Monday, January 30, 2006

Handwriting Analysis

Today's article in the Los Angeles Times, "Remember Penmanship? That's So 20th century," describes how the rise of keyboard computing and packed standards-based school schedules have eliminated penmanship as a subject in many elementary classrooms.

As a reader for standardized writing exams, I can't say that I'm sad to see the subject go. Give me a stack of hand-printed essays any day over a similar pile of cursive ones. And unlike Latin or diagramming sentences or other useful bygone coursework, it doesn't improve students' ability to use words accurately or structure compelling arguments. (I'm the wrong generation to have taken Elocution, but that may have been a useful subject too, particularly for the class mobility it provided.)

The penmanship traditionalists may be losing on all fronts. According to today's New York Times, "The Resurgence of E-cards" is in full-swing. Given that this particular form of communication evolved to mass produce an alternative to time-consuming hand-written notes, it is fitting that even the last token of handwriting, the personal signature, can be eliminated. Since I prefer the D.Y.L. aesthetic, it's a written genre I'm not crazy about, but at least now I can get E-cards for Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

Nonetheless, I think computing has rescued a whole class of otherwise handwriting-disabled people. Personally, I'm still getting over being traumatized by the Palmer Method. I remember there were only two "awards" one didn't want in sixth grade, and I won both of them: "Bookworm" and "Worst Handwriting."

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The woes and failures of handwriting instruction come in *very* large part from teachers damnation-bent on equating "good handwriting" with "doing it in cursive" ... when actually, according to a 1998 study in the JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH (citation below) the fastest and most legible handwriters break about half the rules of cursive.
It turns out that the fastest handwriters (and especially the fastest LEGIBLE handwriters) /a/ join only some letters, not all of them — using only the easiest joins, skipping the rest — and /b/ use some cursive and
some printed letter-shapes (where printed and cursive letters seriously "disagree" in shape, highest-speed highest-legibility handwriters tend to go for the printed shape).

Graham, S., Berninger, V., & Weintraub, N. (1998). The relationship between handwriting style and speed and quality. Journal of Educational Research, volume 91, issue number 5, (May/June 1998), pages 290-297.

In other words — cursive writing comes in, at best, second-best. For more information on the curse of cursive (and how to "un-curse" yourself), visit the Handwriting Repair [tm] web-site at or

Kate Gladstone
Director, World Handwriting Contest
CEO, Handwriting Repair

3:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home