Sunday, May 8, 2011


A mere coincidence: In today’s Parade Magazine, Marilyn vos Savant answered the question “Do you think we should continue to teach our children cursive handwriting?”  Her thoughts and mine are in agreement. I had this essay ready to post at a later date, but today is as good as day as any.  Happy Mother’s Day.
The ‘handwriting on the wall’ may literally spell the doom of cursive penmanship. Not in the near future, but it is extremely likely that cursive is going the way of the dodo.  Contrary to popular belief it is still widely taught – but that’s “widely”, not “universally”.  Where it is taught the teachers try to give at least fifteen minutes a day to the subject, but with all the claims on their time and the increasing amount of material to be taught that fifteen minutes can quickly shrink to zero. In the long run it may not be necessary at all.
I am often complimented on my handwriting, but these days most of my handwriting is on memos to myself, grocery lists, greeting cards, and the very few checks I write. Both my parents had good penmanship, so maybe it is in my genes, but a large amount of credit goes to the nuns who taught me in the first few grades of elementary school.  Every once in a while I write a really good t, and I say to myself: “Sister would like that one!” I once had to cover the blackboard with t’s as a punishment for doing them incorrectly.  Those of you who had nuns in school, did you ever know one who didn’t have good handwriting?  Those nuns had nuns.
I’ve got two older grandchildren who were first taught printing, then cursive in New York.  Their two younger sisters were taught only printing in Texas. Even before I look at the signature, I’ve no trouble telling who is writing to me when they send a note.  The younger girls are just as quick and facile with their printing as the cursive two. By the time they have to begin signing for things – licenses, voting, passports, and the like – their hand-printed signatures will be perfectly unique. 
Printing can be as distinguishable and individualized as cursive. There is no law that a signature must be in cursive.  To the contrary, in commercial law, any name, word, or mark used with the intention to authenticate a writing constitutes a signature.  Many times when I was in banking I had to witness and attest to a “signature”, a mark that was just an X. 
In many instances, printing is much more clear and readable than cursive.  It’s good that our doctors no longer give us handwritten prescriptions.  There should be no ambiguity about what meds are to be dispensed.  They can send prescriptions on-line or, barring that, provide us with a machine-printed sheet to bring to our pharmacist.
When I cast my thoughts ahead several years I can envision a time when we’ll never have to take pen in hand at all.  Police in many areas are now able to enter the pertinent information into a hand-held device and print out a speeding ticket for you. Many computers have speech recognition input capabilities: the words you speak are printed on the screen. You may have encountered another type of speech recognition, perhaps when phoning your credit card company.  It’s annoying because we’re not accustomed to talking out loud and replying to a computerized voice – annoying, but it does work.
Electronically-encoded finger prints, retina prints, our voice pattern, or even our DNA might one day be our own inimitable signatures.  Anything that now comes in the mail - catalogs, cards, bills, or notifications of any kind - will come to us on line.  Like cursive writing, paper itself may be becoming obsolete.  That should save a lot of trees.
Update on March 9, 2013.  You may want to read this article,
The Curse of Cursive.  Quite interesting.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on that. I recently realized that now that I'm retired, basically the only hand-writing I do is on the VERY occasional cheque, or to sign a legal form - again, very occasionally.

    I do virtually all my banking and bill-paying online; I use credit or debit chip cards whenever I buy anything; and I do a good deal of creative writing - all of it on my computer.

    My cursive handwriting, because I rarely use it, no longer flows easily. My mind knows how I used to form the letters, but my fingers have almost forgotten.

    My own children learned cursive writing, and used it all the time when they were young. Then along came computers, and iphones, and ipads; and and they moved from writing to text messaging long before I did.

    Sad to say, speaking as a Baby Boomer on the tip of that iceberg, I may well be the last generation who will even notice the loss!