Cursive writing has gravity, compared to printed writing. Cursive is used for special occasions, like thank you cards and letters to lovers, or to grandparents at Christmas.
It denotes formality.
A letter written in careful, swirly cursive is a letter to save, folded up in a box with dried roses, collected, re-read.
One has to sit down at a well-lit, uncluttered spot to write a letter in cursive. One may even write two drafts, the first a hasty, un-tame scrawl, the second a thoughtful, controlled completion. When one writes in cursive, one is writing for a reason.
Writing in cursive is akin to donning Sunday best, in its formality and old-fashioned-ness, in how they’re both going the way of the human appendix.
Most humans learn to print letters in grade one and two. At grade three they graduate to cursive.
If I describe the pages in the cursive writing section of a student’s workbook, what memories does it evoke? You know what I mean — the pages with the three-lined lines, the outer lines solid and the middle line dashed. At the beginning of each line is a computer graphic version of a cursive letter; the lines in the letter are solid, and may have tiny arrows indicating the direction a student’s pencil should go.
After the solid version of the cursive letter, is a dashed version for the student to trace, to get the feel of the motion of the letter. The rest of the page is blank three-lined lines, for practice. So students can train their brain to know by heart the motion of a cursively written letter.
Capital cursive letters are different than lower case ones; there are pages for all 52 versions.
Each letter has two versions, but some are similar — consider the lowercase ‘l’ and the lower case ‘b’ — similar, but tricky. A student has to remember to stop the motion of the pencil halfway down the lowercase ‘b’, and abruptly (for cursive writing) move on to the next letter. While in a lowercase ‘l’, the student brings the pencil to the bottom of the line before swooping up to begin the next letter.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that becoming familiar with each letter is one aspect of learning to write cursively. Another aspect is the learning to join the letters together into handwritten-words. It’s similar to the difference between an aspiring musician knowing how to play individual chords on a guitar, and knowing how to put the chords together into a song.
To write cursively requires attention and practice, and it is frustrating. I remember having to miss recess breaks because I couldn’t get the hang of capital ‘g’. It’s a tricky one, with the loop and sort-of hook at the top of the letter.
Soon, though, I was making shaky music with my cursively written words. Each time I wrote, I was a little better, but if I wrote for too long the words became messy, the letters lazy.
Cursive writing is not a workhorse. It’s the shiny horse in the parade, with a ribbon braided into its tail. Everyone follows the same cursive writing rules, but everyone’s letters come out a bit different — it’s an expression.
A few years ago my cousin gave me a set of calligraphy pens for Christmas. He bought it at a thrift store. It was a thoughtful gift, but I’ve never used it. One doesn’t need calligraphy pens to write cursively.