Episode 183: The End of Cursive

Penmanship is becoming a lost art.

In our age of keyboards and smartphones, fewer and fewer of us use that distinctive cursive script, and schools are even letting go of teaching running writing. Will cursive die out, and will computers pick up the slack?

Linguist Daniel Midgley sticks to the script on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with James Hall


Show notes

“LAST YEAR SALES of fountain pens in Britain rose by 70%, and sales of quality writing paper at the John Lewis department store in London rose by 79%.”
http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/ann-wroe/handwriting-elegy?page=full

XKCD: The simple answers to the questions that get asked about every new technology
http://xkcd.com/1289/

These are Americans’ favorite insults, by political affiliation
http://qz.com/291533/this-is-how-liberals-and-conservatives-insult-each-other/

One of my favourite political quotes, by Adlai Stevenson
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/adlaieste107311.html

‘When asked if she could read a letter in court, witness Rachel Jeantel, her head bowed, murmured with embarrassment, “I don’t read cursive,” according to court testimony.’
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-cursive-writing-dead/

Teachers lament faltering pens
http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-lament-faltering-pens-20120323-1vp04.html

“No longer swearing by cursive writing” in the USA
http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/04/opinion/la-ed-cursive-instruction-common-core-curriculum-20130904

Schools are dropping it.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/03/25/294212825/kids-these-days-can-type-but-cant-write-cursive-is-that-bad

Some people hate that cursive is going out of style.
“Killing Cursive is Killing History”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-j-leclerc/killing-cursive-is-killin_b_4261572.html

“Is Cursive Dead?”
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2011/04/is_cursive_dead.html

Others say it’s not such a big deal.
Cursive, Print, or Type? The Point is To Keep Writing
http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/cursive-print-or-type-the-point-is-to-keep-writing/

And some say it’s an absurd way to teach.
“Curse of cursive handwriting”
http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/philip-ball/cursive-handwriting-philip-ball

A debate in the NYT: “Handwriting Matters; Cursive Doesn’t”
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/handwriting-matters-cursive-doesnt

A study from 1930: The Comparative Legibility and Speed of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting (paywall)
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/996624?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104990145387

Is cursive faster or better? “The handwriting of students who used a mixed style was faster than the handwriting of the students who used either manuscript or cursive exclusively. In addition, papers written with mixed-mostly cursive letters generally received higher ratings for legibility than papers written with the other 3 styles did. There were no differences between manuscript and cursive in terms of legibility or speed.”
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220679809597556#.VF7Ya4cRo3E

How many kinds of cursive are there? In Australia, quite a number.
https://www.teachstarter.com/about/school-fonts/

Learning cursive in the first grade helps students, Quebec study finds
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913113847.htm

Tennessee is still at it
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/23/us-usa-tennessee-cursive-idUSKBN0GN0A520140823

Here’s a look at lower-case letters throughout history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist_minuscule#mediaviewer/File:Evolution_of_minuscule.svg

Our cursive is mostly based on Italic script
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italic_script

It was invented by Niccolò de’ Niccoli, the Italian humanist.
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/413928/Niccolo-Niccoli

What we think of as old-fashioned cursive is sometimes called ‘copperplate script’.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copperplate_script

How to tell when a robot has written you a letter
https://medium.com/message/how-to-tell-when-a-robot-has-written-you-a-letter-701562705d59

Remember the Apple Newton?
http://www.wired.com/2013/08/remembering-the-apple-newtons-prophetic-failure-and-lasting-ideals/

As lampooned by the Simpsons
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oBJXdegv7s

Mashable: Here’s How Obama’s Autopen Works
http://mashable.com/2013/01/03/obama-autopen/

Here’s the Autopen, but also the pantograph.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/president-obamas-autopen-when-is-an-autograph-not-an-autograph-574822/?no-ist

Prosecutors Hope New Study of Handwriting Analysis Will Silence Skeptics
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/26/us/prosecutors-hope-new-study-of-handwriting-analysis-will-silence-skeptics.html

“Professional document examiners from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were significantly better in performing writer identification than college-educated nonexperts”
https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=146638

There’s now handwriting OCR.
http://www.cvisiontech.com/ocr/ocr-pdf/ocr-software-handwriting-recognition.html?lang=eng

How does forensic handwriting identification work?
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/03/murder_she_wrote.html

The Rise of the ‘Lumbersexual’
http://gearjunkie.com/the-rise-of-the-lumbersexual

Retrosexual? And a whole bunch of other sexual words.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?defid=873143&term=retrosexual


Show tunes

‘Bad Sects’ by Cursive
from the album Happy Hollow

‘Broken Household Appliance National Forest’ by Grandaddy
from the album The Sophtware Slump

Image credit: http://kelleytjansson.com/2014/06/19/handwriting-stimulates-the-brain/

2 Comments

  1. The Québec study has been seriously misrepresenteed in the media. I bothered t k u the original, and to read it — and it does NOT support cursive over any of the other kinds of handwriting. (Details on request.)

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair / Handwriting That Works
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

  2. Hi, Kate. Thanks for writing in.

    I also read the article, and it says that the cursive group progressed the most on syntax and word production. The authors also found that the cursive kids did better at word recall, and they thought that having words all tied together as a unit might have helped this.

    So — what's the story here?

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