Cursive cursed. Texting and e-mail trump handwritten notes

I haven’t written a note by hand in a long time. And I hardly receive any handwritten notes any more.

So is there any point in teaching children cursive?

A story in the AJC today discusses the decline of cursive, noting that longhand has become a lost art in the era of text messaging, e-mail and Twitter.

“I am not sure students have a sense of any reason why they should vest their time and effort in writing a message out manually when it can be sent electronically in seconds,” says Cheryl Jeffers, a professor at Marshall University’s College of Education and Human Services.

The article notes that handwriting skills still come in handy for the SAT, which began including a written essay portion in 2005. (When they did, I attended the press conference announcing the essay and asked whether students with terrible handwriting would be hurt. The College Board said that it expected only a small percent — I think it may have been 2 percent -  of the essays to be unintelligible due to sloppy handwriting.

In the article, Vanderbilt University professor Steve Graham cites multiple studies showing that sloppy writing routinely leads to lower grades, even in papers with the same wording as those written in a neater hand.

Graham argues that fears over the decline of handwriting in general and cursive distract from the goal of improving students’ overall writing skills.

Despite years of practice in my school, I have poor handwriting, largely from lack of practice. Teachers tell me that cursive also helps kids with fine motor skill development, and is worth teaching for those skills as well as for the need to be able to communicate when a keyboard is not handy.

What do you think?

29 comments Add your comment

Rural Education

September 20th, 2009
9:15 pm

I don’t think my child was ever really taught to write in cursive, the only order of business is to make sure they pass the tests. They barely cover science and they don’t cover social studies at all.


September 20th, 2009
9:48 pm

They way of the future in communication will not even include keyboards for typing. As new technologies evolve, old ones pass away.


September 20th, 2009
9:56 pm

Accidentally hit the wrong key. As I was saying, I will be interested to hear MAM’s comments on the editorial in the 9/20 AJC by Andre Jackson on how to handle those that cheated on the CRCT.

why bother?

September 20th, 2009
10:05 pm

Ya know what…teach them how to sign their names neatly in cursive and then leave it at that!


September 20th, 2009
10:30 pm

Maureen, what happened to my posts?

Maureen Downey

September 20th, 2009
10:34 pm

Sorry, Ernest, One post by you was snagged by our filter. (Are others missing?) I freed the one in the filter.


September 21st, 2009
7:46 am

If we follow this line of logic, with the rise of audio books and computers that read text, why even bother to teach reading?


September 21st, 2009
8:03 am

Hmmm, my posts typically don’t contain any of the ‘7 words not ready for prime time’ as mentioned by George Carlin. Time permitting, send my a private email regarding what the problem may be.

Zachs Mom

September 21st, 2009
9:29 am

They might not need to know how to write in cursive but they do need to know how to print so that it can be read.


September 21st, 2009
9:34 am

Tests are still taken by hand in high school and college – it’s important for kids to be able to communicate clearly in either spoken or written form. A person who can’t write clearly is as at much of a disadvantage as a person who mumbles. Cursive IS faster than printing, so just saying, “as long as they know how to print” is actually a handicap.

And as far as I’m concerned, any student who can write a clear, readable thank you note has a distinct advantage over the unwashed rude masses when it comes to job interviews and insuring future gifts from Grandma :-)


September 21st, 2009
10:03 am

Little children don’t know the sense in using a fork or spoon, as long as they get food in their mouth – isn’t that all that matters?

It is ridiculous to use the opinions of a child as the barometer for importance of knowledge.


September 21st, 2009
10:07 am

35 years ago, I had great penmanship. Maybe that was due to having a teacher mom. Or perhaps writing all those “I will not talk in class” lines thousands of times paid off, lol.

Today, I type every thing and about the only thing I write in cursive is my signature.

In today’s electronic communication world, cursive handwriting is akin to algebra years ago – it is nice to know how to do it, but the reality is that most will not have a significant need for it.


September 21st, 2009
10:28 am

From what I am seeing in elementary school they are no longer emphasizing cursive, but they are still teaching it. I think it makes the kids more curious about it. When I was in school I got really bored learning and cursive, and to this day my cursive is awful. My DD, on the other hand, who is in 5th grade, has wonderful cursive. She wanted to learn it. I am glad though that kids also have the option of keyboarding. My DS has awful print handwriting, no matter how hard we try to correct his lettering and make him write neater. WE are starting to have him type things up.

WHat will probably suffer the most is spelling and grammer, as more kids use Word.

