Cursive (also known as script, longhand or joined-up writing, among
other names[note 1]) is any style of penmanship in which some
characters are written joined together in a flowing manner, generally
for the purpose of making writing faster. Formal cursive is generally
joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts.
The writing style can be further divided as "looped", "italic" or
The cursive method is used with a number of alphabets due to its
improved writing speed and infrequent pen lifting. In some alphabets,
many or all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word
one single complex stroke.
6 Western Europe
6.1.1 Decline of English cursive in the United States
6.1.2 Conservation efforts and cognitive benefits
10 See also
13 External links
Cursive is a style of penmanship in which the symbols of the language
are written in a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the
purpose of making writing faster. This writing style is distinct from
"printscript" using block letters, in which the letters of a word are
unconnected and in Roman/Gothic letterform rather than joined-up
script. Not all cursive copybooks join all letters: formal cursive is
generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen
lifts. In the Arabic, Syriac, Latin, and
Cyrillic alphabets, many or
all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word one
single complex stroke. In Hebrew cursive and Roman cursive, the
letters are not connected. In Maharashtra there is a version of
Cursive called 'Modi'
Ligature is writing the letters of words with lines connecting the
letters so that one does not have to pick up the pen or pencil between
letters. Commonly some of the letters are written in a looped manner
to facilitate the connections. In common printed Greek texts, the
modern small letter fonts are called "cursive" (as opposed to uncial)
though the letters do not connect.
Looped cursive as taught in Britain in mid-20th century
In looped cursive penmanship, some ascenders and descenders have loops
which provide for joins. This is generally what people refer to when
they say "cursive".
Cursive italic penmanship—derived from chancery cursive—uses
non-looped joins or no joins. In italic cursive, there are no joins
from g, j, q or y, and a few other joins are discouraged.[not in
citation given] Italic penmanship became popular in the 15th-century
Italian Renaissance. The term "italic" as it relates to handwriting is
not to be confused with italic typed letters that slant forward. Many,
but not all, letters in the handwriting of the Renaissance were
joined, as most are today in cursive italic.
The origins of the cursive method are associated with practical
advantages of writing speed and infrequent pen-lifting to accommodate
the limitations of the quill. Quills are fragile, easily broken, and
will spatter unless used properly. Steel dip pens followed quills;
they were sturdier, but still had some limitations. The individuality
of the provenance of a document (see Signature) was a factor also, as
opposed to machine font.
Cursive was also favored because the
writing tool was rarely taken off the paper. The term cursive derives
from the 18th century Italian corsivo from
Medieval Latin cursivus,
which literally means running. This term in turn derives from Latin
currere ("to run, hasten").
Half of the
National Anthem of Bangladesh
National Anthem of Bangladesh written in
In Bengali cursive script  (also known in Bengali as "professional
writing") the letters are more likely to be more
curvy in appearance than in standard Bengali handwriting. Also, the
horizontal supporting bar on each letter (matra) runs continuously
through the entire word, unlike in standard handwriting. This cursive
handwriting often used by literature experts differs in appearance
from the standard Bengali alphabet as it is free hand writing, where
sometimes the alphabets are complex and appear different from the
standard handwriting.
Main article: Roman cursive
Example of old Roman cursive.
Roman cursive is a form of handwriting (or a script) used in ancient
Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages. It is customarily
divided into old (or ancient) cursive, and new cursive. Old Roman
cursive, also called majuscule cursive and capitalis cursive, was the
everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants
writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Latin
alphabet, and even by emperors issuing commands. New Roman, also
called minuscule cursive or later cursive, developed from old cursive.
It was used from approximately the 3rd century to the 7th century, and
uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern eyes; "a", "b",
"d", and "e" have taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters
are proportionate to each other rather than varying wildly in size and
placement on a line.
Main article: History of the Greek alphabet
Ancient Greek cursive script, 6th century A.D.
Greek alphabet has had several cursive forms in the course of its
development. In antiquity, a cursive form of handwriting was used in
writing on papyrus. It employed slanted and partly connected letter
forms as well as many ligatures. Some features of this handwriting
were later adopted into Greek minuscule, the dominant form of
handwriting in the medieval and early modern era. In the 19th and 20th
centuries, an entirely new form of cursive Greek, more similar to
contemporary Western European cursive scripts, was developed.
During the Middle Ages, the flowing, connected cursive script of the
Arabic language inspired Western Christian scholars to develop similar
cursive scripts for Latin. These scripts then became the basis for
all of the Latin-based cursive scripts used in Europe.
