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Thu, Nov. 21

Community View | Does cursive writing really matter anymore?

(Daily Miner file photo)

(Daily Miner file photo)

I’m writing this because cursive was mentioned in your recent blog “School is back in session – watch for children.”

Handwriting matters: Does cursive matter? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

The fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive: though they aren’t print-writers either. Highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: Joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Looping your Ps and Gs may please your teacher – if your teacher values loopiness over legibility and overall performance.

Reading cursive still matters – but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way, too. Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes – even to 5- or 6-year-olds – once they read ordinary print.

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority – 55% – wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

Cursive’s cheerleaders repeatedly claim the support of research – citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant. The usual form of misrepresentation is to take the abundant research that shows important benefits for handwriting in any of its forms (including printing) and to claim falsely that those advantages are limited to cursive.

(By the way, students who live where schools have mandated cursive for years or decades don’t turn out any smarter or more skillful – in academics or in fine-motor graces – than students living anywhere else.)

What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any member of the legal profession!)

Questioned document examiners (specialists in the identification of signatures and the verification of documents) 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 at all, are fairly complicated. These make a forger’s life easy.

All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual – just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

Demanding cursive in order to save handwriting is like demanding stovepipe hats and crinolines in order to save clothing.

Kate Gladstone is also the CEO of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting that works. She can be reached via or email at

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