General Question

pnutbutterngabby's avatar

Why learn cursive?

Asked by pnutbutterngabby (85points) June 2nd, 2008

Are children still required to learn cursive writing in school? If so, why? I can think of few instances in my adult life where cursive writing is necessary/required—aside from my signature. Any historical explanations?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

74 Answers

jlm11f's avatar

I think it helps improve your handwriting in general to learn cursive when young. I learned cursive while my brother didn’t, and it shows. I have seen this trend to be true in other people too. These days most kids have horrible handwriting!!

wizard's avatar

In college your handwriting really helps, after all if you become a doctor do you want your fellow workers to be scratching their heads at your written charts? And PnL is correct, learning cursive improves your handwriting by a good degree, like how using the bow-flex makes push-ups easier. It’s also much more pleasing to the eyes.

robmandu's avatar

History of cursive and other ephemera.

And now, some schools are teaching italic writing instead.

Personally, I find that I can make handwritten notes fastest in cursive. Block printing is noticeably slower. For that reason alone it’s worth it, especially in higher education where copious notetaking is required.

I agree, gone are the days when people worked on the artistry of their handwriting… with only some people interested in calligraphy… and then usually for the most formal of occassions.

Poor handwriting in whatever form is simply unacceptable, much like poor grammar and vocabulary. I like @PnL’s and @Wizard’s observations that it’s good exercise.

babygalll's avatar

I learned cursive early on and I believe it helps with ones penmanship. In my days growing up teachers wanted papers/reports to be handwritten. So, doing a lot of writing too helped us practice and become better at writing. I agree with PnL that kids have horrible handwriting these days. Now teachers required all papers to be typed.

If you really think about it. No body writes anymore! Writing letters turned into email. People take laptops to class to take notes instead of writing. Everything is on the computer now. Doctors don’t even write prescriptions anymore; they send it straight to the pharmacy. Well, maybe that one is a good thing.

So, yes I think it’s good to learn cursive.

JonnyCeltics's avatar

Let’s be honest, there is no use for cursive in today’s world except for signature’s and the fact that it looks pretty. It’s a dead art, and I can’t imagine children (or even adults for that matter) being worse off without it.

wildflower's avatar

I have to disagree, JonnyCeltics. I only recently decided I need to do more handwriting – and to the other folks points, it is easier in cursive.

Skyrail's avatar

I’ve never learned cursive, never had the chance, didn’t know what it was until now as well. My writing is acceptable, it can get a little hard to decipher between certain numbers in the longer math(s) questions I do but besides that I’m ok with written communication, but my signature is uselessly simple haha. Oh I wish I had a nice signature :(

shilolo's avatar

I agree with JonnyCeltic. I have to write a lot, and I learned a long time ago to dissociate myself from cursive writing. I write entirely using block characters, and my penmanship is good, so I don’t think it takes me more time. In fact, if I had to write out this comment today in cursive, it would probably take me 10 minutes, with multiple mistakes and horribly illegible writing.

robmandu's avatar

@shilolo, you’re a doctor, right? So no one’s surprised in the least. ;-D

And for those of you willing to bet, I’ll put my lackadaisical cursive up against your best block print in a speed test any day of the week, with a key rule including legibility.

shilolo's avatar

You’re on. Do you have any idea how many “progress notes” I have to write in a day, and make them organized and legible for others to read? I think this is a sucker’s bet. ;-)

DeezerQueue's avatar

I take notes in class and also when reading class materials because it helps me to retain the information much better, and I write in cursive, I do believe that for myself it’s much easier. Every now and then I’ll use shorthand but only if the instructor is moving too rapidly for me to keep up with cursive.

Maybe we should all write some sample material, scan it and then see who has the purtiest handwriting.

