You’ve either heard of a situation like the following or been in it yourself:

The 29-year-old head of the customer service department walks down the hall and passes a hand-written complaint to a middle-age employee. “Here,” she says, “can you read this note for me? I can’t read the woman’s handwriting.”

Puzzled, he looks at the note and says, “Her handwriting is pretty legible if you ask me… at least, I’ve seen much worse.”

“Well,” the department head shrugs, “I was only ever taught to read print – my school district scratched cursive from the curriculum the year before I got to third grade, so I never learned.”

Unfortunately, instances like this are becoming more common, as handwriting expert Linda Shrewsbury has discovered. According to TIME magazine, Shrewsbury is on a mission to instruct cursive-illiterate adults how quickly and easily they can overcome the cursive barrier in their lives.  

“Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call ‘over oval, back trace.’ If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:

Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. ‘I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,’ she says.”

So why teach cursive – both to children and adults who have never learned? Shrewsbury offers three reasons:

  • It benefits motor skills and comprehension.
  • It fosters cultural heritage
  • It encourages individuality

Given these benefits, maybe spending 45 minutes to learn cursive might not be such a bad investment of time.  

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