Example of classic American business cursive handwriting known as Spencerian script, from 1884

Cursive (also known as joined-up writing[1][2]) is any style of penmanship in which characters are written joined in a flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster, in contrast to block letters. It varies in functionality and modern-day usage across languages and regions; being used both publicly in artistic and formal documents as well as in private communication. Formal cursive is generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts. The writing style can be further divided as "looped", "italic", or "connected".

The cursive method is used with many alphabets due to infrequent pen lifting and beliefs that it increases writing speed. Despite this belief, more elaborate or ornamental styles of writing can be slower to reproduce. In some alphabets, many or all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word one single complex stroke.

A study of grade school children in 2013 discovered that the speed of their cursive writing is the same as their print writing, regardless of which handwriting the child had learned first.[3]


Cursive is a style of penmanship in which the symbols of the language are written in a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster. This writing style is distinct from "print-script" using block letters, in which the letters of a word are unconnected and in Roman/Gothic letter-form rather than joined-up script. Not all cursive copybooks join all letters; formal cursive is generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts. In the Arabic, Syriac, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets, many or all letters in a word are connected (while others must not), sometimes making a word one single complex stroke. In Hebrew cursive and Roman cursive, the letters are not connected. In Maharashtra, there was a cursive alphabet, known as the 'Modi' script, used to write the Marathi language.



Main article: Ligature (writing)

Ligature is writing the letters of words with lines connecting the letters so that one does not have to pick up the pen or pencil between letters. Commonly some of the letters are written in a looped manner to facilitate the connections. In common printed Greek texts, the modern small letter fonts are called "cursive" (as opposed to uncial) though the letters do not connect.


In looped cursive penmanship, some ascenders and descenders have loops which provide for joins. This is generally what people refer to when they say "cursive" in the context of English.[4]


Main article: Italic script

Cursive italic penmanship—derived from chancery cursive—uses non-looped joins, and not all letters are joined. In italic cursive, there are no joins from g, j, q, or y, and a few other joins are discouraged.[5][failed verification] Italic penmanship became popular in the 15th-century Italian Renaissance. The term "italic" as it relates to handwriting is not to be confused with italic typed letters. Many, but not all, letters in the handwriting of the Renaissance were joined, as most are today in cursive italic.


The origins of the cursive method are associated with practical advantages of writing speed and infrequent pen-lifting to accommodate the limitations of the quill. Quills are fragile, easily broken, and will spatter unless used properly. They also run out of ink faster than most contemporary writing utensils. Steel dip pens followed quills; they were sturdier, but still had some limitations. The individuality of the provenance of a document (see Signature) was a factor also, as opposed to machine font.[6] Cursive was also favoured because the writing tool was rarely taken off the paper. The term cursive derives from Middle French cursif from Medieval Latin cursivus, which literally means 'running'. This term in turn derives from Latin currere ('to run, hasten').[7] Although by the 2010s, the use of cursive appeared to be on the decline, as of 2019 it seemed to be coming back into use.[8]


Half of the National Anthem of Bangladesh, written in cursive Bengali

In the Bengali cursive script[9] (also known in Bengali as "professional writing"[citation needed]) the letters are more likely to be more curvy in appearance than in standard Bengali handwriting. Also, the horizontal supporting bar on each letter (matra) runs continuously through the entire word, unlike in standard handwriting. This cursive handwriting often used by literature experts differs in appearance from the standard Bengali alphabet as it is free hand writing, where sometimes the alphabets are complex and appear different from the standard handwriting.[citation needed]


Main article: Modi script

A verse from the Dnyaneshwari in the Modi script

Modi is a cursive script used to write Marathi that is thought to be derived from the Devanagari script.[10] It was used alongside Devanagari until the 20th century as a shorthand script for quick writing in business and administration. Due to the promotion of the Balbodh variant of Devanagari as the standard writing system for Marathi, Modi largely fell out of use by the mid-20th century. Since then there have been attempts to revive this script.[11]