While it may not seem necessary, it is still a viable and useful form of communication, particularly for those who haven’t yet fully entered the electronic age.

wildflower's avatar

My money’s on robmandu, but then I may be a little bias

gailcalled's avatar

Keyboards are wonderful but what if What’s his/hername pulls the plug?

robmandu's avatar


Proposed Rules of the Bet:

0. Contestants handwrite the same passage. I suggest this quip as it’s not too long, nor too short.
1. Time yourself writing the same passage 3 times.
2. Your official time is the best of the three.
3. Upload the scanned image of your writing for the Collective’s review.
4. The bet is for fastest time with acceptable legibility. Not for prettiest script.
5. Timing is objective. The Collective will have to determine by consensus on legibility.
6. 24 hours from agreed upon start time to complete your entry and upload.
7. Results posted to this thread.
8. Winner takes all the lurve the Collective wishes to award.

Any additional rules or changes to specifics?

Send me a PM if you need to work out any low-level logistics, like where to host your scanned image.

playthebanjo's avatar

LOL Can we do one where we write with our feet, too?

jlm11f's avatar

this is getting exciting! i am curious to know how shilolo has so much time on his/her hands as a doctor.

wildflower's avatar

It just got interesting!

@PnL, I know what you mean. I was wondering if he’s done something cheeky and this counts as his community service…..?

playthebanjo's avatar

Haven’t you ever waited in a waiting room past your allotted appointment time? It’s all because of fluther! : )

shilolo's avatar

My full-time doctor days are in the past (at least for the moment). I spend 95% of my time in a basic science lab studying how the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis is able to cause disease. That means that I can sit in front of a computer for hours, if I feel like it.

shilolo's avatar

Now, to answer the bet question, I assume we will be timing ourselves with the honor system, or do we need to find another flutherer to be the local referee? Also, I think there needs to be scoring for legibility as well. I mean, acceptable and pleasing on the eyes are two different things. If someone can read your cursive, but it takes them twice as long to figure out what you wrote, that has to count for something.

robmandu's avatar

Honor system for timing. To backstop that though, we could add a rule of procedure:

- Each contestant first reports his/her individual timing results to a volunteer via PM. Once volunteer has results in hand, and replies with approval (again via PM), the contestants could then submit their official results to this thread.

(But I don’t require such rule. I trust you. My vote is to rely purely on the honor system.)


A key tenet of the Bet is legibility: The property that makes legible or easily readable.

I agree that’s subjective, hence my suggestion that the Collective gets to weigh in on it.

Legibility ≠ Visual Appeal ≠ Speed.


The purpose of the Bet is to determine that the fastest way to write with acceptable legibility is to use cursive (or block print, depending on your predilection).

DeezerQueue's avatar

This is getting interesting. Has this ever been done on Fluther before, such a contest?

shilolo's avatar

So, which quip again? I don’t quite know which one since the link opens and shows three of them. The honor system is fine with me. I assume we will have speeds that are relatively equivalent. A wide variation in times may suggest some malfeasance. ;-)

shilolo's avatar

Oh, and does it have to use the same punctuation, i.e. paragraphs where they were placed or can the entire quip be written as one paragraph?

robmandu's avatar

Perchick’s quip, as I linked it, should appear at the top of your browser window, as the first visible quip. To be safe, the full text is:

Here’s my theory:

At that party he was attracted to you, you talked for a little, maybe mentioned that you enjoyed this cake? He’s scared to talk to you, but remembers you mentioned that you liked cake, so he has decided to suprise you with cake.

Are the cakes just plain, or do they have writing on them? and are they accompanied by anything, a card or something?

You should get a big flat cake and write a letter to him in frosting, asking what the deal is. Then find a way to deliver it to him.

Haha in all seriousness though, I think you should probably either talk to him, or just call the police.

Let them eat cake!

I suggest we attempt to match line breaks and punctuation as closely as possible. The Collective can determine if errors (punctuation, spelling, etc.) in our scan uploads are significant.

Seeing as you have a very scientific vocation, I find it interesting how many assumptions you make about areas in which you acknowledge a deficit of experience.

Anyway, I have no vested interest in “winning” this Bet. It’s more out of morbid curiosity that I suggest it.

