Is cursive dying?

OK so I’m pretty young (only 20) but I went to a traditional Catholic school. I was taught cursive as a script. I was not taught printing at all really past age 7 (of course I’ve picked it up from reading books and such though).

This is really starting to bum me out. I really like my handwriting but a lot of my peers can’t read it. And younger kids especially act like it’s my fault for having bad handwriting. Umm, no, my handwriting is not bad by any means. You just haven’t learned cursive.

I don’t know what to do because I hate the look of printing and I haven’t developed an attractive handwriting in that style. I really don’t want to change but I feel like in 10 years, I’ll be even more of a relic of the past trying to get people to adapt to my antiquated script.

I know this is the most trivial post ever but what do you think about this situation? Also, are your kids learning cursive at school?

I learned both cursive and print. I stopped writing in cursive in college because I wanted the people who read me to have an easy time grokking what I was trying to communicate instead of trying to score points for calligraphic style.

Aside from some style-intensive applications, the near extinction of cursive can’t come too soon. It definitely has its place on, say, decorator business cards or anything that is supposed to suggest old timey attention to these things, however.

Not that it can’t be pretty. It very much can although I doubt that most people can make it pretty and legible. It’s more likely to be ugly and difficult to read.

And yes, insisting on cursive will soon enough make it seem like this:

I learned both “proper” printing and cursive in grade school. I’ve probably forgotten 99% of how to write in cursive. My signature is M.D.-worthy, and when I do write by hand it’s printed.

I think it’s already dead. I believe, although I might be mistaken, that it’s no longer being taught in most U.S. elementary schools. Most kids under a certain age have never even seen it, aside from historical examples.

This was my first thought “you mean it’s not already dead?”

I was taught cursive too, but other than my signature I’ve never used it.

And even my signature can hardly be called “cursive”

I work in an elementary school and they do not teach cursive. Sometimes individual teachers will show it to the kids, but it is in no way mandated. I know of one teacher who is specifically doing a lesson on signatures just as something functional that the kids need to know, but that was on her own initiative.

I am 27 and went to American public schools. I was taught cursive in 3rd or 4th grade and every now and then there’d be that one crazy teacher who wanted us to write in cursive, but by the time I was in high school it was non-existent. In grad school, we were forced to copy a 3-sentence anti-cheating statement in cursive as part of the standardized Praxis exam and it took most of us at least 5 minutes to laboriously write the lines. At this point in my life, I find it irritatingly labor-intensive to read and even worse to write and will avoid cursive whenever possible. And it doesn’t really bother me that schools don’t teach it anymore because I think printing is perfectly fine and functional and it is much more of a handicap to not be able to keyboard.

At least on its very last legs.

My son is a high school senior. He had maybe a unit on cursive in second grade. A couple of years ago he spent the entire summer with his dad in another state. I resolved to write him letters often. After the second one he said that he really wanted to know what was going on but reading cursive was so difficult for him that reading the letters was unpleasant. I switched to typing them.

He does sign his name in cursive, but it looks the same as it did when he was eight. There just hasn’t been enough practice over the years to refine it.

Is this a US specific phenomenon, or global?

Perhaps because it’s no longer taught? The advantage of cursive - besides elegance, for those who master it - is that it’s faster than printing. The letters are connected, so that the pen does not need to come off the paper as often as with printing.

I’m not saying you’re wrong that cursive is on its way out, nor that keyboarding - I learned it as “typing” - is the more important skill in the digital age. But I think cursive still has its place. I was taught both in elementary school, but by the time I was an adult, only ever printed while writing. Only when I began using a fountain pen as my daily writer did I go back to cursive - writing a round hand with a good fountain pen on fine paper is very satisfying. To me, anyway. And it’s definitely faster.

I’m 37 and cursive was introduced in second grade, and compulsory by third grade.

We even had “penmanship” as a subject on our report cards through the end of elementary school. I never got the A on that one. My cursive was messy and my printing even worse. Usually got a C or maybe a B if the teacher was lenient.

I was slow to master cursive, but by college I was no longer getting complaints from teachers; I was getting complimented. I started to notice that a lot of my fellow students had switched back to printing - I always thought it was babyish to print if you knew cursive - but that was the tipping point, probably 1995 or 1996 and it was on the way out. I hardly ever see anyone write in cursive anymore, except signatures.

My great-grandmother’s generation, man, now THEY knew how to write - the perfectly formed letters, the evenly-spaced words, perfect slant, fancy curlicues and specialty crosses and flourishes! They used fountain pens like it was nothing.

I have a third grader and a second grader, and they are fascinated by the arcane way Mom writes. Cursive is not taught in their school at all. Indeed, not too much emphasis seems to be placed on handwriting skill.

However, they do start learning typing at a pretty early age, which is bound to be more useful in the long-term I suppose.


Reading other people’s cursive was a nightmare even before it went out of style, so I’m not sure “not having learned to read it” is really the issue. Of course, some people do have legible handwriting in cursive, but even 30 years agomaking it through the majority of peoples cursive was a chore.

FWIW: I still actually write a lot of cursive, but its almost always stuff I write down for my own use.

no, I think it’s dying because we simply don’t write as much by hand anymore. Most of the handwriting I do is filling out checks for my rent and car payment. for me, communicating with people is either spoken or by email/text message. at work I take meeting notes with my tablet.

