Computers, cellphones and texting have made us a nation of hunt-and-peck typists, but they are also helping to eradicate the teaching and practice of cursive writing. If the trend continues, with significant differences between cursive and block letters, cursive may become as unreadable for some as an ancient Etruscan laundry list.
Children may become unable to read hand-written letters from their Grandma and how will they endorse Grandma’s happy birthday checks?
Block letters came first, but Anglo-Saxons in Britain were into cursive writing before the Norman invasion in 1066 A.D. Flowing script was said to have been invented to save time and reduce ink blots from leaky quills raised after each block letter. It also added a personal touch.
Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence was almost completely cursive and Abraham Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address in handwriting that can easily be read by today’s students provided cursive is still in their curriculum.
California officials are debating whether to promote cursive penmanship in their schools. Teachers there say it stimulates brain development. Eleven other states require or at least encourage cursive and ten others are considering legislation to prevent its decline.
Old-timers will remember the graceful curves of the Palmer Method and the medals awarded to students who achieved a “fair hand”. That may never return. Recently I watched a young store clerk fill out a form in block letters using a ballpoint pen that she gripped like a dagger.
Another loss would be the ability to analyze handwriting to discover someone’s personality and talents. Block letters can be unchangeably boring while there are many possible variations in the shapes of all 26 cursive letters. A handwriting analyst I once interviewed told me she was hired by corporations to study job-seekers’ application forms to gauge their potential as employees. Apparently our individual loops, circles, stems, T-crossings and I-dots can provide a look into our psyche.
For those wanting to fake a personal touch, cursive fonts are available in various styles for all types of correspondence including thank you notes to Grandma. Just press a button and your block sentences turn cursive. But wait, there’s more! You can also choose a font for your job application’s handwritten resume that resembles the penmanship of famous people like Albert Einstein or Charles Edison. Let them analyse that.