surprised my superiors as an MP when I continued the practice. Then they saw a handwritten report. They stopped being surprised and were thankful instead.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Cursive was being pushed out of schools near me, where I substitute. Recently it is being added back to curriculum. Studies show deep connection between writing and our mental process.

    I often long hand journals and parts of novels in first drafts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, and thank you so much for sharing. It’s encouraging to hear that cursive is being added back into the curriculum. I was unfamiliar with studies showing the connection between writing and mental process, but it’s great to know someone is looking into the importance of preserving long hand.

      Although I print when I make research notes (which tend to be extensive), writing this post has me motivated to test out my cursive again. Kudos to you for journaling and doing drafts in long hand!

      Like

  10. I’m with you, Mae…cursive cannot die! When teaching fourth and fifth grade students, a lesson in cursive writing and a script alphabet above the white board were paramount. The date and my signature always appeared at the top of the white board and I can’t count the times administrators would reprimand me for mixing cursive writing and print on the board. BUT, my students were all able to read our country’s founding documents and my notes to them (always in cursive). Thanks for highlighting the value of cursive writing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sad to think school administrations would reprimand you for mixing cursive with print, Bette, but I am THRILLED to hear how you enabled your students with cursive. As someone who loves history, I shudder to think there might come a day when younger generations would not be able to read our country’s founding documents. It’s so imperative we keep cursive writing front and center for the generations to come!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, how funny is it that you are talking about penmanship. We were just talking about that in our writing group the other day. I am a former Catholic school girl who slants backward. I was forced to write with my right hand, and you can tell. I can write with either, but I am faster with my right, yet I slant backward.

    I love reading in cursive and use it myself. My children were both taught cursive, but it is not being taught in most schools any more. I loathe the day when X will be acceptable as a signature, and I don’t believe that printing should ever be accepted as a signature.

    We always joke about cursive being a foreign language and writing being unreadable by kids today. I am hoping that it does not become a thing of the past, because so much history will be lost without it. The legal document will be translated, but what about all the letters and recipes from our ancestors? Will they become unreadable to future generations?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michele, I’m a former Catholic school girl too, but surprisingly, that insistence I had to write with a FORWARD slant continued when I switched to public school in the fourth grade. It sounds like you were naturally left-handed. My older brother is, too. He survived nine years of Catholic school without the nuns forcing him to become right-handed but it’s likely they tried. I’ve heard of parents homeschooling their children with cursive today because so many schools don’t teach it.

      And I never stopped to think about all the letters and recipes from our ancestors. It would be devastating if younger generations couldn’t read them!

      Like

    • I’ve seen your handwriting, Michele, and I love it! I had a junior high science teacher who was naturally left-handed. Teachers forced him to write with his right. He could do both with little difference in the look. He would start to write on the chalkboard (that very thing dates me, LOL) with his left hand, get to the middle, and switch to his right. Always amazed his students.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sad but true. What is not taught is forgotten. The decision to drop cursive from the educational curriculum was made with no thought to the future understanding of the past. I feel like you, Mae. it is a sad thing to see cursive die.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The decision to drop cursive from the educational curriculum was made with no thought to the future understanding of the past”

      What a powerful line, John. So sad and so true. I think when children of younger generations grow older they may come to a point when they mourn never learning cursive. When history, family and ancestry become important in a way that it may not be now. Perhaps there will be a reversal in the future and a call to resurrect cursive. One can only hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve heard cursive was becoming a thing of the past. I was one who had and has terrible handwriting, but I still use it. So much of our history was in it. I wonder if it will be taught as a foreign language? I had just learned shorthand was that became obsolete. I don’t think we should let everything from our past go for all our new technology, like being able to read a clock face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise, you just brought up another element that may become obsolete—the clock face. OMG, I never thought of that! Does advancing technology mean that treasured elements must die? It’s so sad.

      However terrible your handwriting, I think it’s awesome you use it today. I think I may practice mine. My elementary school teachers would surely be proud 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My father had a beautiful ‘writing-hand’ and also excelled at Calligraphy, so when I started school, I couldn’t wait to perfect grown-up’ writing like him…When I eventually received a Pitman’s Hand-writing Certificate, I was over the moon. I still enjoy keeping a diary but my hand-writing has suffered from using shorthand over the years. I do hope cursive writing survives, and strongly feel it will. Like appreciation of all forms of art, there are many good souls who will fight for the continuation of things which matter and make life more beautiful. x.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to look ip Pitman’s Hand-writing Certificate 🙂 I never learned shorthand but it has a strange appeal for me, almost like learning a foreign language. I wonder if that is how younger generations view cursive.

      I used to do calligraphy on a regular basis, always fascinated with beautiful writing. Today, some people tell me my printing is much like calligraphy (although I can get very sloppy when scribbling notes, LOL). I hope you are right and cursive does survive. I love how you compared it to a form of art.

      Thank you so much for sharing!

