In the US, teaching cursive to students is a hot topic. Do we dedicate our tax dollars to teaching an arguably impractical skill, or do we honor tradition and keep cursive writing alive? The different sides taken in this debate are starting to show in my inbox as teenage calligraphy learners — who were never taught how to write in cursive — ask whether not knowing cursive will affect their ability to learn dip pen calligraphy.
The answer? Well, it probably does affect your learning ability, yes. It’s certainly helpful to know how letters connect to each other in regular cursive before you decide to tackle dip pen calligraphy styles. If you don’t know how to write in cursive, though, that news shouldn’t make you give up your goals! Instead, try learning cursive first.
What Is Cursive?
When we refer to “cursive writing”, we mean writing that features letters that are connected together. Many of those letters are recognizable to those who can read print. Some letters — like the uppercase “Q” and lowercase “b” — look completely different than print, but once you see the letter once, you’ll remember what it looks like next time!
Cursive was originally developed as a way to write more quickly and efficiently. You hardly lift your pen from the paper while writing cursive, which makes for faster work! That used to be important because before the age of pens, people used to write with quills. Quills are delicate and temperamental, so the more time they could spend in constant contact with the paper, the better!
Is Cursive Still Relevant?
The relevancy of cursive is a debate that no one can quite agree on. For example, E! Online published an article claiming that cursive is a “big old waste of time”. Time disagrees, touting the benefits of cursive as a way to teach children to think of words as wholes instead of parts (because the letters are linked). The Time article also posits that people with dyslexia tend to benefit from reading and writing cursive.
I have no compelling arguments for learning cursive. Do I think it should be taught in schools? Yes. But, still: I can’t claim that a person cannot function in the “real world” without learning it. The majority of our communication is conducted through printed letters like the ones you’re reading at this very moment, after all. And yet … for me, personally, knowing how to write in cursive has led to rewarding experiences. When I was little, people often complimented my handwriting (and I have to admit that I admired it, too). In my early 20’s, my cursive knowledge helped me to learn dip pen calligraphy without feeling intimidated by letterforms or connections between letters. And, of course, as someone who can write cursive, I can also read it, which has come in handy on numerous occasions.
Teach Yourself How to Write in Cursive
Several schools in the US incorporate cursive into their third grade curriculum, which is when I learned. And if a third grader can do it … you’ve got this! Remember that cursive is nothing more than connected letters. Most of the letters just look like fancier versions of their print counterparts! Sure, there are a few letters that don’t, but you can memorize those.
If you want to teach yourself cursive, I made a cursive exemplar that should really help. You can download that exemplar by clicking here. The first page of the exemplar shows what simple cursive letters look like. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to look at a letter and just know how to write it, so the second part of the first page uses letters and dots to show how to form each letter.
The second page of the exemplar goes over some very simple rules. All lowercase letters can connect to the letters before or after them, and the exemplar will show you those connections. Uppercase letters are a toss-up: some of them you can connect, while others should stand alone. You’ll find examples of those letters as well.
If you want to learn cursive, the best thing to do is jump in and write it! Keep the exemplar handy as you write out grocery or to-do lists, short notes, or addresses on envelopes. At first, the going will be slow as you try to adjust to connecting your letters and learning some new letterforms. After just a bit, though, you’ll be writing like a pro!
For those who need intensive practice, you can find several helpful printables on the K5 Learning website. If you already know how to write in cursive and simply want to improve your handwriting, you’ll enjoy the 8 Tips to Improve Your Handwriting blog post.
As you venture to shake up your everyday writing, remember that you can customize your letters to reflect your personal style! The letters on today’s calligraphy exemplar are very generic, and great for learning, but you should feel free to modify them after you commit them to memory. Take a look at handwriting inspiration examples, experiment with different letterforms (perhaps a mix of print and cursive), and don’t get discouraged if your writing looks better some days than it does on other days! That’s just life, and that beautiful inconsistency is why we choose to handwrite things rather than type them out sometimes.
I hope that the cursive exemplar from today’s post helps you to learn how to write in cursive — or helps you to teach a loved one to write in cursive. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Otherwise, I’m curious to hear your stance on whether cursive is relevant or not anymore. According to my mother, for example, it should be taught, but only as an elective art course. What do you think?
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and have a great weekend!