Wanted Dead or Alive: Cursive Writing

cursive alphabetIs cursive writing a dying art?

Are the days of curlicues and loops numbered?

Will cursive go the way of hieroglyphics found in caves that are now on display in museums?\

News of cursive’s demise has been floating around for years, surrounded by generational uproar (pro and con) and questions of its usefulness in the world of keyboards.

But recently, it seems to be making a comeback. Perhaps the uproar has stimulated interest, thus renewed support.

My Cursive Forecast
Cursive will never go away; just as paper books will never go away.  Schools might dump cursive writing classes or reduce the amount of instruction as time is precious with a growing number of subjects to study. But as an art form, it’ll stick around.

Consider the thousands of computer fonts available and always being developed. Look at the beautiful art and décor using cursive. Notice wedding invitations; most are in elegant cursive script, which conveys romance.

Unattractive and Unreadagood cursiveble
But there is a caveat using cursive. It must be READABLE. That leaves me out. I’m a half-and-half writer: half cursive, half block, wholly pathetic. I look back on papers from school and the early years of my career and see a penmanship style that flows evenly and is easily readable (left).

Then came the computer. Yikes! My use of cursive penmanship plummeted and became unreadable, even to me. When I’m in a hurry, it looks like a pathetic attempt at shorthand, which I never learned in high school. (Remember that class, Baby Boomers?)

I blame my pen-mess-ship on physical atrophy resulting from fingertip pecking on computer keyboards for 30 years. After writing a few words my wrist tires and my hand “stutters”, especially on Ws and Bs—which is bad news considering my name. I compensate by typing as much as possible: letters, fax cover sheets, file folder and address labels.

Signature Stress
Unfortunately, I can’t type my autograph in my books and signature stamps are a no-no. I dislike autographing because I fear I’ll leave a sloppy signature. Won’t that make the autograph all the more distinctive and valuable, you may ask? Nope, just disappointing to the reader and embarrassing for me.

Show of hands: How many hate signing the electronic credit card machines and package delivery scanners? No one can write legibly on those things. First, the stylus (or index finger) is larger than the minuscule signature rectangle. The machine wiggles either from being used as a drum by children going through the checkout line with their parents, or because the machine is being held by the delivery driver in one hand while he balances the package in the other. But the clerks and delivery drivers just shrug at the screens and let us off the hook.

A cure for Chronic Cursivitis
Cursive can be taught outside of the traditional classroom for those interested in learning. There are YouTube videos—some professional, some not so professional, and online curriculum.  Cursive has been added to art departments. Library and community centers offer classes.

Parents—and as time goes on, grandparents—can lead by example. However, it’s a good thing I learned cursive in school. My mother’s handwriting is poor due to a light case of childhood polio on her right side that weakened her right hand and resulted in shaky writing. My father’s pen-mess-ship was a bunch of miniscule stick letters reminding me of Woodstock’s conversations in the Peanuts cartoons.

Sign on the Dotted Line
One argument for learning cursive is to develop your personal signature to sign checks, receipts, legal forms, driver’s license, etc., thus preventing forgery and confirming identity. This concerned me because my signature is pathetic, and if I’m in a hurry, undecipherable.

My concerns, however, were put to rest by a clerk at the driver’s license bureau. She explained that as long as the first initials of the name are somewhat consistent from signature to signature, it’s passable. The rest could be a scribble or a mere line.

My signature may be bad, but the most pathetic signature I’ve seen was by a local government official. His signature was literally two jagged lines. The first initials weren’t recognizable. Yet the signature was, unbelievably, the same time after time.

A smattering of people—male and female—have been gifted with beautiful handwriting. And I’m jealous. Their script flows evenly, has character and sophistication. Sometimes I can’t help but judge their character based on their handwriting.  Had I been a Colonialist at the time of our country’s founding, I would have lauded John Hancock’s character just seeing his now-famous signature.

Bad cursive(I wince at how people would judge my character.)

Aesthetically, a signature can define your personality—become your personal brand. Case in point: Walt Disney and Picasso. Take a look at the “coolest” signatures, and you’ll see what I mean. Well, except for Kanye West.


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