      Like

  15. As a teacher, I didn’t like having to actually give a grade for penmanship, but I always believed that cursive should be taught. This is a big disadvantage for so many kids to not have learned how to read cursive! I read just yesterday that it’s being added back into the curriculum in Texas for next year, I believe, beginning in 2nd grade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, I’m over the moon to learn that Texas is doing this. Hopefully, more states will follow suit. Although I wasn’t a fan of penmanship classes when I was in school (mostly because I was always getting my fingers smacked) I’m a champion of them today. Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I also remember those penmanship classes and I am grateful to be from a generation that can read and write in cursive! An interesting observation – My seven-year-old granddaughter is teaching herself to write in cursive. I have no idea where she got the idea, but she loves it and practices it even though they no longer teach it in school. And, no, I can’t imagine an 18-year-old that can’t read her mother’s note written in cursive. Wow! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome about your granddaughter, Jan. Even more amazing that she’s taken it upon herself to learn cursive. I love hearing that!
      So glad you found the post intriguing. After talking to my co-worker/friend, I couldn’t let the issue go unaddressed!

      Like

  17. I love good cursive, but mine is horrible. I grew up a draftsman starting at thirteen making professional maps. Printing was king, and my cursive suffered. Just thinking about all those old documents that people won’t be able to read is sad. Maybe we can get high paying jobs as cursive translators.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. It’s heartbreaking. I write notes in cursive. Printing takes too long, especially when an amazing idea strikes. My mother used to write in shorthand when she didn’t want us kids to read something, like the Christmas list. Maybe kids today view cursive in the same way we viewed shorthand. Have you seen the videos of teenagers trying to use a rotary phone? It’s gut-wrenching. Electronics have robbed them of basic common sense. Sad. Hence why grandparents are essential to a young person’s life. When we’re gone who’ll teach them about L’eggs cool plastic eggs? 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  19. I’ve also had an experience in the past few years when the kids I was working with (teens) couldn’t read my cursive. I can accept that modes of communication like smoke signals change over time, but I cling to cursive for the therapeutic effect. Now don’t roll your eyes! I swear, the loops and swirls of handwriting when I do my little journaling routine are like the crests and troughs of ocean water: soothing, meditative.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ooo, I like that comparison about the crests and troughs of ocean water, That does sound soothing and therapeutic.

      And since I wrote this post, I’ve been hearing more and more about younger generations not being able to read cursive. I guess some day later generations will look back and compare it to hieroglyphics on a cave wall!

      P.S…I had a nice chuckle about the smoke signals 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  20. I also write in print, Mae. It is purely because I find it neater and faster. I can read cursive. Both my boys have been taught to write in cursive at school. I believe they are planning to drop cursive out of the school system. I think that is another backward step in the self sufficiency of man kind. Everything starts with the human element and when we lose that we will start regressing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You made such a good point with your last line, Robbie. It’s so true.

      I am glad that your boys have been taught cursive in school, even if the system is planning to drop it. From what I’ve heard from various parents, here in the States, it is no longer taught. One woman I know–who used to teach elementary school–told me that when her twenty-three year old son signs his name it looks like something a kid would have done back when she taught third grade!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Interesting that you wrote about this today. Recently the State of Texas has passed legislation requiring cursive be taught in all elementary schools. I think it’s a good idea. I don’t write with a forward slant. Started out that way, but my older brother wrote straight and I wanted to do the same, so I trained myself to write that way. Now, I couldn’t write with a forward slant if my life depended on it!

    Liked by 4 people

  22. My kids (now college-aged) both learned cursive in school. My daughter embraced it. My son still detests it and only uses it for signatures. Then again, he doesn’t write much of anything anymore, anyway. He’d definitely embraced digital life. (The few people who get greeting cards from him get eight printed letters at the bottom of the verse.)

    My backward slant is so bad, I have to turn the page upside down for a proper forward slant. But since we started signing our names on electronic readers rather than paper, that’s also changed. Since I can’t slant the machines, I’ve gotten better. My signature on those is close to vertical. It’ll never slant forward, though.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Why does it not surprise me that you, Joan and I all write without a forward slant? Are you left-handed, or is that backward slant just a weird quirk that cropped up for a right-handed person like me? Did you have to go through the problems with teachers trying to force a forward slant on you? No matter how much they tried it just didn’t work with me.

      I’m glad your daughter embraced cursive. And your son is definitely a man of the times. I guess everyone finds what they’re most comfortable with and goes from there. Also glad to hear they learned cursive in school. Remember the old saying of the three R’s—-Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic? I think schools need to remember the one in the middle and focus on it again!

      Liked by 3 people

      • We’d all be better off going back to the days of the three Rs.

        Nope; not surprised about the three of us sharing this trait, too.

        I’m a natural lefty who was forced to convert to a righty, although my mother insists to this day that didn’t happen. (It absolutely did.) There are still things I do left-handed (golf, gymnastics… maybe I should say USED TO DO, as I can’t imagine doing a cartwheel now, let alone anything more strenuous). I eat equally-comfortably with either hand. I write as a righty, though. My left hand penmanship is illegible. (Truth be told, I can’t say my right is much better when I hurry.) Teachers used to have a fit about my slant. I don’t understand how people write that way. That’s why I started spinning my paper. It was the only way I could do what they asked.

