The benefits of learning cursive

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - How often do you use cursive?  Probably not as often as you once did.

The belief is that cursive started fading away once home computers became common. Since computers print letters, it is a more common style for the younger generation to read.  But according to some studies, cursive writing has benefits that should have more people using it.

“They have found a connection between learning cursive and some brain development in areas of literacy and other areas that affect academic skills,” said Valerie Zaryczny, an instructor with "Handwriting Without Tears."

We sat in on a class with Zaryczny while she was instructing a group of teachers the best handwriting and cursive skills.  Valerie said in these classes she often gets questioned on the importance of cursive writing, especially since teaching cursive is not mandated in Michigan.  The excuses include:

  • “We don’t have time to teach it."
  • "It’s a dying art that no one is going to be using."
  • "It’s not in the common core."

Part of Zaryczny’s curriculum through “Handwriting Without Tears” is explaining cursive’s benefits.  Zaryczny explains that cursive writing has shown to improve comprehension with note taking. The studies also found students who take the S.A.T. in cursive, score significantly higher than students who print their answers.

“What they concluded was, when you’re writing in cursive, you’re able to focus on the content more.  It just kind of flows, the handwriting part.  So, you’re not thinking of the formation as much,” said Zaryczny.

Zaryczny also said students who learn to write and read cursive, while they may not always use it, often develop a cursive-print hybrid.

"You’re joining some letters, not all of them, but you wouldn’t have developed that fast handwriting without learning cursive”, said Zaryczny.

Lastly, Zaryczny said no matter how much a student actually uses cursive, they should at least learn how to read it, adding, “We have heard from grandmothers all over the world who write their grandkids in cursive, and they can’t read it, and that’s sad.”

For more information on Handwriting Without Tears, go to

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  • Kate Gladstone

    It is important to point out certain significant errors in the statements made by your main interviewee, Ms. Zarynczny.

    /1/ When she describes the fast handwriting that’s permitted by a partly joined “cursive-print hybrid,” as she calls it, she makes the common mistake of assuming that “you wouldn’t have developed that fast handwriting without learning cursive.” That assumption’s false.
    Partly joined, print-like handwriting — which we, today, often call a hybrid — actually existed _before_ its later spin-offs of cursive and printed handwriting as we know them today. The efficient partly joined print, which Zarynczny supposes to depend on cursive, was the standard style of the first-ever published handwriting textbooks (Renaissance era) — the cursive that (she imagines) it “wouldn’t have developed without” didn’t even start to exist till over a hundred years later (the Baroque era). When Zarynczny assumes otherwise, she’s assuming that history happened in reverse. (It’s like assuming that bread could not have been invented until we had Twinkies.)

    It was also interesting to read her assertion on SAT scores. She describes the differences between the SAT scores of print-writers and cursive writers as “significant” — using SAT research results which (when anyone actually contacts the College Board and/or the researchers who did the work) are descrived by those researchers (who actually did the work) as showing actually _insignificant_ (direct quote) differences between the scores of cursive writers versus print-writers. (The score difference was 0.2 points, and was smaller, for instance than the score differences between males and females taking the same exam.) It would be interesting to know how Zaryczny decided that she was on safe ground in reporting as “significant” something that the researchers (who did the work) report as “insignificant.” I will leave it to her to provide any explanation she can.

    Kate Gladstone
    Director, World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

  • Kate Gladstone

    Handwriting matters — does cursive? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    Further research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. They join only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving others unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Teaching material for such practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where this is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive that too many North American educators venerate. (Again, sources are available on request.)

    Reading cursive — which still matters — is much easier and quicker to master than writing cursive. Reading cursive can be mastered in just 30 to 60 minutes, even by kids who print.
    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive.” Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach it explicitly and quickly, for free, instead of leaving this vital skill to depend upon learning to write in cursive?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser.. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. Most — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

    When even most handwriting teachers do not follow cursive, why glorify it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders allege that cursive has benefits justifying absolutely anything said or done to promote it. Cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly allege research support — repeatedly citing studies that were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant or by some other, earlier misrepresenter whom the claimant innocently trusts.

    What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: 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 (specialists in the identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) find that the least forgeable signatures are plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if following cursive’s rules at all, are fairly complicated: easing forgery.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual. That is how any first-grade teacher immediately discerns (from print-writing on unsigned work) which child produced it.

