Letters to the Editor

Cursive or clear

Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree.

Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to 5- or 6-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive,” of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

Educated adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed and only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, adds brain cells, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

For instance, the much-ballyhooed difference in SAT scores between cursive writers and non-cursive writers is, brace yourself, 1/5 of a point on the essay exam. That’s all. See: www.collegeboard.com.

All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

Kate Gladstone

HandwritingThatWorks.com, Albany, New York

 

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