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Cursive, also known as script, joined-up writing, joint writing, running writing, or handwriting is any style of penmanship in which the symbols of the language are written in a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster. However, not all cursive copybooks join all letters. Formal cursive is generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts. In the Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets, many or all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word one single complex stroke.
While the terms cursive or script are popular in the United States for describing this style of writing the Latin script, this term is rarely used elsewhere. Joined-up writing is more popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. The term handwriting is common in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Cursive is considered distinct from printscript, in which the letters of a word are unconnected and in Roman/Gothic letterform rather than joined-up script. Printscript is also commonly called "manuscript", "block letter", "print writing", "block writing" (and sometimes simply "print" which confusingly also refers to mechanical printing).
A distinction is also made between cursive and "italic" penmanship, in which some ascenders and descenders of cursive have loops which provide for joins and italic which is derived from chancery cursive, which mostly uses non-looped joins or no joins. There are no joins from g, j, q or y, and a few other joins are discouraged. Italic penmanship became popular in the 15th century Italian Renaissance. The term "italic" as it relates to handwriting is not to be confused with typed letters that slant forward. Many, but not all letters in the handwriting of the Renaissance were joined, as they are today in italic.
In Hebrew cursive and Roman cursive, the letters are not connected. In the research domain of handwriting recognition, this writing style is called connected cursive, to indicate the difference between the phenomenon of italic and sloppy appearance of individual letters (cursive) and the phenomenon of connecting strokes between letters, i. e., a letter-to-letter transition without a pen lift (connected cursive).
The origin of the cursive method is associated with practical advantages of writing speed and infrequent pen lifting to accommodate the limitations of the quill. Quills are fragile, easily broken, and will spatter unless used properly. Steel dip pens followed quills; they were sturdier, but still had some limitations. The individuality of the provenance of a document was a factor also, as opposed to machine font.
In the Classical Arabic script, letters of any given word are joined to one another by a continuous flowing line. This flowing script inspired the cursive of Medieval Latin, which in turn developed into the longhand script of English.
Roman cursive is a form of handwriting (or a script) used in ancient Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages. It is customarily divided into old (or ancient) cursive, and new cursive. Old Roman cursive, also called majuscule cursive and capitalis cursive, was the everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Latin alphabet, and even by emperors issuing commands. New Roman cursive, also called minuscule cursive or later Roman cursive, developed from old Roman cursive. It was used from approximately the 3rd century to the 7th century, and uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern eyes; "a", "b", "d", and "e" have taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters are proportionate to each other rather than varying wildly in size and placement on a line.
The Greek alphabet has had several cursive forms in the course of its development. In antiquity, a cursive form of handwriting was used in writing on papyrus. It employed slanted and partly connected letter forms as well as many ligatures. Some features of this handwriting were later adopted into Greek minuscule, the dominant form of handwriting in the medieval and early modern era. In the 19th and 20th centuries, an entirely new form of cursive Greek, more similar to contemporary Western European cursive scripts, was developed.
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Cursive writing was used in English before the Norman conquest. Anglo-Saxon Charters typically include a boundary clause written in Old English in a cursive script. A cursive handwriting style—secretary hand—was widely used for both personal correspondence and official documents in England from early in the 16th century.
Cursive handwriting developed into something approximating its current form from the 17th century, but its use was neither uniform, nor standardized either in England itself or elsewhere in the British Empire. In the English colonies of the early 17th century, most of the letters are clearly separated in the handwriting of William Bradford, though a few were joined as in a cursive hand. In England itself, Edward Cocker had begun to introduce a version of the French rhonde style, which was then further developed and popularized throughout the British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries as round hand by John Ayers and William Banson.
Back in the American colonies, on the eve of their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, it is notable that Thomas Jefferson joined most, but not all of the letters when drafting the United States Declaration of Independence. However, a few days later, Timothy Matlack professionally re-wrote the presentation copy of the Declaration in a fully joined, cursive hand. Eighty-seven years later, in the middle of the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln drafted the Gettysburg Address in a cursive hand that would not look out of place today.
Note that not all such cursive, then or now, joined all of the letters within a word.
In both the British Empire and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, before the typewriter, professionals used cursive for their correspondence. This was called a "fair hand", meaning it looked good, and firms trained their clerks to write in exactly the same script.