A distinctive feature of this script is that the head stroke is written before the letters, in order to produce a "ruled page" for writing in lines. It has several characteristics that facilitate writing so that moving from one character to the next minimises lifting the pen from the paper for dipping in ink. Some characters are "broken" versions of their Devanagari counterparts. Many characters are more circular in shape. The long 'ī' (ई) and short 'u' (उ) are used in place of the short 'i' (इ) and long 'ū' (ऊ) respectively.[10]


Main article: Roman cursive

Example of old Roman cursive

Roman cursive is a form of handwriting (or a script) used in ancient Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages. It is customarily divided into old (or ancient) cursive, and new cursive. Old Roman cursive, also called majuscule cursive and capitalis cursive, was the everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Latin alphabet, and even by emperors issuing commands. New Roman, also called minuscule cursive or later cursive, developed from old cursive. It was used from approximately the 3rd century to the 7th century, and uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern eyes; "a", "b", "d", and "e" have taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters are proportionate to each other rather than varying wildly in size and placement on a line.


Main articles: History of the Greek alphabet and Greek minuscule

Greek cursive script, 6th century CE

The Greek alphabet has had several cursive forms in the course of its development. In antiquity, a cursive form of handwriting was used in writing on papyrus. It employed slanted and partly connected letter forms as well as many ligatures. Some features of this handwriting were later adopted into Greek minuscule, the dominant form of handwriting in the medieval and early modern era. In the 19th and 20th centuries, an entirely new form of cursive Greek, more similar to contemporary Western European cursive scripts, was developed.


An English letter from 1894, written in Continuous Cursive
William Shakespeare's will, written in secretary hand[12]

Cursive writing was used in English before the Norman conquest. Anglo-Saxon charters typically include a boundary clause written in Old English in a cursive script. A cursive handwriting style—secretary hand—was widely used for both personal correspondence and official documents in England from early in the 16th century.

Cursive handwriting developed into something approximating its current form from the 17th century, but its use was neither uniform, nor standardized either in England itself or elsewhere in the British Empire. In the English colonies of the early 17th century, most of the letters are clearly separated in the handwriting of William Bradford, though a few were joined as in a cursive hand. In England itself, Edward Cocker had begun to introduce a version of the French ronde style, which was then further developed and popularized throughout the British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries as round hand by John Ayers and William Banson.[13]

Cursive writing in the United Kingdom

Today there is no standardised teaching script stipulated in the various national curriculums for schools in the United Kingdom, only that one font style needs to be used consistently throughout the school.[14] In both the Cursive and the Continuous Cursive writing styles, letters are created through joining lines and curve shapes in a particular way. Once pupils have learnt how to clearly form single letters, they are taught how single letters can be joined to form a flowing script.[15]

Characteristics of Cursive and Continuous Cursive scripts:[16]

Cursive Continuous Cursive
Starting point for letters Variable Always on the writing line
Finishing point for letters Always on the writing line (except for o, r, v and w, which have a top exit stroke)
Single letter formation Letters taught with exit strokes only Letters taught with entry and exit strokes

Whether Cursive or Continuous Cursive is to be favoured remains a subject of debate. While many schools in the United Kingdom are opting to teach Continuous Cursive throughout the year groups, often starting in Reception, critics have argued that conjoined writing styles leave many children struggling with the high level of gross and fine motor coordination required.[17]

Cursive writing in North America

Development in the 18th and 19th centuries

In the American colonies, on the eve of their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, it is notable that Thomas Jefferson joined most, but not all the letters when drafting the United States Declaration of Independence. However, a few days later, Timothy Matlack professionally re-wrote the presentation copy of the Declaration in a fully joined, cursive hand. Eighty-seven years later, in the middle of the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln drafted the Gettysburg Address in a cursive hand that would not look out of place today.

Not all such cursive, then or now, joined all of the letters within a word.

Cursive handwriting from the 19th-century US

In both the British Empire and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, before the typewriter, professionals used cursive for their correspondence. This was called a "fair hand", meaning it looked good, and firms trained all their clerks to write in exactly the same script.

Although women's handwriting had noticeably different particulars from men's[further explanation needed], the general forms were not prone to rapid change. In the mid-19th century, most children were taught the contemporary cursive; in the United States, this usually occurred in second or third grade (around ages seven to nine). Few simplifications appeared as the middle of the 20th century approached.[citation needed]

After the 1960s, a movement originally begun by Paul Standard in the 1930s to replace looped cursive with cursive italic penmanship resurfaced. It was motivated by the claim that cursive instruction was more difficult than it needed to be; that conventional (looped) cursive was unnecessary, and it was easier to write in cursive italic. Because of this, various new forms of cursive italic appeared, including Getty-Dubay Italic, and Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting. In the 21st century, some of the surviving cursive writing styles are Spencerian, Palmer Method, D'Nealian, and Zaner-Bloser script.[18]

Decline of English cursive in the United States

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D'Nealian script, a cursive alphabet, shown in upper case and lower case

See also: Cursive handwriting instruction in the United States

One of the earliest forms of new technology that caused the decline of handwriting was the invention of the ballpoint pen, patented in 1888 by John Loud. Two brothers, László and György Bíró, further developed the ballpoint pen by changing the design and using different ink that dried quickly. Unlike older pen designs, this new invention guaranteed that the ink would not smudge and did not require such careful penmanship. After World War II, the ballpoint pen was mass-produced and sold cheaply, changing how people wrote. Over time, the emphasis on using cursive declined slowly,[quantify] and was later impacted by other technologies such as the phone, computer, and keyboard.[19][20]

Cursive has been in decline throughout the 21st century because it is no longer perceived as necessary.[21][22] The Fairfax Education Association, the largest teachers' union in Fairfax County, Virginia, has called cursive a "dying art".

On the 2006 SAT, an American university matriculation exam, only 15 percent of the students wrote their essay answers in cursive.[23] However, students might be discouraged from using cursive on standardized tests because they will receive lower marks if their answers are hard to read, and some graders may have difficulties reading cursive.[24] Nevertheless, in 2007, a survey of 200 teachers of first through third grades in all 50 American states, 90 percent of respondents said their schools required the teaching of cursive,[25] but a nationwide survey in 2008 found elementary school teachers lacking formal training in teaching handwriting; only 12 percent reported having taken a course in how to teach it.[26]

In 2012, the American states of Indiana and Hawaii announced that their schools would no longer be required to teach cursive (but will still be permitted to), and instead will be required to teach "keyboard proficiency". Nationwide Common Core State Standards (which do not include instruction in cursive) were proposed in 2009 and had been adopted by 44 states as of July 2011 - all of which have debated whether to augment them with cursive.[27][28]

Conservation efforts and effects on the learning disabled

Many historical documents, such as the United States Constitution, are written in cursive—some argue the inability to read cursive therefore precludes one from being able to fully appreciate such documents in their original format.[29] Despite the decline in the day-to-day use of cursive, it is being reintroduced to the curriculum of some schools in the United States[timeframe?]. California passed cursive handwriting legislation in 2023, adding to a wave of state legislation between 2013 and 2023 that requires the incorporation of cursive handwriting into elementary education.[30][31][32] Other states such as Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Tennessee had already mandated cursive in schools as a part of the Back to Basics program designed to maintain the integrity of cursive handwriting.[33] Cursive instruction is required by grade 5 in Illinois, starting with the 2018–2019 school year.[34] Some[who?] argue that cursive is not worth teaching in schools and "in the 1960s cursive was implemented because of preference and not an educational basis; Hawaii and Indiana have replaced cursive instruction with 'keyboard proficiency' and 44 other states are currently weighing similar measures."[35]

