Cursive Handwriting: What are the Pros?

    November 15, 2013
    Lacy Langley
    Comments are off for this post.

There has been much debate about whether or not cursive writing is still relevant in the digital age. Some supporters of the Common Core curriculum say that with the small amount of time in classrooms and higher testing standards than ever, that cursive is just something that needs to go in order to lighten the weight.

However, there are many who say that cursive is necessary. Cursive handwriting used to be thought of as a sign of intellect, education, and eloquence. Advocates, such as Linden Bateman, State Representative from Idaho, contend that cursive has proven necessary to good brain function. “Modern research indicates that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they keyboard. We’re not thinking this through. It’s beyond belief to me that states have allowed cursive to slip from the standards.”

“The Constitution of the United States is written in cursive. Think about that,” Bateman said. Bateman, himself, habitually handwrites 125 beautiful letters each year.

This has become quite the consideration according to the Huffington Post. The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights are all written in cursive. Not that the Constitution hasn’t already been trampled, but these are supposed to be the documents that we are supposed to live by everyday. Future generations will only be able to read transcripts of these documents, and the awe and inspiration of the originals will be lost on them.

Now, seven states, California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah, have made it known that they are going to keep the cursive requirement, according to AP. This, along with the renewed requirement for students to memorize multiplication tables, is part of a growing “back to basics” movement.

Scholars argue that if cursive is allowed to fall by the wayside, their successors in the coming generations won’t be able to read or translate valuable documents, letters or journals from the generations before. A link could be broken.

Cursive is also touted as being helpful to the creative process. Kristen Purcell is an associate director for research at Pew’s Internet & American Life Project. She said fellow researchers found it shocking that 94 percent of the 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers that were surveyed said they “encourage their students to do at least some of their writing by hand.”

The reasons for this, the teachers said, were that most standardized tests are still in paper-and-pencil format, and also teachers believe that having students write by hand helps them slow down their thinking. It also encourages deeper and better thinking.

Perhaps some deeper and better thinking is in order for those of us who have grown up learning cursive just like the generations before. Is it really unnecessary and dispensible, a waste of time?

Image via wikimedia commons

  • Rich K.

    Cursive writing should definitely NOT go by the wayside! Just because someone can push a button is no excuse for not learning how to actually write (what happens if a pencil goes dull? You resharpen it! If a smartphone goes dead, and there’s no charger handy – or no service available – what then?). Thankfully, the school my kids go to still teaches cursive, starting toward the end of 2nd grade.

  • Dave Ashton

    I seldom take recommendations from a10 year old.

  • http://smeade10@tampabay.rr.com sharon

    there is nothing sweeter or more long-lasting than a love letter written to someone special. everything else of worth is going away,especially speaking to one another, with texting being #2, with no GOD in schools being the big #1. soon we will have a nation of stupid grown ups that won’t know how to read he declaration of independence,etc??????????lawmakers and such should be totally ashamed of what they are allowing

  • David

    They should simply make cursive writer part of art class.

    • Ellobern

      Do they still teach art?

    • VirtualInsanity

      Excellent idea! Have a complete writing style lesson (fonts) like Calligraphy, Old English, Cursive, Graffiti, and add some fun ones like Balloon, Celtic, etc.

  • David


  • Vicki

    What is wrong with these people? Soon people will no longer know how to sign a check or anything else for that matter. Don’t we have enough stupid children and adults in this country already? If teachers complain about teaching cursive to students, maybe the school districts should look for different teachers. This sounds like another ploy by teacher unions to lighten the workload of a workforce-many who have helpers in the classrooms. What this country needs is for students to know how to read, write, do basic math, not just have good self-esteem and know how to play sports.

    • David


      While I don’t think they should completely remove teaching cursive handwriting…I definitely do not think knowing or not knowing how to write in cursive directly results in a person being “stupid” or not.

      • http://na Jmack

        Reply David: Decades from now, not knowing how to read or write cursive may not determine stupidity, but the parents of these people that have let this happen, let the schools get away with something this important, is the height of stupidity and our kids will be wondering why they don’t know it.
        Those that do know it and use it, will be considered more knowledgeable, and refined. Besides we need this to remain a part of our culture.

    • Ellobern

      Not only, Vicki, but they’ll have to teach it in the secretarial schools so that the secretaries can read the attorneys’ handwritten edits on draft documents.

