Cursive Schmursive: If It’s Legible, Who Cares?

If I were looking for a new job — I’m not, you know, but if I was — there’s a new skill I can add to my resume: Handwriting Translator.

Reason being, throughout the day students approach my desk and show me a yellow slip of paper. They ask in meek tone, one befitting Oliver Twist: “Please, ma’am, I don’t know what this says.”

Well, maybe not that Oliver Twistish. But you get my point.

The yellow slip is our school’s “student request pass”. The student’s name will be there, usually written clearly, we hope written clearly, the rest… well, the rest is a crapshoot. It might be written clearly. It might be like a doctor’s scribbling.

I do my best to decipher the note. Usually it’s from our Attendance department, sometimes the Nurse’s office. Back in my greenhorn days, I used to follow up with a polite email, suggesting the scribbler fill out the passes more carefully or give up cursive altogether. After all, most of our kids don’t read cursive.

I no longer do that. Reason being, it usually triggers a rant:

How come they don’t teach cursive anymore?!

Why in my day…

Everyone is so lazy nowadays!

Cursive handwriting is the hallmark of civilized society!

I usually enjoy seeing people on their high horse. It can be quite entertaining and worthy of a blog post or two. But after the fourth or fifth time around the track, even I grow tired of their raging.

Pity they don’t feel the same.

In any case, I’ve come to realize that people of a certain age, the age being somewhere on the far side of 40, tend to feel strongly about this issue.

Well, at least women do. I’ve not witnessed any men going off the deep end regarding cursive. Maybe they do. I’ve not seen it.

In any case, I’ve noticed the arguments for returning cursive to the curriculum range from the ridiculous:

“You’re more creative when you use cursive writing instead of a keyboard”

(Oh, if only Hemingway, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, et. al., not insisted on using their typewriters! How much greater their works might have been!)

To the nostalgic:

“Remember those lined workbooks with the letters to trace? I loved those!”

I didn’t. As much as I tried to replicate the letters and follow their lines, my clumsy little hand would not cooperate.

And having to make such BIG letters too. The capitals absolutely insisted on touching both top and bottom lines. Not to be undone, several of the lower case demanded it too.

Cheeky little devils that they were.

Cursive alphabet

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. McCullough, was not a patient woman. She rarely approved of my feeble attempts.

Ms. McCullough and me

It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact several letters are battling identity issues.

The letter A, regretting her cross line and open bottom, caring little she represents my favorite article of apparel (A-line skirt), chucks it all away to look like an abnormal apple:

Cursive A

So too is S, no longer content with his smooth, sloping shape, chooses instead to shroud his silhouette.

Secretive little sneak:

Cursive S

G, ever the garrulous gent, decides he can’t give ground. He follows S’s guide and makes a point of it:

Cursive G

And what are we to make of Q?

It’s shameless, really. Q, in her printed state, is round with a little tail; the cousin of O with a quirky flair.

Yet in script, she opts for something different, a queer and querulous affair:

Cursive Q

Yet none of that comes close to Z, that zany zealot who zigzags his way in print.

For cursive… well, at first he seems to copy Q. He zips onto the page, zeroes in toward the bottom and… what’s this?

He zooms below the line, where he has no business being!

Cursive Z

Breaking all zoning laws!

You know what I think? I think Q and Z got together and hatched this devious plot!

“Why won’t they use us more in their writing?” Q queried. “I say we make them quiver and quake, every time they pick up their quill!”

“Zounds, Q, that’s zelicious!” And with that, Z zapped and zipped his shape in a most zesty fashion.

Q looked at him quizzically, but remained quiet.

For most of my early schooling, I disliked my handwriting. No, more than disliked. I actively despised my cursive skills. No matter how I tried, Mrs. McCullough’s elegant swoops and flourishes would never be mine.

Then sometime in high school, I was looking through old records and came across Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

Ignoring the cheesy mustache, I latched onto the words at the top.

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 2.38.09 PM

Look at those S’s folks! Sure, Z still gets down and dirty, but capital S remains true to form!

Only then did it occur to me how adults (as they do in so many things) throw out the rules and do what they want. I decided right then and there, Mrs. McCullough be damned, I’d write how I wanted.

Which is how I finally embraced my own version of handwriting (more like smushed together printing) and never looked back.



All this is a long way of saying, I don’t think it’s a big deal students aren’t being taught cursive. Maybe you disagree with me. If you’re anything like the women I work with, I know you do.

I still say it’s not a big deal. If our youth want to learn cursive, they’ll figure it out just like my kids did. On their own, with no Mrs. McCullough breathing down their neck. There’s no age limit to acquiring it, and there are plenty of sites offering free lessons.

And of course, they can always make up their own rules.

As for the argument that it teaches them fine motor skills and helps brain development, art lessons and playing a musical instrument do that too. And I’d argue do a much better job of it.

Now as for students not being taught how to properly diagram a sentence?

My God people! When will the madness end?!


Author: CJ Hartwell

After spending most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, CJ Hartwell moved to the middle of Minnesota. Is she nuts? Probably. For updates on her sanity, click on the link to follow by email.

34 thoughts on “Cursive Schmursive: If It’s Legible, Who Cares?”

  1. I am fine with outlawing cursive. In grade school, I couldn’t master it, still can’t. Heck, even I can’t read my hand writing. It was suggested that I become a doctor (was already a doctor) based on my handwriting. When I was in the seventh grade a teacher suggested/begged my parents to buy me a typewriter and have me take the typing class.

