Done properly, looped cursive is a lovely form of handwriting. Let me do it slowly enough, and my looped cursive is pretty darn proper, with Ls that arc gracefully into the upper regions before dipping below the baseline, ms and ns that bounce happily across the page, and ts that are (almost) always crossed. Unfortunately, when I write in cursive, it’s because I’m writing for speed (else I print). And when I write cursive quickly, “looped” isn’t the best descriptor of what my pen produces. Or rather, the wrong things are looped. My t and d stems develop loops they were never intended to have, while my supposedly-looped letters like f, h, and y pinch closed so tightly that they become like the women in Flatland: dangerously needle-sharp. It’s probably not a good sign when 80% of the time you write r, it can be mistaken for an undotted i. (I’ve never seen that particular characteristic mentioned in any graphology book I’ve ever read. Maybe I’ve developed an entirely original psychological quirk?)

My analogy is this: I wouldn’t willingly wear an outfit I didn’t like, even if it fit me perfectly. I would wear it grudgingly, and only if I had no better options, and the minute I had the chance to send it to charity and get it out of my closet, I would do so. Well, I don’t like my cursive, I’m using it only because I have no better options for quick writing, and if it’s a perfect graphological description of my personality, I’m in deep doo-doo. It is time to find a handwriting that I like.

See, this isn’t a brand-new realization on my part. I first figured this out a few years ago, during a journaling phase.* I even took steps back then to change things, starting with some online research. (You know, looped cursive is really ingrained in our culture; there aren’t that many alternatives out there). Out of all that, I managed to change A and S. I’m not thrilled that over time, they’ve gotten the same pinched look as the rest of my writing, but at least the foundation is good. And then my journaling craving faded and I never tackled a third letter. Obviously it’s time to resurrect this project. Even if I don’t do much with the lower-case letters, I want to change a lot of the capitals. I mean, really. Even when done carefully, the cursive Q looks like a 2. G bears hardly any resemblance to its printed form. X is made in some completely unintuitive way of sticking a 9 and a 6 back-to-back, and F is just plain odd.

It did occur to me that this is not just a private decision. Say I stick with the program this time. Say I make major changes. At some point, I’m going to have to change my legal signature. Imagine the paperwork. Admittedly, seeing the reactions might be interesting. (“Hi. I’d like to change my signature. No, I don’t have a problem with my writing hand. No, I’m not sick. No, I’m not a victim of identity theft. No, I’m not committing identity theft…”). Although given that no store or bank has ever complained about the illegible scribbles that credit card readers turn my current signature into, I don’t know why I’m worrying.

The graphological implications of all this interest me no end. But one major project at a time…

*I can ignore my cursive a good deal of the time. I print almost everything that other people see, and in the era of the computer, that’s mostly just forms and sticky notes anyway. But any time I go through a journaling phase, I end up seeing a lot of my cursive. Bleah.

4 thoughts on “Re-Write

  1. Suncat

    This will just be some random thoughts about cursive handwriting. The last time I caught a glimpse of your longhand, I was impressed with how nice and elegant it appeared to me. I bet that's not helping you any.When I was young, that is pre-2nd grade which is when cursive was first taught in my elementary school, I had mostly only my parents' handwriting to look at. I thought it was really cool, and couldn't wait to learn it myself. Upon walking into my 2nd grade classroom for the first time, I saw cards lining the top of the blackboards (Yes, I'm that old, blackboards not whiteboards. Actually they were generally green.) showing the capital and lowercase of each letter of the alphabet. They were beautiful, elegantly looped at the perfect slant. Imagine my dismay when instead we were forced to make letters in this odd straight up-and-down, jerky method. The letters looked squat and ugly to me, and that was the teacher's samples. I asked why we couldn't write like on the pretty cards, and was told that we just couldn't. I didn't ask why she'd even bothered to put the cards up; I was at least smart enough then to understand the response wouldn't be good.So I endured cursive through 2nd grade. Upon complaining to my mother that we weren't allowed to write like in the "bait" cards, she shared how she'd been taught cursive. Back then, the Palmer method was in vogue. Mom showed me some of the exercises, which indeed helped put my cursive into a form I liked much better. I still practice the exercises today–when I feel my longhand is getting messy and out of control you'll see my notebook doodles switch from pictorial to Palmer exercises.My capital letters have shifted over the years, mostly due to laziness. My capital "S" abandoned the treble-clef look and now is just a quick printed "S". The capital "G", being one of my initials, is the only one where I made a conscious change. Years ago I'd often go to a restaurant called Gannon's with my parents, and I loved the script style of their "G". Sometime in high school or college I adopted it as my own. Happily, I didn't have much in the way of legal signature to change then, so that wasn't a problem.


  2. Silvernfire

    Aw, thanks, about my cursive. Actually, standing back from a page of my writing, I can admire the evenness of the slant, uniformity of size, and so on. It's just when I get up close and see all those pinched rs that I start actively disliking it. And for some reason, I'm bollixing up y. I have to practically stop anytime I'm writing it and consciously draw it, or it falls apart entirely. y is not a terribly complicated letter–it shouldn't be giving me these problems.We had the blackboards and the green cards pinned over them too! They were print cards for 1st and 2nd grade and changed to cursive in 3rd grade. We were definitely Palmer children, and we were taught to write like the green cards. I liked learning cursive because it was grownup writing and it was pretty, and yet even then, I kept switching back to print if I wasn't actually required to use cursive.Oddly, I remember deliberately changing my printing as a child–I consciously decided to round my w and my Y, for instance–but it doesn't seem to have occurred to me until 2005 or so that Mr. Cooper (6th-grade teacher, and a martinet when it came to handwriting) was no longer standing over my shoulder and that I could change my cursive. ^_^Mom's handwriting was lovely. Every now and then I think of taking her T, but it does feel like hers, not mine. Maybe they were just taught differently in their generation, with more emphasis on beauty? I mean, cursive from the nineteenth century looks like calligraphy most of the time. And now you see articles where people are calling for handwriting to be dropped from the curriculum entirely, citing lack of time and not much need for it in the age of the keyboard.


  3. Suncat

    I'm clearly a dinosaur–my cursive handwriting is faster than my typing. It's also more accurate. When I'm taking meeting minutes at work, I have to force myself to do it on my laptop, as instinct sends me to my pen-and-paper notebook. Even though I recognize the business value of, when I'm the presenter, to have the meeting minutes right there up on the screen so people can add stuff right then.Actually, the fact that I still carry a paper notebook along with my laptop to meetings is what makes me a dinosaur. I don't believe I've ever seen anyone else do that; it's laptop or notebook.


  4. Silvernfire

    Ah, here we are back in the Stone Age at work. It's still a rarity to see anyone taking notes on a computer at the various library meetings I go to.The difference is more obvious at St. Kate's. I ran straight into it in my first class when I met with a fellow student one weekend to work on our project. I pulled out my notebook to share what I'd found, and she said, "Wow. You take notes by hand?" But that was the semester I began to realize that my muse prefers handwriting over typing, period.



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