Dan Smith
"Cursive" writing and penmanship

In the United States, in the past, students were first taught to write individual letters, using shapes similar to this typeface. This was called "manuscript." Around third grade, we were taught "cursive," connected handwriting in which each letter is joined to the next, and the letter forms are altered to make them easy to draw in one continuous stroke.

I found it very puzzling--I thought we were learning a whole new alphabet, because the letter "n" looked to me like "m" and the letter "m" looked to me like a shape with <em>three ∩ shapes, ∩∩∩. </em>

The letter models, posted in classrooms, looked like these:


Outside of school, "cursive" writing was simply called "handwriting," and the art of good handwriting was called "penmanship."

Currently, there is a sort of national debate going on--in the U.S. schools are extremely decentralized so decisions are made locally. Most writing is now done at keyboards. The national common core standards don't require cursive writing to be taught. Some school systems are abandoning it, some are retaining it.

What's happening in your country? 

Dec 24, 2015 2:26 AM
Comments · 9

Dan, this is a great discussion, but I doubt that I am able to express some thoughts clearly. I am still a baby in the English language learning journey.
Basically, we were learning Pinyin (phonetic transcription) and stroke at first, then we taught manuscript, we call it ZhengKai (regular script). We are not allowed to use cursive for homeworks or examination papers(I hope I understood this word in proper way), every character need to be wrote independently. But this is just only for your homework or examination papers, we also can learn penmanship from school or calligraphy classes so long as who wanted . I am not sure if you have ever heard of MaoBIZi(brush calligraphy), it does count the earliest ancestor of our penmanship. This penmanship also can be sorted into many scripts, it’s not easy to write it well, a lot of people are practising it year after year so as to improve, I have been considerating to take that classes as well, good handwriting is not the only reason I want to do it, being calm and relaxing are more attractive me.
As time goes on, it’s inevitablely we switched the handwriting to keyboards. Personally, I think they should remain to teach cursive, otherwise, I guess pen retailers would disappear as well.
You may confused about what I wrote, many sentences don't make sense, but I really like this topic, just cannot help writing some words,thank you, Dan.

December 26, 2015

Hah! The only good thing that came out of learning cursive is that I do have a scrawly signature that is full of character. But nowadays I don't think signatures are very important. Computers are starting to do everything with fingerprints and iris scans and password tokens... and Coursera, the online education website, wanted me to type in something so that it could detect something about the <em>characteristic rhythm of my typing.</em>

December 29, 2015

Sarah, regardless of how you might be graded in an examination, you are able to express yourself effectively in English. You communicate well and I was able to understand you perfectly. 

December 28, 2015

Okay, I'm an English speaker but wanted to jump into this discussion anyhow.

I think being able to express words with nice writing is a wonderful, and even important, thing. There is certainly some practicality to not having to be a borg in order to write effectively. If you wake up in the middle of the night and want to scrawl something down, or if you are in the woods, or in jail, or whatever. Moreover, it creates a sort of harmony in communication. Many psychologists have long held the idea that we have two main systems of memory, one phonological and another visiospatial (both related to an 'episodic buffer'). If you want to learn or create new scripts, too, you needn't be bound to your keyboard or operating system, and you will necessarily see connections between scripts. If this matters to you, then handwriting matters.

Seeing old handwritten documents, for me, generally gives more sense of character than typed ones or transcriptions. That's not to say that there aren't good places for the character of typed print. Typed print can be reproduced and edited easily as well, of course, but OCR is pretty good at recognizing handwriting, and is only getting better.

My daughter's school taught her to hook the bottom of her letters first thing, so connecting letters in cursive is not much of a leap. I think that's a great idea; her handwriting is nice. That said, though, I don't think there's anything magical about the form of cursive they teach in schools, probably some sort of semi-cursive would be better.

I guess I need to look into Common Core more. I actually liked the ideas I had read about it, but I don't like this one, and I've had misgivings about the assignments my daughter is given (although that probably has little to do with Common Core).

December 29, 2015

Most people don't know how to read or write cursive. When I was in 3rd grade it was required that everyone, including teachers, write in cursive. However, now it seems that the U.S has completely abandoned it (well at least California amyways) because I've seen people only a few years younger than me not being able to read or write cursive. It's especially alarming when they don't even have a signature to sign with, and they're close to being an "adult" at 18... 

December 29, 2015
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