Cursive seems to be on its way out. Growing numbers of schools worldwide have cut cursive instruction from their curriculums to make space for new skills that can help us flourish in the 21st century. But are we being rash by throwing out a handwriting style that is anything but purely decorative?
As cursive disappears from schools, many parents are teaching their children this handwriting style at home, convinced that it has strong historical, cognitive, therapeutic, and aesthetic advantages. Cursive might come with benefits, but can it help give kids an edge in our digital world? Let’s explore cursive’s pros and cons.
9 Pros Of Cursive
Die-hard cursive fans believe we’ll deprive ourselves of a powerful skill if we stop teaching and writing in cursive. These are their 9 main arguments for why we should fight to keep cursive alive.
# 1 Cursive Writing Is Faster Than Printing
One of the big reasons cursive is attractive is that it can save time.
With cursive, letters are connected, cutting down the times you need to lift your pen. Depending on how much you write, the seconds you save by raising your pen less frequently can increase your writing efficiency compared with when you’re writing in print.
# 2 Cursive Links Us To The Past
Significant historical texts, like our founding documents, were written in cursive. Mastering cursive lets us read these documents as they were written, helping us connect with the past and our identity as Americans.
Most important documents are also available in print, but reading copies isn’t nearly as enriching as reading the originals.
And what about old family letters and notes that are written in cursive? Knowing how to read cursive allows you to keep your family’s stories captured in handwritten texts alive.
# 3 Cursive Is Accessible To All
We don’t all own a computer, tablet, or smartphone, but pretty much everyone can get their hands on pen and paper. So, whereas typing is a skill that benefits only people who have access to technology, handwriting skills can be used by all.
People who don’t have computers are already at an economic disadvantage; giving these people strong handwriting skills stops them from being placed at an educational disadvantage too.
# 4 Cursive Is Good For Your Brain
Writing in cursive is believed to boost your brain.
Research shows that when you write down information you hear, you’re more likely to remember the information than if you’d typed it. When you listen and write by hand, it triggers brain activity that strengthens your memory.
Writing by hand might also improve thinking skills like reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving.
Plus, when you write by hand (not type), you’re more likely to paraphrase and summarize information, listening attentively for the key bits.
# 5 Cursive Can Support People With Dyslexia
Cursive has been found to help students with dyslexia to read.
Learning to read is especially tricky for people with dyslexia because they struggle to link letter sounds with their symbols correctly. Cursive makes this task easier by engaging different brain areas responsible for letter recognition.
The way that cursive groups words’ letters together without spaces between them also helps those with dyslexia see the words as units with letters in proper order, making spelling the words less challenging.
Another reason cursive can help people with barriers to learning is that each letter has a unique shape, making them simpler to tell apart. Many print letters look similar, and they’re therefore easily confused.
# 6 Cursive Helps Develop Fine Motor Skills
When you’re buttoning your clothes, brushing your teeth, whisking eggs, or, yes, writing, you’re using your fine motor skills. Fine motor skills encourage your eyes and muscles in your hands and fingers to work together to complete precise tasks.
Writing cursive gives your fine motor skills a good workout. Cursive develops hand-eye coordination while also building hand muscles, making it a great pick for fine-tuning your fine motor skills!
# 7 Learning Cursive Is Rewarding
Learning how to write in cursive is tricky. So, sticking it out till you can fill pages with lovely flowing text gives a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
Who doesn’t like picking up a new skill? The hours of handwriting practice won’t only give you fancy handwriting for thank-you notes; they’ll make your brain work better. Whenever you challenge your brains to learn something new, you create fresh brain connections, which help keep your brain healthy.
# 8 Cursive Lets You Write With Flair
If you want to write with style, cursive is the way to do it! This beautiful handwriting looks so good on paper and creates the impression that whatever’s been written is worth reading.
Knowing how to produce gorgeously curvy, linked handwriting will make you stand out in a world of basic block lettering.
Cursive writing can also encourage creativity. When you have different writing styles in your repertoire, you have more ways to express yourself artistically in writing.
Fun fact: Apple mastermind Steve Jobs was a fan of diverse writing styles. He went one step beyond cursive by becoming an accomplished calligrapher.
# 9 Cursive Creates A Professional Signature
When anyone claims that cursive is the dinosaur of written communication, you’re sure to hear a cursive supporter retort, “What about signatures?”
True: Signatures are, as a rule, written in cursive, and all legally binding documents do need a signature. Cursive makes signatures unique and gives them an impressive quality, unlike other writing styles.
9 Cons Of Cursive
Gadget-lovers who whip out their smartphone, not pen and paper, for taking notes think it’s time to say bye-bye to cursive. Here are their 9 main reasons we shouldn’t resist cursive’s extinction.
# 1 Cursive Isn’t Always Faster (And It’s Not The Fastest)
Cursive’s main claim to fame, being speedier than print handwriting, isn’t a given. Some of us struggle to get the hang of cursive no matter how much we practice. Concentrating on getting the letters to flow together can actually slow down our writing.