DeKalb Conservative

September 21st, 2009
10:37 am

I think today’s students will much better benefit from rigorous typing classes than learning cursive. Having beautiful cursive handwriting abilities won’t mean anything if you’re type with two fingers.

To not have good typing skills will make children be “business illiterate” as adults.

jim d

September 21st, 2009
10:42 am

Why it is critical that children be taught to write.



September 21st, 2009
1:53 pm

My son, a drug and alcohol addiction therapist, has to keep charts on his patients. For every chart the government auditors can’t read, his company loses money. He fights with the counselors he supervises constantly because their handwriting is illegible and their sentences are full of fractured syntax.


September 21st, 2009
1:55 pm

It is not only the SAT which requires essays–all AP exams require essays written under timed conditions. I fight constantly with my students who have illegible handwriting, and it seems to me they constitute more than 2%.

Elizabeth Cottrell

September 21st, 2009
10:30 pm

I wonder if the exercise of writing doesn’t work in conjunction with the development of thinking skills to help make a student a more articulate communicator both orally and in written communications. I’d love to see if there is any research to support this. My passion for the importance of cultivating handwriting is reflected in my Facebook group “Revive the art of personal note-writing!” but I also appreciate that things change, technologies bring new ways to communicate, and social media is creating valuable conversations that are no less important in spite of not being handwritten. It’s the communication that’s important, in whatever form that takes.

Str8 Off Candler Rd

September 22nd, 2009
7:55 am

I was taught cursive years ago and never really got the hang of it. When asked to write a note, I usually find a keyboard and type out instructions, etc… I only used cursive to sign my name. That still looks terrible.

On another note, I heard a young lady having a conversation that went between english and textbonics. Go figure OMG, LOL. TTYL. What are we going to do. Students are now writing using textbonics.


September 22nd, 2009
9:11 am

I’m one of the biggest advocates of tech around, and even *I* say kids need to know handwriting.

As to the cursive v print debate, I personally prefer print, and I find that I am much faster and much more legible in print. So I’m still not sure that **cursive** needs to be taught, but handwriting in general is an absolute must!

Christina Teasley

September 23rd, 2009
1:02 pm

I have been waiting for someone to address this issue because I have been wondering about the topic myself, thank you. I basically retaught myself cursive when I hand addressed my wedding invitations a few years ago. It took some practice but it came back to me and I do write in cursive from time to time so I do not forget. That being written I used to teach high school and roomed with a middle school teacher. Towards the end of one school year she commented on how she was stressing to her students the importance of their cursive writing skills for when they entered high school. I responded that I didn’t care how they wrote it as long as they turned it in. I had never even given a thought to them writing in cursive, probably because I had not done so myself in such a long time. I now work at a technical college where I don’t think I have ever seen anything written in cursive and am very surprised when I see a paper (always a rough draft) handwritten and not typed.


September 23rd, 2009
7:13 pm

I am an artist and an English professor. I can tell you first that cursive is an art form that contributes to a sense of decorum and beauty in life. Second, if handwriting of any kind is replaced with texting and email diction, a lot more than legibility will suffer. Communication is already rampant due to technology but good and effective communication is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s a sign of some very impersonal skills that separate us from each other and from our good sense. Be lazy and bored if you want to, but the future of America depends on preserving our ethics and dignity, both of which are suffering in our lust for the newest technological toys. There is not substitute for beauty and clarity in communication. Good, grammatical writing and legible handwriting continue to be high on my list of priorities.

Cobb County

September 25th, 2009
2:43 pm

I’m a little late here, but I was told to teach my son cursive to help with his fine motor skills. He loves that he can write in cursive, but his teacher tells him to print.

[...] Cursive cursed. Texting and e-mail trump handwritten notes [...]


September 28th, 2009
3:50 pm

In my opinion, cursive should require the same amount of instruction as technology. Both are essential for a student’s future whether it’s signing their name on paperwork, or working with coworkers on a presentation using technology.

[...] In this blog Maureen Downey discusses how the effects of technology have taught our students to no longer use their own handwriting but to type everything in an email or text message. Blog URL [...]

Kate Gladstone

November 18th, 2009
6:15 am

Research shows that the fastest, most legible handwriters avoid cursive anyway. Highest-speed highest-legibility handwriters join only some, not all, letters — making the very easiest joins, skipping the rest — and use print-like shapes of those letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that an iPhone app now exists to teach this way of writing: Better Letters at


December 5th, 2009
9:44 am

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[...] value to my note, but to the value of the hand-made in communication. That list spreads, in a general sentiment about the loss of handwriting — cursive expressions — in culture generally [...]