Cursive is simply not important anymore.

45, catholic school, tortured in fourth grade learning cursive at great length…

By the time I was in college, before the internet or the OP was learning cursive, it was mostly dead to me. Aside from checks I didn’t use it. Now there’s only my signature. That’s more like “making my mark” than the cursive I was taught though.

In Princess Bride terms it’s already mostly dead with no hope for Miracle Max in it’s future.

I teach third grade, and the North Carolina legislature in its wisdom decreed that all students must know cursive by the end of fifth grade, so our district mandates that it be taught to all third graders. It’s part of a packaged scripted language program called Fundations that we must teach every day.

Sure, spending 45 minutes a day on this cursive and spelling program means that we only have 45 minutes left to teach science AND social studies AND writing combined, but hey, cursive’s important, right?

Print is dead. Cursive is deader. I’m 36 but I was typing almost everything by junior high and printing the rest. I learned cursive and more-or-less remember it, but it was never faster than print for me. I still don’t understand how cursive could possibly be faster; I’m limited by all those goddamn loops, not by how fast I can lift or drop the pen (which is instant).

Calligraphy can be cool, but it’s an art form, not a means of communication or record-keeping.

My printing style is excellent when I try. My drafting teacher pointed me out as an example for others (a good example).

I think the real problem with cursive in the past (and why there’s a pushback against it now) is that the older Palmer method and current D’Nealian method are both still overly complicated for what you actually want writing to do. It doesn’t need to look pretty, it needs to be legible while being written quickly. I figure there has to be a better version out there somewhere that just isn’t being taught.

Me neither. I’m 32 and I learned cursive in 2nd grade, and our schools required us to use it for anything to be turned in until 9th grade, but it was such a chore to write in. I could either write slow and legibly or fast and completely incoherently (such that even I couldn’t read what I wrote). I went back to printing exclusively as soon as cursive was no longer required. I can print very fast, although at top speed I am the only one who can read the result.

I used to work with an older lady who had very pretty cursive handwriting. I couldn’t make head or tail of it, though. It looked like a bunch of tall skinny loops, short round loops, and arcs, all crushed together and leaning over at a 70-degree angle. Not at all like letters, at least to my brain.

Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)

More recently, it has also been documented that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia.
This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive is the direct opposite of “great.” Contrary to myth, reversal in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my case-load, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”

Returning to current research: this is conclusively showing that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

Reading cursive still matters — but even children can be taught to read writing that is more complex than what they are encouraged to produce haven’t been taught to imitate. Reading cursive, simply reading it can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive,” of course — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?
(Teaching material designed for a practical style abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where a such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive which is revered by too many North American educators. Some examples, in several cases with student work also shown:,,,,, )

Even in the USA and Canada, educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it — let alone seek a legislative mandate for it, as cursive’s supporters in the USA are seeking in state after state?

Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you happy and graceful, adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant. (This is frequent in testimony given before state legislatures by the advocates of cursive, who are often state senators or representatives addressing their colleagues and/or their constituents in order to create support for a cursive mandate bill that the legislator has introduced.)

So far, whenever a legislator or other devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:

/1/ either the claim provides no traceable source,


/2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., the study most cited in defense of cursive is an Indiana University research study which was not even about cursive. That study — “Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Dr. Karin Harman-James — compares print-writing with keyboarding among kindergarteners. Since print-writing came out ahead, this study is perennially misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”)


/3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

Cursive devotees’ eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are commonly made — under oath — in testimony before state legislatures and other bodies voting on bills to mandate cursive handwriting in schools. The bills are, without exception so far, introduced by legislators whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — although investigative reporting of the questionable testimony does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when the discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill. (For documentation on a typical recent example in one state — North Carolina — see the sources noted below.)

What about cursive and signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
ALL writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

/1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at
/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

/3 Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at
The research most often misrepresented by devotees of cursive (Neural Correlates of Handwriting" by Dr. Karin Harman-James at Indiana University):
Hey! Welcome to your TextBoard.

Concerns about legislative misrepresentation in the name of cursive (documentation from North Carolina) —

Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:


(shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —

Yours for better letters,
Kate Gladstone •
CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
DIRECTOR, World Handwriting Contest

Much older than OP (33) but I can say cursive is pretty much gone in my professional sphere. I learned it like every other kid going to school in the early 90s. Was actually decent at it.

By about Sophomore year of HS computers with word processors were ubiquitous enough so that I never handed in another handwritten essay assignment.

Same in college, though I do remember a few “blue book” exams where we had to write the damn things out. Murder.

These days - I can barely write cursive at all. Nobody does. My hand actually cramps up if I try to write by hand for more than 5 minutes at a time. Handwritten notes are done in block lettering; I couldn’t imagine sending a colleague or a customer anything handwritten in cursive. Handwritten at all, really, unless it was notes appended to a printed sheet. Even my own signature is a mess, and really more of a scribble than the cursive I learned back in the day.

A bit wistful, since proper cursive does look nice, but I suspect it’s dead and gone.


There is a better version … In the USA, though, it just isn’t taught widely enough. Where it is taught, this better version is usually known as italic handwriting. Here are some links, to get you started (or simply to show you what it’s like) …