OT: the end of cursive writing?

I used to laugh when people talked about the end of cursive writing, but as this column points out we’ve lost many things over time that were once culturewide and vital to society. Cuneiform writing and other pictographic based communication is an obvious one (although its descendants live on in Asian scripts).

Another is Roman numerals, which, except for Superbowls, are pretty much dead. We lose technological things all the time, of course: wax cylinders, vinyl records (comeback!), CD’s, phones with cords, etc. And there are cultural totems that disappear: gilded age ball gowns, fondue, and as I like to remind, disco.

Should we spend a year teaching children how to write when the keyboard is the future? Let me ask another way: should we waste a year teaching Roman Numerals? Or will there come a day when only specialists can decode hand writing, as it is today for hieroglyphs? (And heck, while I’m at it, when will the age of the English system of inches and ounces die a deserved death?)

I am left handed and was actually smacked with a ruler for writing that way. My parents intervened and I wound up with a reasonably attractive cursive style, but only after several years’ practice and a drive to improve. But will I be outdated before I am dead, and was all my work for naught? These are the things that keep me up at night.


"…heck, while I’m at it, when will the age of the English system of inches and ounces die a deserved death? "


The death of USCS ain’t gonna happen. At best, some of us 'mericans, in some circumstances, might become fluent enough to use both systems. E.g., any wrench puller --aka, mechanic, machinery repairman, etc.-- has to carry both fractional and metric tools and know how to use them, so fasteners don’t get rounded or stripped.

The exception to that prediction that inches, feet, etc. will always prevail is if the empire fails. Then the barbarians will impose their ways upon us.

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In experiments, note-taking by hand was more effective than computer note-taking in storing both factual and conceptual information, but it was in the latter case that it stood out by far. But it may not matter whether the notes were in cursive or printing as long as the writer did their own mental processing instead of flowing from ears to keyboard.



Recently I read a book where part of the mystery was unravelled because the protagonist could read ancient cursive writing and write her notes in it as an incomprehensible code. I think it was Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man. But there are a couple others that it might have been.

I think both Meriam and Webster should be shot. I’ve had enuf of EEnglish’s non-fonetic spelling and I think the begining of changing aero to air, labour to labor shud be continued to words like nayborhood, nite etc. I can stand on a corner in Athens, Madrid, Moscow and Tel Aviv and, without noing the translation of a singl word, phonetically (foneticaly) rede strete sines


It took mankind tens of thousands of years to develop writing. The ability to write and read eventually separated the various classes of human society.

In a world where PC/phone speech recognition becomes flawless in tandem with speech synthesis, is there a reason to learn how to read and write?


Cursive is stupid and in my opinion a Soviet plot to destroy America. I don’t know how many countless hours we spent in grade school practicing cursive script which no one ever used in a practical sense except to sign their name, and even then probably not. By junior high, no teacher cared if your “R” had a distinctive, stupid time wasting loop or not.

Speaking of cursive “R”. In third grade, the school boundaries changed and some kids who had learned an improper cursive R were funneled into my school where only the One True Cursive R was taught. So those kids had to relearn an idiotic way to write an R with a different idiotic way to write an R. What if, and I’m going out on a limb here…it doesn’t matter how you write an R as long as everyone can read it?

What if, again going out on a limb, kids were taught how to write efficiently and legibility? Instead of making the correct loops (which reduces efficiency) and connecting letters (which reduces legibility). Maybe we could save a vast amount of wasted time. Honestly, I think recess teaches kids more than cursive.


I am not a good speller. But I look at each word’s spelling as a lesson in history. A podcast that I have listened to for several years is Kevin Stroud’s History of English.

In my opinion the only real consequence of not being able to write cursive is not being able to sign your name, which you will eventually need to do to get loans, buy cars and houses, etc. I’m not sure what would replace a cursive signature for that. Also I’ve heard that the fact that so many people now seldom write in cursive means that they are not developing unique signatures as well.

But can you read/write cosines?

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I worked with a guy who signed his name as ‘X’ and he never had any issues.

In Europe, I guess because “in the good old days” not everyone was literate, each person created a “sign”. This could be a stylized flower, initials or some other scrawled thingamajig that was identifiably theirs.

Back in the early 1970’s, I exchanged some dollars in an Italian bank for Lira, After the clerk cranked his adding machine and played with it for a while, he slid a pile of banknotes to me and asked me to “sign” the receipt. I complied by signing my signature (first and last name). He looked at it for a moment and, not realizing that it was merely my name commented that I had the most intricate sign he had ever seen.

The historical use of public notaries was because, with a US population of largely illiterate people using “X” as their sign, someone had to verify the person who applied iit to a document.

The other verification, which is used when having your bank vouch for you to another bank is to have them apply their “medallion” to the document instead of having it notorized.


My son is 25. He was never taught cursive. He can’t read it either.

I think it was goofy who said the teacher tried to make him switch from left to right. My wife was forced to switch and she always has trouble telling left from right now.

I can’t get over this. For future generations not to learn Roman numerals or cursive, it’s beyond imaginable. These are some basics in my opinion. Having the kids memorize a bunch of unnecessary stats - sure, let’s cut down on that, but cursive? I have no reasonable explanation for feeling so strongly about this.

I’m still mourning the death of the diphthong.

The joined up writing I learned in my early years…with a nibbed pen and dip-in inkwell … never reached the beauty of some of my American pals’ Pitman script…even the lefties…but compared with my daughter’, it’s pure calligraphy

If I ever mention the word diphthong to any one of my golfing buddies I’m sure they would not be thinking about vocabulary!! More along the lines of ladies underwear :wink:

==> Excuse me for the golfing buddy joke

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I file taxes, refinance my mortgage, and enter into contracts of all kinds without ever making a mark on a physical piece of paper. I can’t remember the last time I actually signed something.


When was the last time anyone confirmed your ‘signature’ against some other document for validation?
I don’t think banks even check your check’s signature against your account record.
All they need is an identification number (account, SSN etc.).

Eventually, a national id will remove even the pretense of signing for something.


This year, actually, to create a family trust.

Interesting. We bought a house this year. Lots of signatures - mortgage, purchase agreement, insurance etc. but I don’t recall anyone ever confirming that the signature was legit. Some documents were e-signed and some were in person.

What did they compare your signature to?

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