What is Cursive Writing?

Explore the timeless beauty of cursive writing. Learn about its rich history and modern-day relevance.

What is Cursive?

Cursive (joined-up writing) writing, also known as script or longhand, is a style of writing where the letters are connected in a flowing manner. This is as an alternative to block-letters, where you lift the pen up between every letter. 

A Brief History of Cursive Writing

The word “cursive” comes from the Middle French word “cursif,” which comes from the Medieval Latin word “cursivus,” meaning “running.” This makes sense because, in cursive writing, your pen moves smoothly across the page without lifting.

Ancient Roots

Cursive writing has been around for centuries. The earliest forms can be traced back to the Greeks and Romans. Back then, people used quills and ink to write. These tools had two main problems: the ink dried out quickly, and the quills broke easily. 

To solve this, they developed a writing style where the quill stayed on the page longer. This prevented the ink from drying out too fast and helped avoid breaking the quill. These ancient scripts evolved over time, adapting to the needs and tools of different cultures.

Ancient Roots

The Rise of Cursive in Education

Cursive writing has been around in the English language since before the 11th century. However, it became standardized in the 17th and 18th centuries. Edward Cocker introduced the French ronde style, and later, John Ayers and William Banson created the round hand style. These styles were fancy but were later simplified by clerks in the 18th and 19th centuries into a style called fair hand, which is similar to cursive today.

By the 17th and 18th centuries, cursive writing became the standard in European and American schools. It was seen as a necessary skill for educated individuals. The Spencerian script, developed by Platt Rogers Spencer in the mid-1800s, became the predominant form of cursive writing taught in schools in the United States.

Modern Times and Cursive

Cursive writing didn’t change much until the 1960s when some people tried to make it easier to learn by writing in italics. However, this idea didn’t catch on. The decline of cursive writing sped up with the invention of the ballpoint pen in 1888. The ballpoint pen used quick-drying ink, which made careful handwriting less necessary. After WWII, ballpoint pens became widely available, further reducing the use of cursive.

 

With the advent of computers and other technologies, the need for handwriting, especially cursive, decreased even more. Today, there’s still a debate about whether cursive is useful. Some people think technology has made it obsolete, while others believe cursive is still a valuable skill for writing quickly and beautifully.

The Basics of Cursive Writing

To achieve neat and consistent cursive handwriting, follow these simple rules:

 

  • Keep Similar Letters the Same Height
  • Start Small Letters at the Top:
  • Use Ovals and Parallel LinesKeep Capital Letters Consistent
  • Make Downward Strokes Parallel

What Makes Cursive Different from Print?

In print writing, each letter is separate and distinct. Each letter stands alone. Cursive writing, on the other hand, connects letters within a word which makes it a smoother and faster writing style. 

 

Cursive Writing Styles in English

Palmer Method

Palmer Method

Palmer Method

Overview: The Palmer Method, developed by Austin Norman Palmer in the late 19th century, became one of the most widely used handwriting systems in American schools throughout the 20th century.

Features:

  • Emphasis on Muscle Memory: The Palmer Method focuses on using the arm muscles rather than the fingers, promoting fluid and smooth movements.
  • Simple and Clear: The letters are designed to be simple, clear, and easy to write quickly, which made it suitable for both business and personal writing.
  • Uniformity: It stresses uniformity and regularity in the formation of letters and words.
  • Practice Drills: The method includes repetitive practice drills to reinforce the movements and muscle memory required for consistent handwriting.

Zaner-Bloser

Zaner-Bloser

Zaner-Bloser

Overview: Developed by Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser in the late 19th century, Zaner-Bloser is another popular handwriting style that has been used extensively in American schools.

Features:

  • Focus on Form: Zaner-Bloser places a strong emphasis on the form and structure of each letter, ensuring that they are easily recognizable.
  • Block to Cursive Transition: The method begins with teaching students block print letters and transitions to cursive writing as their skills develop.
  • Vertical Lines: It often uses vertical lines and rounded shapes, which contribute to its clean and legible appearance.
  • Teaching Aids: The system includes comprehensive teaching materials, such as workbooks and instructional guides.

