Over the weekend, I heard the Little Man mention cursive handwriting. He is in second grade, and it was in second grade that I began learning cursive handwriting. I asked him if he was learning it. “A little,” he said. Apparently, they were working on writing their names in cursive.
I am a cursive skeptic. Though I learned to write in cursive in second grade, I never enjoyed it, and moreover, I never saw much personal value in it. Perhaps it made me write a little bit faster, not having to pick up my pen from the paper, but it certainly didn’t make me write any neater. And unless you are Isaac Asimov, when is faster better when it comes to writing?
Apparently, cursive writing is one of those divisive topics. Gather a room of people together, and half will be for it, the other half against it. The arguments I read in favor of cursive writing don’t convince me. I’d prefer my kids to learn to write, period. If they are more comfortable doing so using print writing, or cursive, the important thing is that they are learning to write.
I don’t remember when I stopped using cursive writing. I think I stuck it out, reluctantly, through seventh grade. In seventh grade, I started printing again, mainly because it felt more natural to me, I could actually do it faster, and most importantly, I could read what I had written later on, something I had a great deal of trouble doing when I wrote in cursive. I recall my teachers pushing back, taking points away for not writing in cursive, but I stuck to my guns, eating the points in favor of better comfort and understanding.
Since then, I have rarely used cursive. I took the LSAT (on a whim) in 2003 and recall that they required you to write in cursive for the essay questions. That seemed ridiculous to me, and it put me in something of a quandary because I wasn’t sure I remembered how to write in cursive.
Clarity is the most important element in writing, and anything that impedes clarity should be replaced by something that improve it. I recall worrying so much about getting the cursive letters to look right that I wasn’t fully focused on what I was writing. This had to have effected the clarity of my thoughts on paper.
I do use cursive writing when I sign my name (although like most signatures, mine is more of a personalized mark than the individual letters of my name), but only when signing for official purposes, or on things for people I don’t personally know, like signing a book or a magazine.
When I sign my name for friends or family on cards and letters and other correspondence, I print my name. I fear that a cursive signature is too formal for such circumstances, and moreover, it is too illegible.
My grandfather’s handwritten letters are all in cursive, and few people can read them. I can get through a page in an hour, so illegible was his cursive handwriting. I much preferred when he typed his letters, even though he tended to use ALL-CAPS when he did so.