    • D Porter

      I wish you would take the time to actually read the article and do the research. The people who want to get rid of cursive writing are those pushing the common core. That IS NOT the teachers or the unions. It is the teachers who are fighting the change and saying that cursive is still important. Common core is the product of the government and think tanks who think that they have the solution all of our educational problems. They are the people who have decided that other things are more important. Try supporting your educators instead of bashing them – especially when you do not know what you are talking about!

  • Adam

    I say let it die. We don’t have the tools, or know how to use the tools, to do chancery properly, like in a fountain pen or dip pen. You need a pen with some spread in the nib to make the letterforms. Without that, the script just looks plain ugly.

    • Ellobern

      Adam – We’re talking about cursive, not caligraphy.

      • http://na Jmack


  • Eleanor

    Throwing “cursive writing” to the way side is just further testament of the base intellectual and moral levels to which the American public in particular, and the human race in general, has degenerated. And what is more sad is the thought that there could be an even lower level of degeneration and decadence to which mankind could stoop.
    “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

  • Ellobern

    OK, I’ll give a little on this issue. Teach it, but don’t grade it.

  • James Zemboy

    Nobody seems to be commenting on he actual purpose of cursive–speed! Students taking notes in cursive can write much faster than those printing and having to lift the pen three times just for a capital H. You can write a one page letter in cursive in 1/4 the time needed for printing. The Romans had never thought of cursive–it was medieval monks who invented it to make copying manuscripts go much faster.

    That said, I think the “creative process” arguments are silly. Some of the most beautiful cursive writing I have seen in my long 70-year life has been done by silly little girls with nothing on their minds but their hair, make-up and clothes. I do think kids should learn to READ cursive, though, even if they don’t have to go through the process of writing legibly in it. Learning to read it would take much less time than both reading and writing it.

  • Brett

    What?! This is ridiculous. Why are you guys in an uproar over losing cursive? You know there are other ways of writing, right? Like regular old printing? Just because you don’t know the letters in cursive doesn’t mean you can’t write anything.

  • your mother

    in 20 years, you’ll be seeing signatures that are so horrible they’ll look like they should be signed in crayon.

  • http://webpronews Patricia

    How is a printed signature legal? What’s next, texting a signature?
    The real reason younger people don’t want it, is they want their way, just like in every aspect of their lives. Some things are worth learning, not every person will have beautiful cursive writing, but they will have learned a true ART!

  • s des roche

    yes everyone should learn cursive writing. better for thinking cause you slow down somewhat. your brain that is.

  • http://mikeoutloud.webs.com m

    Many studies have shown that students with the ability to write in cursive have significantly higher SAT scores, and perform much better than students who can not. Another study shows that the professional scribe of choice is Cursive, meaning that professionally, those who cannot write in cursive will be entering the workforce behind the curve. Students should spend the time learning this writing style because of the many opportunities that writing in cursive can provide.

    To pose a question; how many doctors, lawyers, and politicians write in print? Do you know of any?

    In my research, i have not found any reason to believe that print is superior, and in fact i have found reasons to eliminate print writing in school (the opposite of what has been offered here)

    All of this coming from me, a 16 year old high school student. I taught myself how to write cursive in my 10th grade year, and my PSAT score improved from 189 to 215, and i recently took the SAT (no score yet… I’m nervous but excited!). I can honestly say that cursive has never done a thing but benefit me, and it should become the script of choice in schools everywhere.

  • maddy

    I’m 14 and I write in cursive, I feel it benefits me in everything I do.

  • Charlotte

    Yes. Cursive is faster. It is also extremely useful in doing algebra. In textbooks, variables are printed in italics. When writing the process steps of algebra, it is really useful to write the variables in cursive. This practice prevents massive amounts of confusion, because a cursive “x” does not look like a cursive “y” or a multiplication sign, a cursive “s” does not look like a “5,” a cursive “b” does not look like a “6,” a cursive “l” (“el”) does not look like a “1” (“one”), and a cursive “t” does not look like a “+” sign, and so on. I have seen hundreds of students miss problem after problem. Changing to the habit of using cursive variables prevents these problems. Of course, the cursive variables have to be written in legible cursive.

  • VirtualInsanity

    I truly hope they do keep this part of the curriculum. My mother (RIP) had beautiful cursive writing and my son, 17yo, really took a liking to the style when learning in elementary school.

