There are actually a number of different types of cursive handwriting that have been used over the years. In many ways, cursive writing is like the old school version of a computer font. Through various methods, people could create a unique look for their handwriting that would give it a level of formality. It was created to accommodate the quills that were used before the invention of the pen to prevent splatter and the Italian Niccolo Niccoli is often credited with what we’d consider the modern technique.
Although Niccoli gets the credit, cursive was developing for nearly a 1,000 years before, from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. What is interesting about Niccoli’s version of cursive is that although it isn’t necessarily taught in schools today or used for traditional penmanship, it is used every day by millions of people. It’s the italic font on your computer.
What About Modern Cursive Methods?
There are two basic forms of cursive that are taught today, although several variations of these two basic forms are taught at the individual level. The first method, called the Palmer method, was invented in the early 1900’s as an alternative form to the very artistic and difficult to read cursive that had developed in the 19th century. By 1920, the Palmer method was the primary form of cursive that was being taught in schools.
About 50 years later, Donald Thurber created a new method of cursive than involved connecting printed letters with tails. Instead of using the different stick and ball techniques of vertical printing that are common in the Palmer method, the D’Nealian method involves a basic connection of most small block print font that is simply connected by the tails of the each letter.
What About the Spencerian Method?
It’s the formality of the Spencerian method, developed by Platt Rogers Spencer, that eventually led to its downfall. Not only is this method of cursive difficult for the average person to read, but it also takes a lot of time to produce it. You can still see an excellent example of this type of cursive today, however, if you ask your favorite search engine for the first logos of the Coca-Cola Company.
Today, however, penmanship seems to be on its way out. Some schools have even stopped teaching it altogether because of the proliferation of technology in the modern classroom. The perspective is that there is more value in teaching kids word processing skills or even how to properly code rather than work on an “archaic” form of writing that is beginning to be rarely used.
This disassociation from cursive has been happening for a long time, however, so blaming technology is more like finding a scapegoat. As early as 1955, editorials were calling Americans a people who preferred to “scrawl” instead of formally write and penmanship abilities have been declining since then.
No matter what method of cursive you prefer, the one thing that matters is that you can create legible words so your thoughts can be properly conveyed. Go have a Coke, get off the computer, and see what type of cursive your handwriting is most like.