Mastering the dying art of cursive

Yes, kids should learn it

Kids, don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t fall for the story that it’s a dying art with no practical application in the modern world. Don’t allow computers with their word processing capabilities to rob you of this special skill. Yes, you really should learn cursive writing.

When I was a kid, cursive was on the curriculum for third or fourth grade. By the time I was in fifth grade, my friend Liz and I were tied for the best handwriting in the class. I loved the way my pen glided over the paper, forming loopy letters in one effortless stream. My favorite letter was capital J, the first letter of my middle name. I would write its big loop and its little loop with a joyful flourish that gave my name the aura of a celebrity autograph. A printed “J” has no such allure.

With the passage of time, cursive writing is still taught in the third grade, but it doesn’t command the authority that it once did. Kids learn typing at about the same time in school, and they can recognize the advantages of the keyboard over the pen. They think they can just stick to printing whenever handwriting is needed, and let the computer do the rest.

Wrong!

Kids, there are lots of reasons why you want to learn cursive writing.

It’s like a code. If you and your best friend are the only ones who can write in cursive, you can pass notes in full view of the rest of your gang, and they won’t have any idea what you’re saying.

You can keep your diary secret even if you lose the key. If your little brother doesn’t know how to read cursive, you can write your innermost thoughts and know that they are safe from his prying eyes.

You’ll be able to read ancient historical documents, like your mom’s old love letters that you found in a shoe box in the back of the hall closet. Just beware of showing off your cursive reading skills with this particular reading material.

[This 16-year-old student has published two graphic novels]

Believe it or not, it’s actually faster to write in cursive than it is to print. The letters are all attached together in cursive writing, so you never have to lift your pen from the paper. You can gain half a second on average for every word you write in cursive. You can literally lengthen your useful lifespan by writing in cursive rather than printing.

Even if you only write by typing, you still need to create a signature. If ever you’re asked to pledge your life, your fortune and your sacred honor, you need to have a signature worthy of such a declaration. Print just doesn’t cut it. You must sign your name in cursive.

Take it one step further. When you’re famous, you need to be able to appease the hordes of your fans who will beg you for an autograph. You’ll be writing your name over and over until your fingers fall off. At half a second faster each time you sign your name, you’ll gain enough time in the average autograph session to sneak in a few notes to pass to your best friend on the side. And you can take pride in the flowing appearance of your autograph, which may turn up in surprising places. You might see it on the corner of your masterpiece painting, or on the sweet spot of that home run ball or on a sidebar on your Wikipedia page. The last thing you want to see is a wimpy print signature.

As an adult, I confess that I do not achieve pure cursive writing anymore. My handwriting is a hybrid of cursive and print, with some letters in a word connected in a flowing script and others left hanging in staccato isolation. I print most of my capital letters, with the notable exception of “J.” I’ve lost my middle name to marriage, but I moved to a town that begins with the letter J, so whenever I write my address, I give the first letter of “Juneau” a special flourish. It makes me smile every time.


• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.


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