If you AGREE to the TEN rules (numbered 0–9) I suggested above, and furthermore, agree to upload your results to this thread by Tuesday, June 3rd at 2pm EDT, then please post “I AGREE”. At that point, the Bet is on!

playthebanjo's avatar

is it only available to you two contestants?

robmandu's avatar

Open to all comers. Bring it on, @banjo!

robmandu's avatar

Oh yah… make it official…


playthebanjo's avatar

However, to be fair- I think that cursive will be faster. Even my cursive is faster than my block print!

shilolo's avatar

I agree!

playthebanjo's avatar

I gotta find a scanner. I have a fax machine….is there a free service that will let me fax something to a number where it will upload as an image?

shilolo's avatar

Uh oh, moderator alert!

brownlemur's avatar

@pnutbutterngabby – I hope the above helps to answer your question. Welcome to Fluther!

jlm11f's avatar

oh oh i can’t wait!! i will have to make sure I am online at that time tomorrow! Good luck to all contestants and may the best man/woman win!

DeezerQueue's avatar

Yes, good luck to those taking on the challenge! I’m not sure if I’ll enter yet, I have to look at it a little more closely first, I didn’t read through everything. On second thought, I’m more of a precision person, so I will most likely pass.

Seesul's avatar

The problem with modern handwriting, is the way that it is taught. It actually is an important part of a child’s development, if taught correctly. Schools in the US used to use the Palmer Method, which resulted in beautiful, stress free handwriting. It started out with exercises in how to hold the pencil and used the entire arm, instead of the cramping style of today. It was taught in one room schoolhouses and was consistent and gradual and helped motor control a great deal. It was done a little each day. My mother was taught it and tried to teach it to me. She didn’t learn how to print until she was in nursing school and it was required for charts.

Somewhere along the line, a new style was imposed on the school systems. It had all sorts of unnecessary strokes and curlycues. The pencil hold was changed, and writing was done with the fingers, rather than the entire arm, thus causing tension and callouses.

Throw in lefties being forced to be righties and you have more of a mess (I was, as was my grandmother). My grandmother had her hand tied behind her back, I wasn’t allowed to eat lunch.

The newer script was not flowing, and forced one to pick up the pen or pencil often.

I think the solution for today is Denelian:

Denelian starts out with a flowing italic type writing/printing with simple, flowing strokes and has the option of being tuned into script by simple connecting strokes, so that your pen never needs to leave the paper.

My son started off with this, but when he switched schools, the school would not allow it. It was an order from the administration, very biased and silly in my opinion.

I only required my son to have handwriting that was readable and made sure he knew how to type as soon as it was physically possible. That way, he can do both well, but cut back on the stress whenever he can use a computer.

robmandu's avatar

I now post my official results.

Per the rules, I made three (and only three) attempts at this. My second pass was the slowest (4 minutes, 47 seconds). My third pass was the fastest (4 minutes, 23 seconds).

Screenshot of my best time effort via Flickr.

Members of the Collective who wish to judge the legibility of my entry can view larger sizes using Flickr’s standard options to view larger sizes. Remember, the point of the bet is to determine fastest writing time with utilizable legibility. So beautiful penmanship (which I certainly lack) is not the goal.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) after the deadline expires, I will post a link to a polling site where the Fluther Collective can cast their votes for whether they believe each contestant’s entry meets minimum legibility requirements. The polling will only count for an additional 24 hours, and will expire Wednesday, June 4 at 2pm EDT.

The legibility assessment is not to weigh one contestant against another. Instead the voting will allow you to cast multiple choice votes simply on whether or not each person’s entry is legible to you.

For example, if, at the close of the 24 hour polling window, a person has 10 votes for “legible” and 11 votes for “not legible”, then his/her entry will be disqualified. Number of total votes per legibility has no further weight in the judgement of the winner.

If more than one (hopefully all) entries are deemed legible by the Collective, then the contestant with the fastest official time will be declared Winner… and everyone will be exhorted to award lurve accordingly.

Stay tuned!