In the early days of the post office, letters were written in cursive — and to fit more text on a single sheet, the text was continued in lines crossing at 90 degrees from the original text, see Crossed letter. Block letters were not suitable for this.
Although women's handwriting had noticeably different particulars from men's, the general forms were not prone to rapid change. In the mid-19th century, comparatively few children were not taught the contemporary cursive; in the United States, this usually occurred in second or third grade (around ages seven to nine). Few simplifications appeared as the middle of the 20th century approached.
After the 1960s, a movement originally began by Paul Standard in the 1930s to replace cursive with italic penmanship resurfaced. Motivated by the claim that cursive instruction was more difficult than it needed to be: that conventional cursive was unnecessary, and it was easier to write in italic. Because of this, a number of various new forms of italic appeared, including Getty-Dubay, and Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting.
With the advent of typewriters and computers, cursive as a way of formalizing correspondence has fallen out of favor. Most tasks which would have once required a "fair hand" are now done using word processing and a printer. However, western etiquette advocates the use of longhand in personal notes (e.g., thank-you notes) to provide a sense that a real person is involved in the correspondence.
The teaching of cursive has been de-emphasized in some public schools, but is still used for situations such as timed tests with large writing portions, where it is considered faster by some. Also being able to write in a fair-hand is still looked upon as a sign of literacy in many countries.[where?] In some countries, the quality of one's cursive is used to determine the appointment of public office.[where?]
English cursive in the US
In a 2007 survey of 200 teachers of first through third grades in all 50 American states, 90 percent of respondents said their schools required the teaching of cursive.
A 2008 nationwide survey found elementary school teachers lacking formal training in teaching handwriting to students. Only 12 percent of teachers reported having taken a course in how to teach it.
In 2012, the American states of Indiana and Hawaii announced that their schools will no longer be required to teach cursive (but will still be permitted to), and instead will be required to teach "keyboard proficiency". As of 2011 the same was true of Illinois. Since the nation-wide proposal of the Common Core State Standards in 2009, which do not include instruction in cursive, the standards have been adopted by 44 states as of July 2011, all of which have debated whether to augment them with cursive.
California, Georgia, and Massachusetts have added a cursive requirement to the national standards.
The Bulgarian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet is used (instead of the block letters) when handwriting the modern Bulgarian language. While several letters resemble Latin counterparts, many of them represent different sounds. Most handwritten Bulgarian, especially personal letters and schoolwork, uses the cursive Bulgarian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most children in Bulgarian schools are taught by 2nd grade how to write using this Bulgarian script.
Cursive forms of Chinese characters are used in calligraphy; "running script" is the semi-cursive form and "grass script" is the cursive. The running aspect of this script has more to do with the formation and connectedness of strokes within an individual character than with connections between characters as in Western connected cursive. The latter are rare in Hanzi and the derived Japanese Kanji characters which are usually well separated by the writer.
Example of classic American business handwriting known as Spencerian script from 1884.
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- "Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?", USA Today, 23 January 2009. 
- Graham, Steve; Harris, Karen R., Mason, Linda, Fink-Chorzempa, Barbara, Moran, Susan, Saddler, Bruce (February 2008). "How do primary grade teachers teach handwriting? A national survey". Reading and Writing (New York: Springer Netherlands) 21 (1–2): 49–69. doi:10.1007/s11145-007-9064-z. ISSN 0922-4777. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
- Webley, Kayla (6 July 2011). "Typing Beats Scribbling: Indiana Schools Can Stop Teaching Cursive". TIME Newsfeed. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
- "Hawaii No Longer Requires Teaching Cursive In Schools". Huffpost Education. 1 August 2011.
- "Some states preserve penmanship despite tech gains"
- Lessons in Calligraphy and Penmanship, including scans of classic nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century manuals and examples
- The Golden Age of American Penmanship, including scans of the January 1932 issue of Austin Norman Palmer's American Penman
- Normal and Bold Victorian Modern Cursive electronic fonts for downloading
- Mourning the Death of Handwriting, a TIME Magazine article on the demise of cursive handwriting
- Op-Art: The Write Stuff, a New York Times article on the advantages of Italic hand over both full cursive and block printing
- The Society for Italic Handwriting, supporters of teaching a simplified cursive hand
- Has Technology Killed Cursive Handwriting?—Mashable, June 11, 2013