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This article is about the type of handwriting style. For the style of typeface simulating handwriting, see Italic type. For the rock band, see Cursive (band).
Example of classic American business cursive handwriting known as Spencerian script from 1884.

Cursive, also known as longhand, script, looped writing, 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. Formal cursive is generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts. The writing style can be further divided as "looped", "italic", or "connected".

The cursive method is used with a number of alphabets due to its improved writing speed and infrequent pen lifting. In some alphabets, many or all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word one single complex stroke.


Cursive 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. This writing style is distinct from "printscript" using block letters, in which the letters of a word are unconnected and in Roman/Gothic letterform rather than joined-up script. 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, Syriac, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets, many or all letters in a word are connected, sometimes making a word one single complex stroke.



Looped cursive as taught in Britain in mid-twentieth century

In looped cursive penmanship, some ascenders and descenders have loops which provide for joins.


Cursive italic penmanship—derived from chancery cursive—uses non-looped joins or no joins. In italic cursive, there are no joins from g, j, q or y, and a few other joins are discouraged.[1][not in citation given] Italic penmanship became popular in the 15th-century Italian Renaissance. The term "italic" as it relates to handwriting is not to be confused with italic typed letters that slant forward. Many, but not all, letters in the handwriting of the Renaissance were joined, as most are today in cursive 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.[2]

The term cursive derives from the 18th century Italian corsivo from Medieval Latin cursivus, which literally means running. This term in turn derives from Latin currere ("to run, hasten").[3]

Cursive Arabic[edit]

Verses from the Qur'an in Classical Arabic, written in the cursive Arabic script.

In the Arabic script, most letters of any given word are joined to one another in a continuous flowing line.

Cursive Bengali[edit]

half of the National Anthem of Bangladesh written in Cursive Bengali.

In Bengali cursive script (also known in Bengali as "professional writing") the letters are more likely to be more curvy in appearance than in standard Bengali handwriting. Also, the horizontal supporting bar on each letter (matra) runs continuously through the entire word, unlike in standard handwriting. This cursive handwriting often used by literature experts, differs in appearance from the standard Bengali alphabet as it is free hand writing similar to Japanese calligraphy, Where sometimes the alphabets are complex and appears different from the standard handwriting.

Roman Cursive[edit]

Main article: Roman cursive
Example of old Roman cursive.

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.

Cursive Greek[edit]

Ancient Greek cursive script, 6th century A.D.

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.

English cursive[edit]

Cursive in English letter from 1894
William Shakespeare's will, written in secretary hand[4]

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.[5]

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.

Cursive handwriting from the 19th-century USA.

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.[6] Block letters were not suitable for this.[citation needed]

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, most children were 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.[citation needed]

After the 1960s, a movement originally begun by Paul Standard in the 1930s to replace looped cursive with cursive italic penmanship resurfaced. It was motivated by the claim that cursive instruction was more difficult than it needed to be: that conventional (looped) cursive was unnecessary, and it was easier to write in cursive italic. Because of this, a number of various new forms of cursive italic appeared, including Getty-Dubay, and Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting.

English cursive in the United States[edit]

D'Nealian Script, a cursive alphabet – lower case and upper case.

On the 2006 SAT, a United States post-secondary education entrance exam, only 15 percent of the students wrote their essay answers in cursive.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11]

California, Georgia, and Massachusetts have added a cursive requirement to the national standards.[12] In 2014 Tennessee mandated the reintroduction of cursive in the curriculum for second through fourth grades beginning in the 2015–2016 school year.[13] In March 2015 Arkansas also passed legislation mandating the teaching of cursive writing in the classroom.[14]

Cursive German[edit]

Up to the 19th century, Kurrent (also known as German cursive) was used in German language longhand. Kurrent was not used exclusively, but in parallel to modern cursive (which is the same as English cursive). Writers used both cursive styles: location, contents and context of the text determined which style to use. A successor of Kurrent, Sütterlin, was widely used in the period 1911-1941 until the Nazi Party banned it, and German speakers brought up with Sütterlin continued to use it well into the post-war period.

Today, three different styles of cursive writing are taught in German schools, the Lateinische Ausgangsschrift (introduced in 1953), the Schulausgangsschrift (1968), and the Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift (1969).[15] The German National Primary Schoolteachers' Union has proposed replacing all three with Grundschrift, a simplified form of non-cursive handwriting adopted by Hamburg schools.[16]

Cursive Russian[edit]

The standard modern Russian Cyrillic cursive alphabet with uppercase and lowercase letters, used in school education.
Main article: Russian cursive

The Russian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet is used (instead of the block letters) when handwriting the modern Russian language. While several letters resemble Latin counterparts, many of them represent different sounds. Most handwritten Russian, especially personal letters and schoolwork, uses the cursive Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most children in Russian schools are taught in the 1st grade how to write using this Russian script.

Cursive Chinese[edit]

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.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bounds, Gwendolyn (October 5, 2010). "How Handwriting Boosts the Brain". The Wall Street Journal (New York: Dow Jones). ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ Georges Jean (1997). Writing: The story of alphabets and scripts, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. [New Horizons]
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "cursive". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Cardenio, Or, the Second Maiden's Tragedy, pp. 131-3: By William Shakespeare, Charles Hamilton, John Fletcher (Glenbridge Publishing Ltd., 1994) ISBN 0-944435-24-6
  5. ^ Whalley, Joyce Irene (1980). The Art of Calligraphy, Western Europe & America. London: Bloomsbury. p. 400. ISBN 0-906223-64-4. 
  6. ^ Livingston, Ira (1997). "The Romantic Double-Cross: Keats's Letters". Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity. University of Minnesota Press. p. 143. ISBN 0816627959. 
  7. ^ "The Handwriting Is on the Wall". Washington Post. 11 October 2006. 
  8. ^ "Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?". USA Today. 23 January 2009. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Webley, Kayla (6 July 2011). "Typing Beats Scribbling: Indiana Schools Can Stop Teaching Cursive". TIME Newsfeed. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Hawaii No Longer Requires Teaching Cursive In Schools". Huffpost Education. 1 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Some states preserve penmanship despite tech gains". The Big Story. 
  13. ^ "Sharpen the pencils: Tennessee revives cursive teaching". Yahoo News. 23 August 2014. 
  14. ^ [1]. Baxter Bulletin. 15 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Grundschrift-Schreibschrift". 
  16. ^ Helen Pidd. "German teachers campaign to simplify handwriting in schools". the Guardian. 

External links[edit]