[ Disclaimer ]: I didn’t intend this as a lurve gaming concept. I like to think that all of this hullabaloo is indeed ON-TOPIC and will help @pnutbutterngabby with his/her research into this topic of whether cursive is useful.

jlm11f's avatar

do i have to have a flickr account to see a larger size? if not, where is the larger size option?

this whole contest feels so official

robmandu's avatar

@PnL, looks like you’re right… larger sizes aren’t available unless you sign in/create account in Flickr. Fortunately, that’s free.

If anyone has a significant problem with that, send me a PM. If there’s enough of you, I’ll consider hosting elsewhere.

wildflower's avatar

I have a flickr account and was able to zoom and read it on my iPhone.

robmandu's avatar

Uh oh. Getting worried no one else is gonna post.

Contestants, even if you have a slower time than anyone else (hard to believe that mine’s fast… gotta be easy to beat), please post your results anyway. Today’s polling of legibility could very well eliminate your competition.

wildflower's avatar

What’s the EDT time now? If there’s a couple of hours left I’ll give it a go when I get home…

robmandu's avatar

It’s 11:45am EDT… you have 2 hours and 15 minutes.

shilolo's avatar

Rob. I did mine yesterday and scanned them in. Now just need to set up a flickr account. Will definitely be under the 24 hour mark.

shilolo's avatar

OK. Here are my results:
Trial#1 (while copying from the computer screen): 3:14
Trial#2 (while copying from a paper copy): 2:44
Trial#3 (while copying from a paper copy): 2:51

Now, I was going for outright speed, so the penmanship is a bit less than my norm, but I feel it should be adequate to the task. I have uploaded my three attempts to flickr, here. I uploaded versions that are ~400K, for ease of viewing and downloading. If anyone feels that the versions are too low res, I can upload higher quality pictures as well.

May the best flutherer win!

robmandu's avatar

Woot! We have a viable Bet!

Reminder, I’ll setup a polling site for Flutherers to vote on legibility later today.

pnutbutterngabby's avatar

WOW! Well this is a pleasant surprise…Thanks for all the great responses! I’m looking forward to the contest results…

wildflower's avatar

OK, I’m a superslow writer!! And it still looks like squiggles or crow-feet!

Attempt 1: 06.01
Attempt 2: 05.31
Attempt 3: 05.18

I tried to get clear shots of the 3 attempts, but only have the iPhone at hand, so here is one of my fastest time.

robmandu's avatar

( working on the polling… sorry for the delay )

robmandu's avatar

Okay… official time for new entries is now EXPIRED.

Polling begins NOW and will end Wednesday, June 4 at 2pm EDT.

Everyone in the Fluther Collective, you can cast your vote on whether you think each Contestant’s FASTEST entry is legible enough. It’s up to you to consider if punctuation, spelling, whatever is important.

Contestant’s with more votes of “not legible” then “legible” will have their entry disqualified.

1. Look above for links to each Contestant’s Flickr page.
2. Judge the legibility.
3. Then go vote:

Thanks all!

robmandu's avatar


The poll is multiple choice… so you should click off a vote for each contestant.

playthebanjo's avatar

I can’t believe I forgot I was gonna enter

wildflower's avatar

I can – you were probably too busy jamming to Whiskey in the jar on your banjo :P

jlm11f's avatar

i just wrote it once right now (just for fun) and my time was 3:32. its funny how my handwriting gets progressively worse through the passage.

wildflower's avatar

Mine was horrendous! I’m so used to keeping my eyes fixed on the text I’m copying – not what I’m typing/writing. All the back and forth really messed me up, state of total confusion :)

jlm11f's avatar

I think in terms of quality, your paper was the best wildflower. here’s the link to my attempt, in case you want to feel better about yours :)

jlm11f's avatar

oops that wasn’t rotated. but this is

wildflower's avatar

Considering speed and all, your handwriting’s great, PnL. You’ll have to work on that before you become a doctor ;)

shilolo's avatar

Hey, that hurts!

jlm11f's avatar

haha. don’t worry, I think I can make it significantly worse, especially when I am taking notes in science classes like Biochemistry.