        When my daughter turned out to be a lefty, I didn’t try to switch her. And, other than discomfort writing in spiral notebooks, writing is no issue for her. Her penmanship is lovely. Besides, being a lefty in tennis is advantageous, so it worked out in her favor.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Did you know they make left-handed notebooks?

        It’s so interesting that you and your sister were both lefties forced into becoming righties. Also interesting that your daughter is left-handed. In my family of four siblings only my brother is left-handed–although he does everything right-handed with the exception of writing. Both of my parents were right-handed.

        When I was in junior high, a friend and I (both right handed) wanted to see if we could become left handed, so we practiced doing everything left handed. My writing sucked, so I never accomplished that, but to this day parts of that experiment remain with me. I eat and brush my teeth left-handed and wear my watch on my right wrist. Who would have thought an experiment between friends would have such long-reaching tendencies 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Staci, that is interesting that you can use both hands. My husband is left-handed. He writes with his left, eats with his left, but does many things with his right hand, such as batting. He throws a baseball (and bowling ball) with his left, however.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Joan, I golf with the left, bat with the right, and have to give a slight nod to the right when playing tennis. I think it comes down to comfort (and people not directing me). In general, though, it’s just easiest to say I suck at sports.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. I think cursive is fading away because you really only need it for signatures. I’d say it’s more important to teach how to read it than write it perfectly though. With typing being more common, cursive begins to lose its importance. I used to think it was a bad thing and a sign of societal degradation. Then I thought about how many writing systems and styles have come and gone throughout history. Cursive may have just reached the end of its lifespan like cuneiform and smoke signals.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is just a sad thought. I don’t want it to go away! You are absolutely right that it is more important to be able to read it than write it.

      The first question I asked the friend who told me about her eighteen year old daughter not being able to read her writing was “how is able to sign her name?”
      She can’t. And neither can her brother who is seventeen. They print and kind of connect the letters at the bottom. That was mind boggling to me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Places don’t require cursive signature any more. Even for credit cards because nobody can get it right on those screens. People do lie online payments than checks too. I spent a summer teaching my son cursive and he never uses it. He can do his name with help, but it comes up so rarely that the skill fades fast. Hate to say it, but one has to wonder if it’s necessary for the modern world as well. With the way education goes, priority tends to go to the essentials. Cursive might not be one like when we were kids.

        Liked by 2 people

  24. Great question, Mae. Like you, I learned cursive and had one teacher tell me one way, and then that teacher left and the replacement said do it another way. I still write in cursive, but it’s messy, lol. It’s a crying shame an eighteen year old can’t read cursive. It always saddens me when I see things hand-printed these days. I rarely see hand-written unless it from folks around my generation. Even four years on from my schooling, things had changed. I remember in the UK we could get half-penny sweets, and even a quarter-penny. Nowadays, no currency exists below a penny. My pocket money and I mourned that change! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Interesting how your teachers had differing opinions on the correct way of writing, Harmony. That must have been frustrating! I admit that I hand-print everything, a habit I formed long ago, but one of my sisters does write in cursive. She’s the oldest sister and I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

      I had no idea the UK once had currency amounts under a penny. That is the lowest demonization in the U.S., and for years there has been talk about phasing it out.
      sigh I guess like Dylan said—the times they are a changin’

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi. Thanks for rekindling the memory. I remember those days and lessons too. Starting with slate tablet and slate pencil. Now that is going back. The loss of of handwriting skills is tragic as is the art of letter writing. Computers and i-phones do malfunction and die. How often has one been at the store checkout when the till fails and the assistant is unable to add up the bill so one can pay in cash! That’s another sad tale of the present day. Have a wonderful day. Goff

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Goff! The art of letter writing was a wonderful thing. I have a collection of letters from family and friends I have kept through the years and treasure. What I really love are the letters my parents kept–long ago messages written to other relatives when they were young. It’s amazing to go back and read them. I have a few my father wrote when he was overseas in the service (WWII) to his brother who was back in the U.S. Amazing stuff to read.

      And what a good point about the checkouts in a store. Another one that always strikes me is when the register fails and the clerk has to make change, they have no idea how to count “upward” to the proper amount!

      Many thanks for visiting and sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. These days we don’t need to use our own handwriting or cursive style, they have several fancy fonts to make it simple!
    Before too long, someone will probably invent a way for a machine to breath for us too… (only kidding! I think)

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s scary what other changes might be around the bend! I often think of all the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime, and then think, in another 30 years, what advancements and changes will there be? There’s a lot of good, but the older I get the more nostalgic I get for things of the past that have faded away. I guess that means–gulp!–I’m becoming like my parents!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Pingback: Is Cursive Dead? — Story Empire | yazım'yazgısı (typography)

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