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Handwriting matters, but does cursive?

DEAR EDITOR:

Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all.

Reading cursive matters but is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way. Reading cursive can be taught in 30 to 60 minutes, even to 5- or 6-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print.

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

Cursive’s cheerleaders repeatedly state that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among other humans.

When a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things becomes evident: either the claim provides no source; the source is misquoted or incorrectly paraphrased; or the claimant correctly quotes / cites a source which itself indulges in either of the first two items I stated.

Those who actually think about the research should learn from a researcher at the University of Calgary, Hetty Roessingh, who notes the benefits of handwriting (in any form) are best provided in the “italic” handwriting systems. In other words, systems where cursive doesn’t depend on joining every letter because it begins with a stage of fluent printing and retains those print-like forms when joining is introduced in just the most practical places and not otherwise.

But what about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive? In law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind.

Questioned document examiners say 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 student produced it.

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

KATE GLADSTONE

Director of World Handwriting Contest

CEO, Handwriting Repair / Handwriting That Wor

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