Seesul's avatar

One trick in deciphering old letters, etc. for genealogy is to find a retired pharmacists that wants to make a few extra dollars in retirement. Supposedly, they can figure out anything. I asked a friend’s dad who was a pharmacist for umpteen years and he confirmed this theory for me.

We’ll just chalk it up to not wanting irritate those “impatients” in the waiting room />}.

wildflower's avatar

How does that hurt, Shilolo? My theory is that you lot do it on purpose because you don’t want us to understand your writing – and nursing staff have a class in ‘doctor writing comprehension’ before they’re qualified.

shilolo's avatar

I doubt that is the reason for the majority of doctors. Your theory is far too cynical.

Having illegible writing is a disservice to patient care on many levels, including increasing the likelihood of medical errors as well as not allowing for a meaningful dialog between practicioners in the patient’s chart. The primary reason for illegibility has to do with lack of time during the day. When pressed for time (which is an all-too-common occurrence), many doctors will write short, fast (and likely illegible) notes in the chart. This is a very dangerous gambit, since medical errors frequently occur as a consequence, and in addition, poorly documented decisions in the patient record can increase a doctor’s liability in the face of a malpractice suit.

With that said, I would prefer to avoid a nurses vs doctors debate. When it comes to ‘comprehension of doctor’s notes’, there are many reasons for miscommunication, only some of which can be attributed to poor handwriting.

wildflower's avatar

Me cynical? Surely not!
I wasn’t actually hinting at errors and their origins, just more at the the baffling mystery that is a doctor’s note. I get a lot of these handed to me and most of the time I haven’t got a clue what the listed condition/symptoms are – I just check the letter head or stamp and assume that means the person had valid reason to be out of the office….

shilolo's avatar

Oh, those types of doctors’ notes!? I can see where there would be confusion. I hate having to write those, and try to do them as quickly as possible. I still think I have legible writing though I am not ashamed to admit that writing an eloquent and picture-perfect “get out of jail free card” is not #1 on my priority list.

wildflower's avatar

hahahaha…..mind you, I’ve so far never been able to decipher a prescription either. Always wonder if it’s just a luck of the draw that the pharmacist hasn’t given me the wrong thing and accidentally killed me yet.

robmandu's avatar

Yay! Bet is Complete.

No one was disqualified… and hence, Shilolo’s entry wins, with an official time of 2 minutes, 44 seconds. Dude, was smoke coming up off your pencil?!?

According to the Rules of the Bet, should the Collective elect to award lurve to any of the Contestants in this thread, you are requested to direct all the lurve directly to Shilolo.

Hip hip hooray! Congrats, Shilolo!

This means, for purposes of Fluther, Shilolo’s brand of block text will forever (well, as long as Fluther has electrons on the Internet anyway) be known as the fastest, legible handwriting technique.

wildflower's avatar

Congrats shilolo. Guess I should stop picking on you for the doctor’s handwriting thing ;)

shilolo's avatar

After further review of my versions, it appears that some of the letters blend together, giving the impression of cursive (although clearly not the same as robmandu’s more classic cursive). I acknowledge this as a consequence of trying to write as fast as my hand would tolerate. Anyone who believes that this should disqualify my entry, feel free to comment. My feelings will not be hurt.

shilolo's avatar

By the way wildflower, what you may not realize is how many phone calls those pharmacists make during the day with the specific task of deciphering prescriptions. For example, “hello Dr. So-and-so, did you write for amoxicillin or ambien, maxair or maxalt, etc.” It seems transparent to you (and some sort of linguistic miracle), but often it boils down to direct communication.

wildflower's avatar

See, you shouldn’t have said that, that just begs the question: why not communicate clearer in the first place (writing prescriptions)?
I’ll be good now

urugeht's avatar

Well for me, I can cursive write faster than printing out every individual letter. So it’s really good for when you take notes. I guess it really depends on your career but it’s good to learn it early because who knows what you might want to do when you get older. Cursive writing is an asset and I think it’s really important that children learn it.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther