Cursive Handwriting

The importance of healthy handwriting cannot be over-emphasized. Everyone of us feels some way about our own handwriting.   That feeling reflects our self-esteem, and often a sense of our general capabilities.  It’s personal.  It’s significant.  It’s visceral.  It’s influential.   And it can change our life!

Cursive handwriting is distinctly personal.  The way we write reflects the way we think.  A clean, well proportioned, legible handwriting communicates more than just its word message.  It also reflects orderliness, thoughtfulness, and consideration for the reader.  A smeary, irregular, illegible handwriting also says something about the writer, and usually hinders the message.

Often dubbed penmanship, cursive writing was a child’s first and only introduction to writing until the 1930’s.  The simplified unjoined print style coined manuscript writing was imported from England and thought to be easier for young children to identify with since it resembles lettering used in books and newsprint.  No studies were ever done.  Print lettering (sometimes referred to as ball and stick writing) was simply adopted by the educational system, and cursive was postponed until Third Grade.

Curiously, what we now know is that the brain that learns to write cursive can read both print and cursive writing while the brain that is taught only print lettering cannot recognize a cursive script.  And so it is that thousands of millennials today cannot read original historical documents or letters from grandparents or even a vintage autograph because cursive was removed from many classrooms across the country while they were growing up.  Moreover, they have missed out on the rich benefits cursive handwriting gives those who practice it.

Research shows that cursive writing is a key component in learning and brain development.  What’s more, handwriting promotes the hand-brain connection which, in turn, plays a vital role in building patterns in our thinking.    Studies show children who enjoy writing learn better, faster and are higher achievers than those who don’t.  See excerpt, ‘Handwriting is really brain writing’ below.  (For more information about cursive writing and the hand-brain connection, visit our resource page:  articles, clinical studies, handwriting benefits).

There are many subtle elements to handwriting ... pressure, size, slant, regularity, etc.  Some letters have loops, others do not.  Some are round and curvy, others are more linear or angular.

Balance in handwriting, as in life, is key.  There are three zones in handwriting: the middle zone, the upper zone above the mid-zone, and the lower zone below the baseline.  Ideally the upper and lower zones are written about two to two-and-a-half times taller and longer respectively as the middle zone portion of the letters.  See illustration below.

The one thing all the letters have in common is their relationship to the baseline.  No matter what handwriting zone particular letters begin in, they all 'run' or 'sit' along the baseline. The baseline is the foundation in handwriting.

three handwriting zones

Handwriting is really brain writing

The hands have the most nerve endings in the body, and feed our brain a lot of sensory data. In fact, our hands are in constant dialogue with our brain. When we use our hands, the brain concentrates even more on them.

The brain-hand connection is accessed through handwriting and our thinking patterns are supported by writing healthy letters.

When we write, we are connecting to neurons in our brain. We literally stimulate brain cells, and we are forming pathways for nerves to send messages. When we repeat certain patterns in our handwriting, we are establishing patterns of pathways in our neuro-centers. These become our habits of thinking, where or how we most often work on our problem solving skills, or approach new situations, or learn new skills. Some people learn best by hearing, some by seeing, some by doing. There is no right or wrong way, but there can be more efficient ways to think about things and easier ways of doing them.

- excerpt from Elephants, pen and ink, Susan Govorko ©May, 2009, all rights reserved