Cursive in English letter from 1894
William Shakespeare's will, written in secretary hand
Cursive writing was used in English before the Norman conquest.
Anglo-Saxon Charters typically include a boundary clause written in
Old English in a cursive script. A cursive handwriting
style—secretary hand—was widely used for both personal
correspondence and official documents in England from early in the
Cursive handwriting developed into something approximating its current
form from the 17th century, but its use was neither uniform, nor
standardized either in England itself or elsewhere in the British
Empire. In the English colonies of the early 17th century, most of the
letters are clearly separated in the handwriting of William Bradford,
though a few were joined as in a cursive hand. In England itself,
Edward Cocker had begun to introduce a version of the French ronde
style, which was then further developed and popularized throughout the
British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries as round hand by John
Ayers and William Banson.
In the American colonies, on the eve of their independence from the
Kingdom of Great Britain, it is notable that
Thomas Jefferson joined
most, but not all the letters when drafting the United States
Declaration of Independence. However, a few days later, Timothy
Matlack professionally re-wrote the presentation copy of the
Declaration in a fully joined, cursive hand. Eighty-seven years later,
in the middle of the 19th century,
Abraham Lincoln drafted the
Gettysburg Address in a cursive hand that would not look out of place
Note that not all such cursive, then or now, joined all of the letters
within a word.
Cursive handwriting from the 19th-century USA.
In both the
British Empire and the United States in the 18th and 19th
centuries, before the typewriter, professionals used cursive for their
correspondence. This was called a "fair hand", meaning it looked good,
and firms trained their clerks to write in exactly the same script.
In the early days[when?] of the post office, letters were written in
cursive – and to fit more text on a single sheet, the text was
continued in lines crossing at 90 degrees from the original text.
Block letters were not suitable for this.
Although women's handwriting had noticeably different particulars from
men's, the general forms were not prone to rapid change. In the
mid-19th century, most children were taught the contemporary cursive;
in the United States, this usually occurred in second or third grade
(around ages seven to nine). Few simplifications appeared as the
middle of the 20th century approached.
After the 1960s, a movement originally begun by
Paul Standard in the
1930s to replace looped cursive with cursive italic penmanship,
resurfaced. It was motivated by the claim that cursive instruction was
more difficult than it needed to be: that conventional (looped)
cursive was unnecessary, and it was easier to write in cursive italic.
Because of this, a number of various new forms of cursive italic
appeared, including Getty-Dubay, and Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting.
Decline of English cursive in the United States
This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone
used on. See's guide to writing better articles
for suggestions. (August 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this
D'Nealian Script, a cursive alphabet – lower case and upper
Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, colleges[which?] discarded the
teaching of handwriting techniques from curricula. Students in college
at that time therefore lacked[quantify] the handwriting skills and
ways to teach handwriting.[verification needed] Those who went into
education at the time[who?] did not value[quantify] cursive as much as
the generation before them,[verification needed] and they were
unsuccessful[quantify] in passing the skills to the next
generation.[verification needed] In addition to the new technology
that would become popular over the following decades, cursive
seemed[to whom?] inefficient compared to the technology that could
produce information more quickly.[verification needed] One of the
earliest forms of new technology that caused the decline of
handwriting was the invention of the ballpoint pen, patented in 1888
by John Loud. Two brothers, László and György Bíró, further
developed the pen by changing the design and using different ink that
dried quickly. With their design, it was guaranteed that the ink would
not smudge, as it would with the earlier design of pen, and it no
longer required the careful penmanship one would use with the older
design of pen. After World War II, the ballpoint pen was mass-produced
and sold for a cheap price, changing the way people wrote. Over time
the emphasis of using the style of cursive to write slowly
declined[quantify], only to be later impacted by other
Cursive has been in decline throughout the 21st century due to its
perceived lack of necessity. The Fairfax Education Association is the
biggest teachers' union in the United States and it has called cursive
a "dying art". Under Common Core, many teachers teach what is required
and tested through various standardized tests. This renders cursive
non-essential to graduate since cursive proficiency is not assessed in
the standardized tests. Additionally, many consider cursive too
tedious to learn and believe that it is not a useful skill.
On the 2006 SAT, a United States post-secondary education entrance
exam, only 15 percent of the students wrote their essay answers in
In a 2007 survey of 200 teachers of first through third grades in all
50 American states, 90 percent of respondents said their schools
required the teaching of cursive.