Maria Montessori argued that writing with straight lines is more difficult than writing with curved lines and children would benefit from learning cursive first.[36]

Students with dyslexia, who have difficulty learning to read because their brains have difficulty associating sounds and letter combinations efficiently, have found that cursive can help them with the decoding process because it integrates hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and other brain and memory functions.[37] However, students with dysgraphia may be badly served, or even substantially hindered, by demands for cursive.[38]


Alphabet sample of German "Kurrentschrift"
Alphabet sample of German "Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift"
Kurrent (left, pre-19th century) and Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift (right, from 1969)

Up to the 19th century, Kurrent (also known as German cursive) was used in German-language longhand. Kurrent was not used exclusively, but rather in parallel to modern cursive (which is the same as English cursive). Writers used both cursive styles: location, contents and context of the text determined which style to use. A successor of Kurrent, Sütterlin, was widely used in the period 1911–1941 until the Nazi Party banned it and its printed equivalent Fraktur. German speakers brought up with Sütterlin continued to use it well into the post-war period.

Today, three different styles of cursive writing are taught in German schools, the Lateinische Ausgangsschrift [de] (introduced in 1953), the Schulausgangsschrift [de] (1968), and the Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift (1969).[39] The German National Primary Schoolteachers' Union has proposed replacing all three with Grundschrift, a simplified form of non-cursive handwriting adopted by Hamburg schools.[40]


The standard modern Russian Cyrillic cursive alphabet with uppercase and lowercase letters, used in school education

Main article: Russian cursive

The Russian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet is used (instead of the block letters) when handwriting the modern Russian language. While several letters resemble Latin counterparts, many of them represent different sounds. Most handwritten Russian, especially personal letters and schoolwork, uses the cursive Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet, although use of block letters in private writing has been rising.[citation needed] Most children in Russian schools are taught in the 1st grade how to write using this Russian script.


Main article: Cursive script (East Asia)

Cursive forms of Chinese characters are used in calligraphy; "running script" is the semi-cursive form and "rough script" (mistakenly called "grass script" due to literal misinterpretation) is the cursive. The running aspect of this script has more to do with the formation and connectedness of strokes within an individual character than with connections between characters as in Western connected cursive. The latter are rare in hanzi and in the derived Japanese kanji characters which are usually well separated by the writer.