Spencerian

Spencerian

Spencerian

Developed by Platt Rogers Spencer in the mid-19th century, Spencerian Script was the dominant handwriting style in the United States before the Palmer Method gained popularity.

Features:

  • Ornate and Decorative: Spencerian script is known for its beautiful, ornate loops and flourishes.
  • Light and Graceful: The style emphasizes light, graceful strokes with varying pressure to create thin and thick lines.
  • Business and Personal Use: Initially designed for business correspondence, it was also widely used for personal writing.
  • Instructional System: Spencerian includes a detailed system of practice drills and instructional guides to master the technique.

    D’Nealian

    D'Nealian

    D’Nealian

    Developed by Donald Thurber in the 1970s, D’Nealian is a modern handwriting style designed to ease the transition from print to cursive writing.

    Features:

    • Slanted Print: D’Nealian print letters are slightly slanted, resembling cursive forms, which helps students transition more easily to cursive writing.
    • Smooth Transition: The style aims to minimize the abrupt changes in letter shapes from print to cursive.
    • Consistency in Forms: Both print and cursive letters have similar forms, which helps students recognize and write them more consistently.
    • Educational Focus: It includes structured teaching methods and materials to support the learning process in schools.

    Cursive Writing Styles in English

    French Cursive (Cursive Française):

    French cursive

    French Cursive

      • Neat and consistent.
      • Rounded and well-connected letters.
      • Specific variations like a looped “r” and baseline-crossed “t”.
      • Elegant and flowing appearance.

    German Cursive (Kurrent):

    German cursive

    German Cursive

    •  Historical cursive script used until the early 20th century.
      • Angular and connected letters.
      • Difficult for modern readers to understand.

    Cyrillic Cursive (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian):

    Cyrillic Cursive

    Cyrillic Cursive

        • Different from printed Cyrillic.
        • Some letters change significantly in cursive.
        • Often looks more connected and fluid.

    Chinese Cursive (草书, Cǎoshū):

    Chinese Cursive (草书, Cǎoshū)

    Chinese Cursive (草书, Cǎoshū)

      • Highly stylized and abbreviated.
      • Very fluid, sacrifices clarity for speed and artistic expression.
      • Used in calligraphy.

    Devanagari Cursive (Hindi, other Indian languages):

    Devanagari Cursive

    Devanagari Cursive

      • Less common in everyday writing.
      • Used in calligraphy and artistic contexts.
      • Fluid connections, continuous flow.

    Greek Cursive:

    Greek Cursive

    Greek Cursive

      • Similar to Latin cursive in connecting some letters.
      • More rounded and connected than printed Greek.
      • Used mostly in handwritten Greek.

    Hebrew Cursive:

    Hebrew Cursive

    Hebrew Cursive

      • Used for informal writing.
      • Simplified and connected letters.
      • Common in everyday writing and note-taking.

    Benefits of Learning Cursive Writing

    Improved Motor Skills

    Improved Motor Skills

    Learning to write in cursive can enhance fine motor skills. The continuous movement required to form cursive letters helps develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

    Enhanced Brain Development

    Enhanced Brain Development

    Studies suggest that writing in cursive can stimulate brain activity. It engages more areas of the brain compared to typing or print writing, potentially improving cognitive development and memory retention.

    Faster Writing

    Faster Writing

    Cursive writing is generally faster than print writing. Because the letters are connected, you don’t have to lift your pen as often, making the writing process more efficient.

    Personal Expression

    Personal Expression

    Cursive writing allows for more personal expression. The unique style and flair of each person’s handwriting can convey personality and emotion, something that typed text can’t replicate.

    Cursive Writing in the Digital Age

    Cursive Writing in the Digital Age

    Cursive in Art and Design

    Cursive isn’t just for writing letters; it’s also used in art and design. Cursive can be used to create beautiful works of art. It can not only be a beautiful form of expression, but also a source of income for many artists. 

