The Handwriting’s Not Always on the Wall

We used to write letters, and postcards, and checks. The advent of the computer keyboard and smartphones is having an impact on penmanship and we’re slipping, especially among youth.

“What I have found is that among the younger generation I see tons more block print. And what I’ve also noticed is that they’ve started creating their own pattern of cursive,” says Laurie Hoeltzel, who is a Houston professional handwriting expert. Texas schools had stopped teaching cursive and put more emphasis on keyboard skills, until the State Board of Education brought teaching cursive back to the curriculum effective in the 2019-2020 school year. Unfortunately that was the year Covid hit and sent classrooms to virtual learning. By the time all students return to classrooms, their writing may have grown even more creative. “It looks like they started to learn cursive but then started to create their own way of writing letters within their cursive,” adds Hoeltzel of young writers.

A signature is about as close as many of us adults come to writing in cursive these days, and Hoeltzel says even in that regard there is less flair. For some, putting their X on a document has been reduced to just that. “Which creates more difficulties with document examination, especially when someone comes to me and says, ‘Someone forged my signature.’ I tell them I understand, ‘but your signature is a horizontal and vertical line. How difficult do you think that would be for someone to do?’”

Hoeltzel says she still sees plenty of good, old-fashioned penmanship. Not everyone has lost the skill apparently. She points to research that finds people who write in cursive are better able to retain cognitive skills, and students who write in cursive that tend to do better on tests.

photo: Getty Images

Children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.

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