    Mandating cursive to save handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to save clothing.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

    • Andrew Haber

      The proponents of cursive correctly acknowledge that there is form of handwriting witch has features in common with both cursive and printed writings. (Such partly joined hadwriting is often faster and more legible than either of the conventional forms). However, cursive’s defenders are mistaken in claiming that such efficiently semi-joined handwriting depends on cursive.
      Semi-joined writing with a preponderance of print-like forms existed — and was the standard style of handwriting textbooks — long before the Baroque Era beginnings of the 100% joined cursive that my generation grew up with.

  • Leslie Fish

    “Cursive” simply means “running”, and applied to writing, it simply means “script”. There are many more forms of script than what’s commonly taught in our schools — which is properly called “Palmer Method”. Palmer Method, frankly, is one of the worst forms of script ever invented — likely to degenerate into that illegible scribble for which doctors are so notorious (which has cost us tens of thousands of lives due to “medical error”, as any nurse or pharmacist can tell you). The Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written in a form called Copperplate, the Mayflower Compact was written in another form called Italic, and Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets in a form called English Secretary. Any of these are easier to teach, quicker to learn, and keep their legibility longer than Palmer Method! If we’re going to teach “cursive” in the schools, let’s at least choose a better method than this!

    • Kate Gladstone

      Actually, English Secretary script (which Shakespeare used) is as problematic in some ways as Palmer or any other form of today’s conventional cursive. In fact, English Secretary script is as hard to decipher for most people today (including cursive writers) as cursive is to decipher if you have only ever seen print-writing. The “decoder key” in both cases is the same: be shown how those perplexingly unfamiliar letter-forms evolved (or devolved), each and every one of them, from earlier and clearer versions in an originally simpler style.

    • Kate Gladstone

      It is amusing and instructive to remember that, even in the 19th century — when cursive was rigorously taught, and printing was not taught or permitted in handwriting class or elsewhere — handwriting trouble was frequently observed and mentioned. One example, from a magazine published in cursive’s heyday:
      “The hand-writing in our public schools looks now like chicken feet, and should our children be compelled to study the chicken language they would soon become chicken-hearted too.” [GENTLEMAN FARMER magazine, vol. 6 (1899), p. 71; retrieved from ]

    • Kate Gladstone

      The last time I saw, some of its material misrepresented various research on our handwriting. Do you know whether those misrepresentations have at long last been corrected?

        • Kate Gladstone

          Here’s a misrepresentation made or endorsed by (on the site, which is what opens when one enters in the browser window) —

          The site’s blog-page at includes a link to the cursive campaign’s promotional PowerPoint at (a page on the site of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation,M which created and supports Cursive is Cool/the Campaign for Cursive) … and Slide 7 of that PowerPoint misrepresents the findings of a research study.
          The research study, which had compared MRIs produced by kindergarteners who had been either keyboarding or using print-writing, is misrepresented as having found good MRI results in users of cursive … although no users of cursive had actually been in the study.

          If claiming that cursive was supported by findings in a study that included only printing vs. keyboarding isn’t misrepresentation of the study findings, then what is it?

          Now that I’ve identified a factual misrepresentation made by Cursive is Cool/Campaign for Cursive, can you explain it — or explain it away? Can you identify any factual misrepresentation made by me?

        • Kate Gladstone

          Would a trait of tending to “misrepresent” show up in a handwriting analysis?

          Analysis of my handwriting, which was done on May 22, 2016 (yes, today) by (Sheila Kurtz’s firm), says the following about my character in the relevant area:

          “You are sincere and forthright in your communications. There is not much that can cloud your thinking. People tend to respect your word because you say what you mean and mean what you say.”

          (“Sincere and forthright” is the diametric opposite of misrepresentation.)

          So that you can verify this for yourself, the entire analysis of my handwriting is online at

          The handwriting sample that I sent in for the analysis is online at

          Please tell me, as a handwriting analyst, whether you think I should reject a handwriting analyst’s finding that I am “sincere and forthright.”

        • Kate Gladstone

          Would a trait of tending to “misrepresent” show up in a handwriting analysis?

          Professional analysis of my handwriting, which was done on May 22, 2016 (yes, today) by (Sheila Kurtz’s firm) is available on request (as is my handwriting sample that I submitted for the analysis.) Here is what that professional analysis finds, in the relevant area (“Communication”):

          “You are sincere and forthright in your communications. There is not much that can cloud your thinking. People tend to respect your word because you say what you mean and mean what you say.”

          (“Sincere and forthright” is the diametric opposite of misrepresentation.)

          Please tell me, as a handwriting analyst, whether you think I should reject a handwriting analyst’s professional finding that I am “sincere and forthright.”