If you were in elementary school pre-2010, you probably learned cursive writing around third grade. Maybe you were excited to decipher all those loopy letters and add some formality to your writing. Maybe you dreaded every second of practicing on that awful lined paper. Either way, you probably asked yourself, why am I doing this?
Who invented cursive handwriting? Why do we use it, and how did it start? After thousands of years, it’s incredible that cursive has survived despite its removal from most modern curriculums. It begs the question, is cursive still relevant today?
Just like with many thousands-of-years-old practices, cursive writing was more of a collective effort than something we can attribute to one person. It goes as far back as the Roman Empire, after written language first developed.
Since then, a lot of people have dipped their pens in the cursive ink. Scripts and styles have changed since the fifth century A.D. In the eighth century, English monks created the Carolingian script — basically the earliest form of standardized cursive that others built upon.
This script evolved during medieval times and became harder to read before the Renaissance revived the Carolingian way. The earliest form of cursive you probably know is called Copperplate — this is the style used in the Declaration of Independence.
A teacher named Platt Rogers Spencer really kicked off cursive as we know it today. He simplified the writing system in the 19th century, and Austin Palmer used that to create the Palmer Method. His idea was to make cursive writing more practical and lose the fancy flourishes from the Renaissance days. Of course, there were people who preferred fancier versions of the script and lamented its loss.
Cursive writing has been used less and less since the 1980s. Quite simply, since computers became the new big thing, people don’t write as much by hand. Schools teach computer skills instead of penmanship. So is there still a use for cursive? Absolutely!
Handwriting helps us remember. This goes for all handwriting, not just cursive. The Wall Street Journal says that actively forming letters with pen and paper reinforces concepts and helps the brain remember. It’s a lot more effective than just reading and memorizing, especially for kids. That’s why so many teachers stress taking notes by hand — they know that many students who put pen to paper tend to remember concepts better.
Not to mention, you’ll always need to use writing utensils at some point. Maybe you need to scribble a note or mark something in a textbook. Maybe your phone died, and you can’t type an appointment into your calendar. Technology is good, but it’s not omnipotent. And cursive makes writing faster, so if you really hate writing, it’s actually your friend.
Cursive might look like just another pretty script, but it’s more than that. It was developed for a reason, and that has kept it alive for thousands of years. It’s evolved, but that only shows its versatility. If you’ve learned cursive, maybe it’s time to start using it again. If you haven’t, pick up a pen and start writing!