See also


  1. ^ "Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?". BBC News. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  2. ^ Russell, Helen (31 July 2015). "Signing off: Finnish schools phase out handwriting classes". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  3. ^ Bara, Florence; Morin, Marie-France (June 2013). "Does the Handwriting Style Learned in First Grade Determine the Style Used in the Fourth and Fifth Grades and Influence Handwriting Speed and Quality? a Comparison Between French and Quebec Children". Psychology in the Schools. 50 (6): 601–617. doi:10.1002/pits.21691.
  4. ^ "What is Cursive Writing? - Definition, History & Types". study.com. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  5. ^ Bounds, Gwendolyn (5 October 2010). "How Handwriting Boosts the Brain". The Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  6. ^ Jean, Georges (1997). Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts. 'New Horizons' series. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "cursive". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  8. ^ Rueb, Emily S. (13 April 2019). "Cursive Seemed to Go the Way of Quills and Parchment. Now It's Coming Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  9. ^ Adak, Chandranath; Chaudhuri, Bidyut B.; Blumenstein, Michael (23–26 October 2016). "Offline Cursive Bengali Word Recognition Using CNNS with a Recurrent Model". Offline Cursive Bengalese Word Recognition Using CNNs with a Recurrent Model. 15th International Conference on Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition (ICFHR). Shenzhen, China. pp. 429–434. doi:10.1109/ICFHR.2016.0086. ISBN 978-1-5090-0981-7.
  10. ^ a b Pandey, Anshuman (5 November 2011). "N4034: Proposal to Encode the Modi Script in ISO/IEC 10646" (PDF). ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
  11. ^ "Band of researchers, enthusiasts strive to keep Modi script alive". The Times of India. 21 February 2014. Archived from the original on 10 December 2014.
  12. ^ Cardenio, Or, the Second Maiden's Tragedy, pp. 131–3: By William Shakespeare, Charles Hamilton, John Fletcher (Glenbridge Publishing Ltd., 1994) ISBN 0-944435-24-6
  13. ^ Whalley, Joyce Irene (1980). The Art of Calligraphy, Western Europe & America. London: Bloomsbury. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-906223-64-2.
  14. ^ Be School Ready – What Letter Font is Your Child’s School Teaching? (online), 29 August 2019, access date 30 March 2022
  15. ^ Teach handwriting: The three handwriting stages (online), access date 30 March 2022
  16. ^ What's The Difference between Cursive and Continuous Cursive Handwriting Fonts? (online), 9 November 2017, access date 30 March 2022
  17. ^ Angela Webb: 'Continuous Cursive: Cure or Curse?', National Handwriting Association (online), access date 30 March 2022
  18. ^ Heller, Karen (2 September 2018). "From punishing to pleasurable, how cursive writing is looping back into our hearts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  19. ^ Giesbrecht, Josh (28 August 2015). "How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive". The Atlantic. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  20. ^ Enstrom, E. A. (1965). "The Decline of Handwriting". The Elementary School Journal. 66 (1): 22–27. doi:10.1086/460256. S2CID 144897364.
  21. ^ Shapiro, T. Rees (4 April 2013). "Cursive handwriting is disappearing from public schools". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  22. ^ Braiker, Brian (25 January 2011). "Tossing the Script: The End of the Line for Cursive?". ABC News. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  23. ^ "The Handwriting Is on the Wall". The Washington Post. 11 October 2006.
  24. ^ Adams, Richard (21 August 2016). "Poor handwriting 'may hinder students' chances of exam success'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  25. ^ "Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?". USA Today. 23 January 2009.
  26. ^ Graham, Steve; Harris, Karen R.; Mason, Linda; Fink-Chorzempa, Barbara; Moran, Susan; Saddler, Bruce (2008). "How do primary grade teachers teach handwriting? A national survey". Reading and Writing. 21 (1–2). New York: Springer Netherlands: 49–69. doi:10.1007/s11145-007-9064-z. ISSN 0922-4777. S2CID 143793778.
  27. ^ Webley, Kayla (6 July 2011). "Typing Beats Scribbling: Indiana Schools Can Stop Teaching Cursive". Time. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  28. ^ "Hawaii No Longer Requires Teaching Cursive In Schools". Education. The Huffington Post. 1 August 2011.
  29. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (4 June 2014). "Five Reasons Kids Should Still Learn Cursive Writing". Time. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  30. ^ Blume, Howard (8 January 2024). "Learning cursive in school, long scorned as obsolete, is now the law in California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  31. ^ Heubeck, E. (2023, November 16). More States Require Schools to Teach Cursive Writing. Why? Education Week. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/more-states-require-schools-to-teach-cursive-writing-why/2023/11
  32. ^ Bill Text: CA AB446 | 2023-2024 | Regular Session | Chaptered. (n.d.). LegiScan. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB446/id/2845873
  33. ^ "Is cursive handwriting slowly dying out in America?". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  34. ^ "An act concerning education". ILGA.gov. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  35. ^ Serratore, Angela (6 March 2013). "Is Cursive Handwriting Going Extinct?". Smithsonian. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  36. ^ Montessori, M. (1964). The Montessori method (A. E. George, Trans.; First Schocken paperback edition.). Schocken Books.
  37. ^ "How cursive can help students with dyslexia connect the dots". PBS NewsHour. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  38. ^ "Myths and Fact ... Dysgraphia". Nursing. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  39. ^ "Grundschrift-Schreibschrift". grundschrift-schreibschrift.de.
  40. ^ Pidd, Helen (29 June 2011). "German teachers campaign to simplify handwriting in schools". The Guardian.