Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cursive handwriting considered harmful.

We were all handed a paper describing recent events, for topics of discussion at a recent meeting. The meeting organizer apologized that they had not been typed up, as they were handwritten in cursive. Actually, the writers handwriting was very beautiful, with quite an artistic flourish but not over done. Yet my first response was utter horror. Modern cursive writing was never meant to be read, it was meant to pander to the ego of the modern educator.

Here's the #1 reason I don't try to read and write in cursive with more proficiently: it would be a waste of my time since an event like the above comes about once every couple of years or less frequently. Second, few people can make this 5h17 actually look reasonably legible. Third, it provides no value above and beyond block printing. Fourth, a good clean italic hand printing can be at least as elegant while discarding the pompous flourish. Fifth, it appears to be that those who promoted cursive did so as a point of a relatively modern yet dogmatic pedagogy rather than rationally considered, researched, and tested behavior, and as such their beliefs have less validity than the QWERTY keyboard.

Doctors put patient's lives in danger every time they use cursive handwriting to write a script -- and they do so simply for appearances sake. Fortunately the industry is making inroads to route around the problem. Unfortunately many people still perceive the doctor's handwriting skills to be the root cause of the problem. We train drafters in architectural block printing rather than cursive because the former is meant to be read accurately, the latter to be appreciated for all but its content. The root cause isn't that doctors have illegible cursive handwriting, it is that handwriting in cursive is meant to appeal to artistic sensibilities, not promote precise communication.

So down with cursive handwriting. By all means, continue handwriting in whatever form you like, and practice legibility. Just don't practice cursive writing and pretend you're doing anything other than gratifying yourself.