Why No One Uses Cursive

Can you name someone under the age of 50 who has nice penmanship? I don’t mean someone who prints well, or someone who knows calligraphy — I mean someone who actually has beautiful handwriting and uses it more often than they print.  (If you do, I’m amazed.)  And here’s why.

Modern Cursive

This is modern cursive as you see it in the books and posters that they use in school.

Compare it to this:

Constitution of the United States

For reasons unknown to me, the style of penmanship taught in schools changed sometime between the early 1900’s and the 1950’s (or thereabouts).  It went from being beautiful and easy to use, to some kind of tortured-looking, unattractive thing that is really awkward to write with.

The antique style of penmanship was all about angles, and was formed with just a few basic types of line that give its uniform appearance and nice slant. This made it easier on the hand and arm, and gave writing a more uniform appearance.

The mysterious lowercase s and r, and that weird Q that looks a 2?  They’re a mutation of the original letters, which actually looked like s’s and r’s and q’s.  You can see it if you find a good example of antique handwriting.

So, upon making this profound discovery at the age of 14, I washed dishes until I saved up enough money to buy this reproduction Spencerian penmanship copybook set. (At the time, I think it cost about $12 — it’s still a bargain at $21.) And I re-taught myself to write. I think it was the best $12 I ever spent.

About Charity

I have an inexcusable number of cookbooks (and like to experiment with them), have worked in architectural antiques, and have been sewing most of my life. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, & Design from Iowa State University. Doing household things (except for cleaning!) and hunting for antiques are my favorite pastimes.
This entry was posted in Ruminating, Reminiscing, & Rambling. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why No One Uses Cursive

  1. Tiffany says:

    Well, I actually do write in cursive. If I’m just being lazy like when I’m quickly jotting down notes in class, it’s often a blend of cursive and and print, but mostly cursive. But your book sounds awesome! I want to learn to write like that!

  2. I write in cursive sometimes. What I have found, which as shocked me, is that a lot of kiddos now do not know how to write in cursive. I can remember learning cursive in the third grade, and I even had to be able to write in cursive to take one of my graduate school entrance exams. So, it kind of worries me that a lot students don’t know any cursive, pretty or not. It’s especially quick for note taking if you can ever get use to it (I, too, often find myself doing this odd cursive-print combo), but like you pointed out, it kind of makes my hand hurt. Then, after awhile, my cursive goes from kind of pretty to screaming “This girl’s hand is about to fall off!” My print is way better. I am REALLY wanting to learn calligraphy or something since I am getting married (and because I like stuff like that, lol). Instead of paying a calligrapher or printing “calligraphy” from Word onto my envelopes or even TRACING the calligraphy I have printed from Word onto my envelopes, I’d rather just know how to do it myself, even if it does take a long time. I may have to splurge on this book you’ve presented. 🙂

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