A 2008 nationwide survey found elementary school teachers lacking
formal training in teaching handwriting to students. Only 12 percent
of teachers reported having taken a course in how to teach it.
In 2012, the American states of
Hawaii announced that
their schools will no longer be required to teach cursive (but will
still be permitted to), and instead will be required to teach
"keyboard proficiency". As of 2011 the same was true of Illinois.
Since the nationwide proposal of the
Common Core State Standards
Common Core State Standards in
2009, which do not include instruction in cursive, the standards have
been adopted by 44 states as of July 2011, all of which have debated
whether to augment them with cursive.
Conservation efforts and cognitive benefits
Many essential documents in the West require signatures, which are
conventionally in cursive handwriting. Additionally, many historical
documents, such as the United States Constitution, are written in
cursive—the inability to read cursive therefore precludes one from
being able to fully appreciate such documents in their original
format. Despite the decline in the day-to-day use of cursive, it
is being reintroduced to the curriculum of schools in the United
States. States such as California, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, North
Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Tennessee have already
mandated cursive in schools as a part of the Back to Basics program
designed to maintain the integrity of cursive handwriting.
Some[who?] argue that cursive is not worth teaching in schools and "in
the 1960s cursive was implemented because of preference and not an
educational basis; Hawaii, Indiana, and
Illinois have all replaced
cursive instruction with 'keyboard proficiency' and 44 other states
are currently weighing similar measures."[attribution needed]
With the widespread use of computers which has nearly taken the
handwritten word to extinction, researchers set out
to test the effectiveness of both mediums. In a study done by Pam
Mueller which compared scores of students who took notes by hand and
via laptop computer showed that students who took notes by hand showed
advantages in both factual and conceptual learning. Another study
done by Anne Mangen showed that children showed an acceleration in
learning new words when they wrote them by hand rather than on a
computer screen. Learning to write in cursive is a stepping stone
to developing neat handwriting and in a third study conducted by
Florida International University, professor Laura Dinehart concluded
that students with neater handwriting tend to develop better reading
and writing skill, though it is difficult to conclude causation from
such an association. Aside from these cognitive benefits, students
with dyslexia, who have difficulty learning to read because their
brains have difficulty associating sounds and letter combinations
efficiently, have found that cursive can help them with the decoding
process because it integrates hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills
and other brain and memory functions.
Up to the 19th century,
Kurrent (also known as German cursive) was
used in German language longhand.
Kurrent was not used exclusively,
but in parallel to modern cursive (which is the same as English
cursive). Writers used both cursive styles: location, contents and
context of the text determined which style to use. A successor of
Kurrent, Sütterlin, was widely used in the period 1911-1941 until the
Nazi Party banned it, and German speakers brought up with Sütterlin
continued to use it well into the post-war period.
Today, three different styles of cursive writing are taught in German
schools, the Lateinische Ausgangsschrift[de] (introduced in 1953), the
Schulausgangsschrift[de] (1968), and the Vereinfachte
Ausgangsschrift[de] (1969). The German National Primary
Schoolteachers' Union has proposed replacing all three with
Grundschrift, a simplified form of non-cursive handwriting adopted by
The standard modern Russian
Cyrillic cursive alphabet with uppercase
and lowercase letters, used in school education.
Main article: Russian cursive
Cyrillic alphabet is used (instead of the block
letters) when handwriting the modern Russian language. While several
Latin counterparts, many of them represent different
sounds. Most handwritten Russian, especially personal letters and
schoolwork, uses the cursive Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most
children in Russian schools are taught in the 1st grade how to write
using this Russian script.
Cursive forms of Chinese characters are used in calligraphy; "running
script" is the semi-cursive form and "rough script" (mistakenly called
"grass script" due to misinterpretation) is the cursive. The running
aspect of this script has more to do with the formation and
connectedness of strokes within an individual character than with
connections between characters as in Western connected cursive. The
latter are rare in hanzi and in the derived Japanese kanji characters
which are usually well separated by the writer.
Semi-cursive style Calligraphy of Chinese poem by Mo Ruzheng
Classical poem in cursive script at Treasures of Ancient China exhibit
Eight cursive characters for dragon
Calligraphy of both cursive and semi-cursive by Dong Qichang
Four columns in cursive script quatrain poem,
Quatrain on Heavenly
Mountain. Attributed to Emperor Gaozong of Song, the tenth Chinese
Emperor of the Song Dynasty
One page of the album "Thousand Character classic in formal and
Cursive script" attributed to Zhi Yong
Example of classic American business handwriting known as Spencerian
script from 1884.
