Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I recently saw a news report (I cannot remember which of the plethora of news programs I watch it was on, sorry) about how Cursive is a dying script. The point of the story was that we learn it in third grade and then practically never read it again.

I am reading The Salmon Of Doubt, the posthumous work by Douglas Adams. It is basically a collection of essays, articles he wrote, and the start of a novel that he was in the process of writing when he died. He makes note of how handwriting was going out as far back as the nineties and offers an answer to the question “Why?”

Thinking about it, I think he is right. Handwriting is dying out because it is not conducive to computing.

With the ubiquity of the computer in daily life we are more used to seeing things in print than in cursive, and though we could make the computers write things in cursive, it is not necessary. Computer keyboards are not in cursive, handwriting input devices do not understand cursive, and don’t get me started with text recognition. It is often had to get my scanner to import a typed document correctly.

So is cursive dead? Probably. If so, it was the computer that killed it.

Except for my signature, I cannot tell you the last thing I wrote in cursive (and as with most signatures that I have seen, mine is mostly initial letters and a suggestive squiggle). What was the last thing you wrote in cursive? So, take a moment to morn the passing of cursive, then get back to work in a print world.

Don Bergquist – November 18, 2009 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA


KateGladstone said...

If the computer killed handwriting, the computer may be resurrecting it. GQ magazine reports, in the issue that came out today, about an iPhone app designed to teach handwriting to MDs and others. (December 2009 GQ, article "Penmanship: It's All in the Wrist" by John Bradley -- one of three stories on handwriting improvement iin that issue of GQ.)

The app is called Better Letters, and its reviews on the Apple App Store site average 5 stars (out of a possible 5). The GQ article didn't give a download link, but this will take you there:

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Kate,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog!

That sounds like an interesting idea. But is it teaching them to write or to print? I cannot remember the last time I even saw something written (by a living person – as opposed to old letters or documents in a museum) as opposed to printed.

When I was preparing this post (after I had heard the comments that precipitated it) it occurred to me that I never "write" anything. All my notes are either printed or a weird hybrid that I sometimes use that is a combination of printed letters that are written independently and those that are semi-cursive in that they are printed letters that have become joined-up.

I would not have known about the app. Being somewhat as a luddite, for someone who designs computer software, I refuse to get an iPhone because I consider them to be toys. I need a phone, not a status symbol.

Thanks again for reading and commenting on my blog!


CathyW said...

I write things every day. Notes in my daytimer, notes while I'm working, my grocery list. And you can see my "things to do" collection of post-it notes at my desk! These are all short things. But I always writes letters to friends by hand (including today). I would hate to see handwriting disappear.

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Cathy,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog!


I had never noticed!

I'll have to remember to take a look at your notepad the next time I walk by your desk.

Not that I doubt what you're telling me...


Again, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog!


Anonymous said...

I use the Iphone for a lot more than phone calls and texting. In fact, I'm using an Iphone right now as I'm writing this. Computers will never go away but I think a lot of people like the convenience of getting on the Internet in five seconds rather than waiting for their computer to boot up. Try it sometime. It can get addictive getting online so quickly. Once again, thanks for letting me post on your blog.

Anonymous Reader

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Anonymous Reader...

Uh... Well, I was going to say thanks for reading and commenting on my blog, but apparently you have either commented yourself before or read the comments and responses! Perhaps I am too predictable.

To change it up a bit, I am not going to say that this time! So there! :-P

You may have a point about the convenience, but how fast do you really need to get online? Do you really need access to naughty pictures to be that quick? (And how good can those pictures look on that tiny little screen?

But seriously, my comment about iPhones was that unless you have a need to carry the internet in your pocket, are they really that practical?

If I had been able to get a cell phone without a camera from my provider I would have... I have good cameras; three of them! Why should I want to add another cheap one to the mix?

Besides, my rant was really about cursive and not iPhones anyway.

Thanks for reading and commenting even if it was not strictly on-topic!


Anonymous said...

Yes it's true that I did get off topic but I think that you might misunderstand the Iphone a little bit. Before I got one I thought it was a toy or status symbol but the email and Internet browser are so good that it saves me from using my computer (except for things where the phone's browser isn't adequate). Because of that my computer will probably last longer (and I think some people with phones like the Iphone might feel comfortable not buying a new computer when the old computer dies (though most people don't have the fancy Bluetooth printer that I think you need to print from a phone).

There is another thing going on in the business world that a lot of people are not aware of in regards to cell phones. Realtors send pictures to clients - people in construction send their bosses pictures of the work in progress, and people who buy and sell on eBay send and receive pictures of the items they are going to buy or sell.

Getting back to your topic, my writing has become so bad in recent years (from mainly writing from computers and cell phones probably), that I don't write anymore either. I only print.

Anonymous Reader

Don Bergquist said...

Dear Anonymous Reader:

I did not mistake your meaning (and please feel free to allow your rants to roam as far afield as they care to - I do!) but was being mildly chiding.

I will admit that you have some good points about iPhones (and like devices) there are, for instance, salespeople with whom I work who swear by them. I suppose if I ever get back to a point where I travel as often as I used to, I may reconsider my stance.

As I believe I have said, for someone who designs software I am a bit of a Luddite. I will update to new technology only as it becomes necessary or as it makes my life easier.

At this point, neither is the case for a smartphone. I do not need the feature, so I do not carry one. I suppose when I start designing an interface for my software to a hand-held browser, I will have to break down and carry one, but until then, nah!

Again, thanks for reading and commenting and have a good evening!