  • PH

    Keeping cursive writing will allow millions of people to use poor grammar and bad spelling in two forms!

  • Darnell Morgan

    Has anyone seen “Idiocracy” the movie. We are headed that way when we start giving up things that encourage intelligent thought. Cursive writing should remain an essential part of education. Cursive writing does make you slow and think about what you are writing. Perhaps if more people took the time to write instead of tweet, there would be less embarrassing news on the forefront.

  • Robert

    There is a much stronger reason to keep cursive in the curriculem.

    The more senses you use when learning, the better you retain it. So seeing something on the blackboard, for example, helps you understand a concept. Hearing the teacher explain it, helps you better understand it.

    Taking notes (cursive is faster) helps your brain remember the concepts. You do not get this from typing. All keys feel the same as you type. Rather than reinforcing a concept by the use of another sense, typing takes some concentration away from reception of information seen or heard, without adding reinforcement through the sense of touch.

    Just sayin.

  • Primrosepath

    If they don’t have time to teach it in the class, it is an easy skill to teach at home. As a teacher, I can say that it would be refreshing to have the parent teach at least one part of the child’s education.

  • http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com Kate Gladstone

    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. (Sources below.)

    Strangely, the above habits of effective handwriters are hardly ever taught in handwriting instruction. In fact, in conventional cursive handwriting curricula they we not even mentioned — and students would be penalized for finding out about these features and applying them to their cursive (or other) writing,

    Just as strange is something about self-declared “cursive crusader” Linden Bateman who featured so largely in your article. Bateman, preaching cursive, does not write as he wants other people to write and to teach (Scans of his writing, from a letter he wrote to me, are available from me on request.)

    The handwriting of Bateman, the self-anointed “cursive crusader,” is beautiful, legible, and efficient — but he does not join his letters, and he frequently lifts the pen between letters.

    So … does the “cursive crusader” practice as he preaches?
    Does he write in cursive?

    When I show Bateman’s handwriting to supporters of his cursive crusade, without telling them who wrote it, they inform me that it would _not_ be accepted as fulfilling any requirement for cursive. Is it too much to ask of a crusader that he should either practice what he preaches, or stop preaching?

    I do agree with one of Bateman’s claims: Reading cursive matters. However, even small children can be taught to read cursive handwriting without being taught to write that way too. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-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 quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. 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, teaches you math or spelling or patriotism, 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.

    So far — whenever a devotee of cursive has claimed the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim (of research support for cursive) provides no traceable source,


    /2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., an Indiana University research study comparing print-writing with keyboarding is usually misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”),


    /3/ the claimant _correctly_ quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest.
    Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
    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.


    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 http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /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 – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf
    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:



    (shows how fine motor skills are developed in handwriting WITHOUT cursive) —

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

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

  • Stephen L. Wilson

    There seems to be a muddying of the water here. My contention is NOT that we simply replace cursive with keyboards. More to the point, once a student learns printing and penmanship, there is no need for cursive. It makes more sense to then gear the student to be competitive in the real world. I suggest that they can take cursive/calligraphy as an elective in high school or college. This drama about the “link being broken” is silly. Those who value cursive will continue to learn it. Those who don’t will not be burdened with it. Both of those people can become well-versed in computers and internet and they will be on an even keel. I am still searching, but I have found very little factual information to justify clinging to an archaic tradition when printing is perfectly acceptable and easier to read.

    • Josh Koehler

      Although this is a valid point and I do agree that the information supporting the “neurological and sociological benefits” is misleading and shaky at best, I still see cursive as an important skill that everyone should learn. I personally am very happy that I learned cursive as a 3rd grader. The reason for this is multifaceted, but practically, it is very valuable and important for me to be able to read various letters, documents, and journals from the history of my family and country. Being able to read the Constitution, our nations central document, in its original form is very valuable to me. In addition, my grandmother recently discovered the Civil War journal of my Great Great Great Grandfather, it is written entirely in cursive. If I never had learned cursive I would be unable to read about his adventures, hardships, and thoughts along the way.

      • Stefanovitch

        Reading cursive and writing cursive are two different skill sets. It only takes hours to learn how to read it, as opposed to months to learn how to write it. Months that can be spent learning practical, global subjects. These students are at the best learning stage – why waste it?