Table of 19th-century Greek cursive letter forms.
United States Declaration of Independence.
Bold running hand exemplar by English chirographer Joseph Carstairs
Cursive script (East Asia)
Cursive script (East Asia) (Grass script)
Kurrent - German Cursive
^ Also known as handwriting, looped writing, joint writing or running
^ Bounds, Gwendolyn (October 5, 2010). "How Handwriting Boosts the
Brain". The Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones.
ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
^ Georges Jean (1997). Writing: The story of alphabets and scripts,
London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. [New Horizons]
^ Harper, Douglas. "cursive". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved
29 October 2011.
^ Adak, Chandranath; et al. "Offline
Cursive Bengali Word Recognition
Using CNNs with a Recurrent Model". 15th International Conference on
Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition (ICFHR), pp. 429-434, Shenzhen,
China, 23-26 Oct., 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2017. CS1 maint:
Explicit use of et al. (link)
^ Hulse, David Allen (2002). The Eastern Mysteries: An Encyclopedic
Guide to the Sacred Languages & Magickal Systems of the World (Key
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^ Cardenio, Or, the Second Maiden's Tragedy, pp. 131-3: By William
Shakespeare, Charles Hamilton, John Fletcher (Glenbridge Publishing
Ltd., 1994) ISBN 0-944435-24-6
^ Whalley, Joyce Irene (1980). The Art of Calligraphy, Western Europe
& America. London: Bloomsbury. p. 400.
^ Livingston, Ira (1997). "The Romantic Double-Cross: Keats's
Letters". Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity. University of
Minnesota Press. p. 143. ISBN 0816627959.
^ "How The Ballpoint
Pen Killed Cursive". The Atlantic. Retrieved
^ Enstrom, E.A. (1965). "The Decline of Handwriting". The Elementary
^ a b Shapiro, T. Rees (2013-04-04). "
Cursive handwriting is
disappearing from public schools". The Washington Post.
ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
^ "The End of the Line for Cursive?". ABC News. 2011-01-25. Retrieved
^ "The Handwriting Is on the Wall". The Washington Post. 11 October
^ "Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?". USA Today. 23
^ Graham, Steve; Harris, Karen R.; Mason, Linda; Fink-Chorzempa,
Barbara; Moran, Susan; Saddler, Bruce (February 2008). "How do primary
grade teachers teach handwriting? A national survey". Reading and
Writing. New York: Springer Netherlands. 21 (1–2): 49–69.
doi:10.1007/s11145-007-9064-z. ISSN 0922-4777. Retrieved July 31,
^ Webley, Kayla (6 July 2011). "Typing Beats Scribbling: Indiana
Schools Can Stop Teaching Cursive". TIME. Retrieved 30 August
Hawaii No Longer Requires Teaching
Cursive In Schools". Education.
The Huffington Post. 1 August 2011.
^ Steinmetz, Katy. "Five Reasons Kids Should Still Learn Cursive
Writing". TIME.com. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
^ "Is cursive handwriting slowly dying out in America?". PBS NewsHour.
Cursive Handwriting Going Extinct?". Smithsonian. Retrieved
^ Mueller, Pam (2014). "The
Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard:
Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking". Psychological
Science. 25: 1159—1168. doi:10.1177/0956797614524581.
^ Mangen, Anne (2015). "Handwriting versus Keyboard Writing: Effect on
Word Recall". Journal of Writing Research.
^ "How cursive can help students with dyslexia connect the dots". PBS
NewsHour. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
^ "Grundschrift-Schreibschrift". grundschrift-schreibschrift.de.
^ Helen Pidd. "German teachers campaign to simplify handwriting in
schools". the Guardian.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cursive.
Lessons in Calligraphy and Penmanship, including scans of classic
nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century manuals and examples
The Golden Age of American Penmanship, including scans of the January
1932 issue of Austin Norman Palmer's American Penman
Normal and Bold Victorian Modern
Cursive electronic fonts for
Mourning the Death of Handwriting, a TIME Magazine article on the
demise of cursive handwriting
Op-Art: The Write Stuff, a New York Times article on the advantages of
Italic hand over both full cursive and block printing
The Society for Italic Handwriting, supporters of teaching a
simplified cursive hand
Cursive-Fonts, online resource for cursive fonts in ttf format
Has Technology Killed
Cursive Handwriting?—Mashable, June 11, 2013
Cursive Still Matters in Education
Types of handwritten European scripts