    Digital Tools for Cursive Practice

    Technology hasn’t completely sidelined cursive writing. There are many apps and online tools available that can help you practice and improve your cursive skills. These digital resources combine traditional handwriting practice with modern technology. Writey is one of them. We’re here to encourage young children and stundetns to learn cursive, and those who are already familiar with the basics to step up their game and improve their cursive skills. 

    The Return of the Cursive Writing in Schools

    Cursive writing isn’t just about neat handwriting; it offers significant cognitive benefits. It’s no surprise that some US states are reintroducing cursive writing in schools as studies highlight these benefits.

    Last year, Alabama and Louisiana made cursive writing mandatory in public schools, and New York City encouraged it for third graders. Kentucky, Ohio, and Florida are also considering similar requirements.

    According to the Education Commission of the States, at least five states have passed laws requiring cursive instruction in the past four years. It’s remarkable that handwriting is gaining renewed interest in our technology-driven world.

    A study from Indiana University found that cursive writing engages more areas of the brain and enhances cognitive abilities in children and adults. Handwriting expert Dr. Marc Seifer, author of “The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis,” notes that writing by hand can have a calming effect, which may explain why many people keep journals.

    How to Learn Cursive Writing

    Step 1. Start with the Basics

    Start with the Basics of Cursive

    Trainings

     

    Begin with the lowercase letters. Practice writing each letter individually, focusing on the correct form and flow. You cans sart with paper but there are definitely easier ways to learn cursive. 

    If you open Writey and go to the “Cursive“ lessons, you’ll see different sections each dedicated to developing and learning your new cursive skills.

    Try to practice in the training section until you feel comfortable.

     

    Step 2: Practice Lowercase Letters

    Practice Lowercase Letters

    lowercase letters

    Start by practicing lowercase letters. Focus on perfecting the shape of each letter. Ensure that your letters have a consistent slant and are correctly connected. This step is crucial for making your cursive writing clear and readable, which is especially important in academic settings, including when using italicized citations in research papers.

    Step 3: Move to Uppercase Letters

    After mastering lowercase letters, start practicing uppercase letters. Focus on the distinct features of each uppercase letter and how they connect with lowercase letters.

     

    Step 4: Practice Connecting Letters

    Practice Connecting Letters

    Connecting Letters

    Begin practicing how to connect letters smoothly. Focus on making seamless transitions between letters to enhance the flow and readability of your cursive writing.

     

    Step 5: Develop a Consistent Slant

    Cursive writing typically slants to the right. Focus on keeping this slant consistent throughout your writing to improve its overall look and readability.

     

    Step 6: Practice Simple Words

    Practice Frequent Words

    Frequent Words

    Start writing common words and short sentences, such as “is,” “your,” and “to.” This helps you get comfortable with connecting letters and improves your overall fluency in cursive writing

     

    Step 7: Learn to Write Words

    Practice Simple Words

    Simple Words

     

    There is a collection of different words in Writer that you can practice. They are categorized alphabetically. There are also calendar words at the bottom of the Learn tab. You can also add any word you want in the Practice tab to learn and practice.

    There isn’t a fixed order for teaching cursive writing, but experts offer some useful tips. 

    Children usually start learning cursive at around age seven, which is typically in first or second grade. Mastering cursive takes time, but by around age nine, most children can write in cursive independently.

    Kids generally learn lower-case letters before upper-case ones. A common sequence for learning cursive letters might be:

    1. c, a, d, g, q
    2. i, t, p, u, w, j
    3. e, l, f, h
    4. k, r, s
    5. b, o, v
    6. m, n, y, x, z

    Practice Consistently

    Like any skill, practice is essential. Spend a few minutes each day writing in cursive. Start with simple words and gradually move on to more complex sentences.

    Be Patient

    Learning cursive takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if your writing isn’t perfect right away. Keep practicing, and you’ll see improvement over time.

    Cursive writing is a unique and valuable skill that has a rich history and many benefits. Cursive is still important for improving motor skills, boosting brain development, and adding a personal touch to your writing.  With a bit of practice and patience, anyone can enjoy the advantages of cursive writing.