So, it’s the person who’s writing, not just their writing style, that influences writing pace.
There’s another contender for the Fastest Method For Recording Text title: typing. And you don’t need to be a touch typist to get results. Even two-finger typists have been found to type at least five words more per minute (compared with writing by hand).
Speed and ease while recording text isn’t just for getting more done in less time. When our recording method is quick and undemanding, we’re free to think about what we’re writing. Use whichever method feels most natural and helps you switch off from the act of writing so you can fully explore concepts and ideas.
# 2 There’s No Time To Teach Cursive
Future-focused schools adapt their curriculums to keep up with our rapidly changing world. Subjects that aren’t relevant for the digital age are replaced with ones that are likely to be more valuable to 21st-century kids.
Cursive instruction is one of the areas that’s being pushed aside to make time for teaching new skills like computer programming and personal finance.
It’s not as if pens and paper will vanish from schools. Handwriting is still an essential part of education. It’s that schools are rethinking whether teaching two styles of handwriting (in addition to typing skills) is a smart use of time when there are more practical skills kids need to thrive in a modern world.
# 3 Cursive Doesn’t Have Major Advantages Over Print
While handwriting is certainly still relevant in the 21st century, the specific writing style doesn’t appear to matter.
Meaningful writing is fluent and legible. Full stop. Nit-picking over whether it’s cursive or print is pointless.
Writing by hand (instead of typing) has brain and memory benefits, but these benefits apply to cursive and print, not cursive alone.
While some people might experience extra perks when writing in cursive compared with printing, for most of us, these advantages are nothing to write home about (in whatever style you choose!).
# 4 Cursive Is Rarely Used And Easily Forgotten
Supposing you were once taught to write in cursive and were quite proud of how you could decorate your pages with flowery text.
How often do you use cursive now? Do you even remember how to write in this style? A dinner party snap poll is likely to reveal that most of your friends hardly use cursive in their everyday lives, and many can’t remember when they last wielded their pen to produce cursive text.
Even handwriting teachers don’t seem to make cursive their go-to style. A survey by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser found that only 37% of participants write in cursive all the time, and 8% write exclusively in print.
# 5 Cursive Doesn’t Make You Stand Out In The Workplace
While brainstorming ways to make your resume sparkle, have you ever thought, “Aha, I’ve got it – I’ll add my cursive expertise to my skillset!” Or are you more likely to add your SEO prowess?
Unless you’re keen to become a lettering artist, computer rather than handwriting skills are more likely to land you a job. For aspiring entrepreneurs ready to take on the world, digital skills are especially important.
# 6 Cursive Isn’t A Useful Skill In The Modern World
Over the past century, written communication has evolved from an ornate cursive to a simpler cursive and then to block-lettered print and typing. Every change was criticized and resisted.
Even when newer ways of doing things bring improvements, it’s difficult letting go of familiar things we cherish (this sentiment is captured so well in the classic song “Video Killed The Radio Star”). However, nostalgia isn’t a strong enough reason to hold on to a handwriting skill that’s unlikely to be useful in the future.
Our communication increasingly happens via technology, so digital skills are the new must-haves.
# 7 Cursive Can Be Less Legible Than Print
Not everyone’s cursive is beautifully formed and a pleasure to read.
Cursive can be less legible than print when written carelessly or in a rush. Some particularly messy cursive scrawls can’t even be read by their writers!
# 8 Cursive Creates Stress For Students With Special Needs
While cursive is super supportive for some students with learning barriers, it can be an additional stumbling block for others.
It takes time and effort to perfect cursive writing. All kids might struggle with this task at first, but some students with special needs find cursive especially challenging to get right. Persistent trying without success can send these students into a self-doubting, anxious frenzy, making learning feel overwhelming.
# 9 Electronic Signatures Don’t Need To Be Cursive
The argument that kids need to learn cursive to create signatures when they’re older gets weaker as tech-aided ways to verify transactions are introduced.
Electronic signatures (or e-signatures) are becoming more common – they’ve even been described as an essential part of the modern workplace, especially with more and more people working remotely. E-signatures don’t need to be cursive.
Actually, it’s generally not a legal requirement that handwritten signatures (or wet signatures) be cursive either. Printing your name is an official option for marking your consent, whether you do so electronically or with a pen.
With tech shaking up how we do almost everything in our day-to-day lives, who knows how we’ll authorize documents in the future?
The pros and cons show there are good reasons to keep cursive around, and there are also valid reasons to let it become a relic from a time when modern tech hadn’t taken over.
Your aim when writing should be to communicate efficiently and clearly, using whatever method helps you best reach this goal. You don’t need cursive for this. Perhaps the parents who’re teaching their kids cursive after school hours have it right: cursive training could be a hobby for those who think it’s too valuable to lose.