Cursive handwriting just got a significant boost from the North Carolina legislature. A bill introduced in the state House last week would once again make cursive handwriting a part of the curriculum in the Tarheel state’s elementary schools.

That’s right — a law that preserves cursive writing. It has come to that.

Now, granted, it’s not the end of the world that cursive writing increasingly has been getting less attention in the nation’s public schools. Still, it’s a regrettable end to a certain kind of world.

Students who don’t learn how to write — or read — cursive are shortchanged. How ever will they make sense of historical documents?

Or read a handwritten letter from an elderly relative? Or a love letter? An author’s flourishes and individual style in handwritten letters are very much a part of the message’s charm, even if it’s a hurried scrawl.

Supporters of eliminating cursive instruction insist that printing takes no more time to complete than cursive, and that it is more legible. Some also believe printing is superior for children because the letters they write look more like letters in books they read.

That seems to be a flimsy argument. Rather, learning cursive forces a child to refine hand-eye coordination and teaches self-discipline in the process. As a child’s handwriting evolves, creativity seeps in and an individual handwriting style is born. It’s often as unique as a thumbprint.

Incidentally, breathe a sigh of relief. Lake Havasu City schools still teach cursive handwriting, so in this part of Arizona, the students will know that writing their name in cursive constitutes a signature — and will be much less likely to be forged than the printed version.

— Today’s News-Herald

(2) comments


A lot of people, lately, have made lots of noise about the death of cursive handwriting. They don't want cursive to die. Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter?

Research shows that the fastest, most legible handwriters join some letters, not all: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, using print-like shapes for letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citations below.) Yet cursive programs and teachers strongly discourage such practices. Students learning cursive are taught to join all letters, and to use different shapes for cursive versus printed letters. (These requirements do not align with the research findings above.)

What about reading cursive? This indeed matters vitally. However, cursive's cheerleaders forget thst one can learn to read a style without producing it. (This is fortunate. If we had to write a style to read it, we would have to learn to read all over again whenever a new font was invented.)

It is odd that — so far — the legislators clamoring for cursive are almost all Republicans. (Doesn't the Republican party portray itself as the champions of minimized government, of minimal regulatory interference in education and elsewhere? Why, then, urge government control over handwriting?)

It is even odder that the documents the cursive clamorers most often name (as their evidence that we need to write cursive style for the sake of reading it) are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Some material in each document — the Constitution's "We the People," for instance — is penned, not in cursive, but in elaborate "Olde Englishe" Blackletter. Yet no legislator crusading for a cursive writing mandate (on the grounds that we need to read our founding documents) is crusading also for a mandate of Blackletter.

Someone who has never seen cursive handwriting does, almost always, need to be taught to read it — because cursive is admittedly far harder to read than even the most elaborate Blackletter calligraphy. Simply reading cursive, though, can be taught in 30 - 60 minutes: even to a five- or six-year-old, once the child can read other writing. Why not teach children to read old-fashioned handwriting, and to write in some simpler and more efficient way themselves?

Most adults, after all, no longer use cursive. (In 2012, a survey of handwriting teachers attending a conference sponsored by Zaner-Bloser — a well-known handwriting publisher which strongly advocates for cursive — revealed that only 37% of those surveyed actually used cursive for their own handwriting; another 8% wrote in print. The majority — 55% — wrote a hybrid: some elements of print-writing, some elements of cursive writing. Given this, and given our knowledge of how the clearest and most rapid handwriters produce their writing, how sane or practical is it for any legislator to demand compulsory cursive?)

Of course, the idolators of cursive have other arguments. They sometimes assert that cursive has powers beyond any other form of handwriting. Those making such claims include, increasingly, state legislators striving to persuade their constituents and their fellow legislators that the responsibilities of the state must include requiring all students to learn and perform a cursive style. Much of the speechmaking on that issue asserts the existence of research which (we are assured by the speechmakers) proves indubitably that writing in cursive makes you smarter, or that writing in cursive makes you more graceful, or that writing in cursive teaches you prettier manners, or that writing in cursive confers any number of other gifts and blessings which are no more evident among the cursive crusaders than among the rest of us.
(To my personal knowledge, some of the rah-rah-cursive crowd go even further. They assert, at least in private and to sympathetic ears, that using a cursive style of handwriting is important for fully human cognition and/or morality. The accuracy of that claim, along with its probable effects if believed, may best be left to the reader's own judgment.)

Now and then, the rah-rah-cursive cheerleaders assert that their claims come from research. When they so claim, they rarely give citations either up front or on request. When — unusually — a citation appears, the cited research proves— always, so far — to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the person presenting it as favoring cursive.

What about individuality —signatures, and all that? Is cursive needed there ?

Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, then verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures — the most individual — are the plainest.

Yet most signatures in cursive are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger's life easy.

The individuality of print-style (or other non-cursive style) handwriting is further shown by this: six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on an unsigned assignment) which of her 25 or 30 students wrote it.
There's also this to consider: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (On this, I could quote legal sources — and lawyers — but that would take more room than a letter permits. So don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

In short, there is neither common sense, nor fact, nor legal necessity, behind the idolatry of cursive.

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest
6-B Weis Road, Albany, NY 12208-1942 USA
telephone 518-482-6763

Spend a moment to
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BETTER LETTERS (iPad/iPhone handwriting trainer app)
SONGS OF PENDOM (lyrical humor about handwriting)
the POLITICIAN LEGIBILITY ACT Petition (and why we need it)
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Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

/1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - OctOver, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at
Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest


Cursive writing also has a place in medical troubleshooting where it can reveal fine muscle control loss.

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