    They did both. At first I wasn’t happy about having to take typing because it was a “girl’s” class (training them to be secretaries in the sexist seventies) and I’d be the only boy there. But then I found out that I was the only boy in a room of girls and mini skirts with tight tops were in fashion that year. Honestly, it’s amazing I can type at all.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hmm. There were two boys in my seventh grade typing class. Now I know what they were doing there. 😉
      We often told my dad he should have been a doctor, based on his handwriting. It was pretty bad. Funny thing, it actually improved a great deal after he had a stroke, I guess because he took his time and was more careful. I used to say, “gosh Dad, a couple more strokes and this will be downright legible!”
      Yes, I was that kid.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You forgot that sucky little ‘u’ always hanging out with ‘Q’ and trying to pretend it’s two ‘i’s. But seriously, they should teach cursive. They could squeeze it in between Making Your Own Shoes and How to Harness the Oxen.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m with kirizar, as you could easily turn this into a magical and fun book, serving as both a nostalgia piece for us fogies and a history book for the youngsters. (Personal bit: In elementary school, I had a serious leftward slant to my cursive writing. I eventually made my way to the right and, if I may say, I developed a rather admirable form, but somewhere along the line I transitioned to printing in all caps, and it’s been that way for decades. Now, when it comes to cursive, I can barely write my own signature…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just think of the confusion you must have caused those handwriting experts, who claim to know your personality based on your signature! “Oh, he slants to the left… that means he’s– no, wait! It’s to the right! No wait– it’s all caps! Wait! Now it’s… what the hell is that?!!”
      If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were up to something. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It does make one wonder, when it comes to all those criminal experts who swear in court that the accused person actually wrote the incriminating piece of evidence. My handwriting has fluctuated wildly over the years, and even I am stunned when I run across some of my own faded examples. (Is this really me? What happened?) On the flip side, I suppose I have a promising second career, should I choose to go darkly criminal and it becomes imperative that I hide my identity…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In my younger, far more innocent days, whenever I read a quiz like “what your handwriting says about you,” or “the snacks you eat reveal your personality,” I took them at their word. Meaning, I thought if I started snacking on fruits and vegetables, I’d become smart, and if I started writing a certain way, I’d be artistic.
          Eventually, this is what led me to embrace skepticism.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Stopped writing in cursive after Grade 6. Took to teeny tiny print, with backwards 3 as an e, upgraded to capitals at some stage, my pen feasted and wrote larger, messier printing. Now, I my writing is trying to be running print 🙂 Typing is annoying, and I tend to start not capitalising at sentence start, and leaving out the odd word to make it quicker. Really, I just rather send direct thought waves, but that could lead to all sorts of trouble given the state of my thought processes. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love your term for it – ‘running print.’ 😀
      Someone told me the whole point of cursive was to create a standardized way for people to write quickly, but with typing and computers, it’s just a bother. When you add in the fact whoever created the cursive alphabet was off their rocker, no wonder we dropped it.
      Direct thought waves… I bet Google is working on that. 😳

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Combine cursive writing with lefthandedness and 1970s ballpoint pens which smeared ink if you looked at them wrong and my own childhood was a combination of trying to use “pen erasers,” which really just scraped off a layer of paper, to neaten up my penmanship so I wouldn’t get marked down by the nuns, who REALLY wanted me to switch to right-handedness but who had apparently been told that being a lefty did NOT mean I was a servant of the devil like I would have been in the old days, and having to wash my left hand every time I wrote an essay because the pinky and side of the palm had turned blue or black, depending on the color of ink in the pen.

    Also, apparently, I learned to write REALLY long sentences that would drive a diagrammer insane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point! I completely forgot the plight of lefties! I remember very well my poor brother’s hands and his splotchy homework pages. I’m sure he doesn’t miss cursive lessons either.

      I shall not attempt diagramming your sentence, but I find no fault in it. I’m just too lazy. 😉


  6. Signatures used to be mostly cursive based. I suppose they don’t have to be, though.
    Two of my daughters took a class in calligraphy when they were in school. Their handwriting now is a delightful mix of print/cursive/calligraphy that is beautiful and fun to read! In the future, maybe cursive will be taught in art classes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My daughter, who has a bit of an artistic streak, has a very creative signature. You can see her name clearly enough, but I think there are a few extra characters roaming around. I think one of them wears a hat. 😉
      I can see handwriting added to art classes. They might have fun with it, which is what it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. French schools still teach cursive – this means that the 6 (and a half – Daphne, is very particular that we remember the half) year old who lives in the flat upstairs has more legible writing than me. But I’m a creative … it’s my go-to excuse 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We still have some schools teaching it, mostly parochial or charter schools. Our public schools are too tied to standardized test scores to waste time on such nonsense. Which is why some mourn the loss, but as I mentioned above, I’d rather protect art & music lessons.
      And bravo to Daphne. If anyone should have lovely penmanship, I’m glad it’s a six-and-a-half year-old. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We can’t have it all and my youngest daughter who recently graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the art school John Lennon attended has deplorable handwriting. The pen can be used in many ways and creativity IS the more important

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sad because I do love cursive. My last name starts with an S and it’s always fun for me to write the fancy S. R is fun in cursive as well.

    Despite enjoying writing in cursive, I was also nitpicked by teachers on my handwriting as a child. I think that’s partly why I have issue with perfection. Huh…I never realized that before.

    Anyway, I’ll probably teach my kids cursive on my own time if I have any, just because it’s fun and I definitely won’t nitpick them. It’s an art form to me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s I found out that one of the symptoms was a messy handwriting which I thought at the times was rather foolish, until my own handwriting changed for the worse. Today I can’t even read my own handwriting. But I can still read others handwriting which I am thankful for. Isn’t life strange.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never considered that, but it makes sense. More and more I hear printing will just become the norm and eventually a printed signature will be accepted on legal documents. But I wonder what they do for people who are physically incapable of either?


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