Is The Pen Still Mightier Than The Sword?



I used to hate learning cursive in school.  I preferred printing rather than writing, mostly because my cursive looked like a spastic chicken had just crossed the page and my printing looked…. well, somewhat better.  My writing improved over time, but it was never all that great.  It got to the point where I would print (pen style) entire reports in high school, just so my teacher wouldn’t bust my balls about not being able to make out a word or five that I had written.  Of course, if I had I just slowed down a bit when I wrote then I wouldn’t have scribbled what seemed to be some kind of magic code that only I could read.  But I was in high school.  I had more important things to do like reading comics and going to the movies.  Also girls.

Girls dressed as comic book characters who appeared in movies would have destroyed my hormones.

Girls dressed as comic book characters who appeared in movies would have destroyed my hormones.


Today, the World seems to have gone backwards as far as written communication goes.  It went from writing in cursive to printing by hand, to typing entire words on a keyboard, to typing entire words in text, to typing shorthand in text.  These days, kids who spend much of their time texting on smart phones are taking these bad habits and bringing them into their personal handwriting.  As if teachers didn’t have enough of an excuse to drink before being subjected to pages of “OMG C U L8R.”

It’s not getting any better.  In fact, schools aren’t even teaching cursive anymore.

Penmanship aside, is there really any reason to keep cursive around? Or has it gone the way of the 8-track tape?

The Grandfather to the CD, which is almost a dated reference in itself.

The Grandfather to the CD, which is almost a dated reference in itself.


I thought about my own life and how much I use cursive in my day-to-day activities.  Most of my communication is typed (full words, thank you very much) but I do have a dayplanner that requires the application of pen to paper.  Even then, I tend to print out my appointments and notes rather than write them in cursive. 

So why keep it around?  Well for starters, it’s a good way to keep things from your kids since a growing number of them can’t read cursive in the first place.  That’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen when you stop teaching cursive in school.  Take Rachel Jeantel, a witness in the recent trial of George Zimmerman.  The 19-year-old was asked to read a letter and all she could do was hang her head and mutter “I don’t read cursive.”

Texting may seem faster than writing, but you’re not engaging your entire brain when you do it.  That’s obvious if you spend five seconds looking at some of the texts people are sending these days.  According to handwriting specialist Wendy Carlson, not using cursive is turning our grey matter into mush.

Carlson says cursive writing combines mental and physical processes which involve both sides of the brain. She says she’s noticed that the number of people who write cursive decreases as technology becomes the most dominant means of communication.

“If you are typing or texting, it’s a matter of punching and finger-moving,” she says. “You are doing very little thinking because you are not allowing your brain to form neural processes.”

Speaking of mind-numbing activities, it wasn’t until I came to work that I realized just how important cursive still is.  I filled out some paperwork and came to a single word at the bottom of the page that helped bring it all around.

That word?  Signature.

I don’t care how many partial words little Suzy can text to her friends – if the best she can do is print, she’s screwed when it comes to signing legal documents, personal cheques, or even a passport.  Sadly, not everyone can sign with an X.