Picture it: a classroom at Mifflin County High School, May, 2012.
I was taking the SATs, and all the other stressed-out high schoolers and I had just finished the test. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we closed our test booklets and listened to the test proctor give the last instructions. She directed us to this harmless looking little box on the back of the booklet that we had to write something in.
The whole room groaned and started to get anxious. "Oh, come on, I haven't written that shit since fourth grade," someone said under their breath.
Everyone struggled to scrawl their chicken scratch for ten minutes. I, meanwhile, twiddled my thumbs and smugly smiled for nine minutes. Yup, I'm one of the few folks our age that tried to keep in practice with their cursive.
Okay, I'm done being a pompous, bragging jackass.
1. But really, knowing cursive is nice for more than just the SATs.
"I never thought I would practice a lost art. But you're looking at it. Apparently cursive writing is now on the endangered list."
I know I sound crazy saying it, but cursive really does still deserve a place in our modern society. It truly has benefits for your life - both practical ones and more abstract ones. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Brandon, you're just an old-timey history nerd. What could cursive possibly do for me?" Just bear with me, guys, trust me.
2. It helps you express who you are.
I find that cursive is a valuable part of who I am. I've once heard it said that your handwriting is an expression of your personality, and thus, you should take pride in it. It's as much an extension of you as the way you dress or the way you decorate your apartment.
Therefore, why would you want to have sloppy chicken-scratch? Even if you are only writing in print, poor handwriting can send signals to people reading it - and they're not always good signals either. Let's face it, all of us could use a little practice on our handwriting. So while you're at it, why not try picking up a form of writing that denotes elegance, skill, and dedication to detail?
3. You can impress people - even complete strangers - with good penmanship.
Okay, I'm sorry, I'm gonna come across as a bragging douchebag again.
I remember, it was the spring semester of 2016 and I was attending a lecture for an architecture class in the Forum Building at Penn State (the miserable room with the uncomfortable chairs pictured above).
The class had just finished up and I was starting to put away my notes and get ready to head to my next class. A guy who had sat over a few seats from me came over, gestured to my notebook, and said, "Hey, man, do you always write like that?"
I said, "Yeah, if I'm just writing something like notes or something."
He replied, "Dude, that looks really sharp, I love it."
It really meant a lot to hear, especially from a stranger. I had decided over that past year to start really practicing my cursive again (for the first time since elementary school), and it was really gratifying to know even a total stranger could appreciate the practice I was putting in.
I ended up getting a lot of comments like that. People would say, "Holy crap, it looks like you're writing the Constitution," or "I remember my grandpa used to write really pretty like that," or, "It looks like the inscription on the Ring in Lord of the Rings!"
As a mild-mannered, dad-bod sporting guy with not a whole lot of conventional talents, it was always so nice to hear stuff like that. Seriously, people appreciate cursive, just in the same way they appreciate a nice, restored old car from the '40s or a quaint yet elegant piece of jewelry that once belonged to your great-grandmother. Cursive can be rustic, but in a way that really touches the nostalgia in people's minds.
4. It's the best way to write out a check.
Now, to tell the truth, there's nothing out there that says a check has to be written in cursive.
That said, if you write out a check in scrawly print and then sign your name with a couple squiggles, it makes you not look like an adult - it makes you look like three little kids standing on each other's shoulders and hiding in a trench coat while they're disguised as an adult.
You're better than that! You deserve to be viewed as an adult, both by your peers and by older folks. So get to work on that handwriting! Your writing doesn't have to come out looking like some old-timey letter or something, but that little amount of effort put into some solid script handwriting on a check can boost your image.
5. It builds character.
Mastering handwriting and developing a good hand takes time - mastering anything in life takes time. Devoting time to a particular art or study not only produces an excellent final product, but it also makes us feel accomplished.
I remember first learning cursive in the second grade. My teacher, Mrs. Haines, taught us all the best ways to practice. I remember she even taught us how to stretch our hands and all the different muscles and tendons used for writing. We'd all take a period of quiet time to ourselves to sit down with a piece of paper and practice any letters we felt we needed to work on. I remember I always had trouble with my capital I's, and to this day, I still write my O's from bottom to top instead of top to bottom. But with my classmates, I'd practice and practice until we got it right.
6. It gives you a better appreciation for the past.
Did you ever go over to Grandma's house and have her show you all those old love letters Grandpa used to write her when he was off on the other side of the world fighting Krauts in North Africa? Maybe that won't be the exact scenario, but go ahead and ask an older relative if they've got any old sentimental letters stowed away somewhere.
What do you notice about all those letters? They're in cursive.
Way back when, before your parents were born, there wasn't really any such thing as writing something down in "print." When you wrote with a pen or pencil, you wrote in cursive. That's just the way things were. Print was meant for, well, the printing press. It often times was only written by hand to help children learn the alphabet. It wasn't until the development of the ball-point pen - which allowed us to write rapidly with quick-drying ink - that people realized writing in print was faster and it overthrew cursive as the dominant form of writing.
In a way, cursive really is a sort of "lost art." It was a very beautiful part of the lives of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and all our heritage. Once you learn to read and write cursive, you can really appreciate the time it took for someone to develop an elegant, legible hand. You can see right in front of you the effort they put into expressing their thoughts and emotions right there on the paper before you. If I could put it in one word, I would describe it as magnificent.
We all might not be able to master the art of cursive quite as perfectly as folks 75, 100, or 150 years ago did, but when we learn to do as they did, we can feel a sort of kindred bond with them, and we can feel pride in learning from the beautiful swirls, slashes, and curves of ink they left to us on a yellowed piece of paper.
To a lot of us millennials, cursive seems archaic and pointless. Old-fashioned as it might be, it the farthest thing from pointless. To this day, it is still an excellent skill we can learn to build ourselves into better people. It helps us express ourselves, teach ourselves dedication and discipline, and helps set us apart from the pack.
If you haven't written in cursive in, well, a long time, don't let that scare you. It is never too late to learn. Get yourself a nice pen - I personally like the Pilot G2 - and get comfortable writing with it. Next, decide how you want your cursive to look. There are all sorts of different scripts, or styles, to choose from. A couple simple ones are D'Nealian and Palmer, which are usually the ones we're taught in elementary school. If you want to really stand out, work on some more ornate scripts like Spencerian (my favorite) or Copperplate. You can learn more about scripts and how to learn them at the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH).
Now, I'm no master penman by any stretch. You can see an example of my handwriting in the cover photo; those are my notes from a Medieval history course in the spring of 2016. It's not perfect. It's a little scratchy and slashy, and I tend to get a little jumbled if I'm in a rush. But I keep working at it and keep doing my best every chance I get. So if there's one lesson I can give you if you want to pick up cursive too, it's this: keep practicing. Even if you're just writing a single letter over and over again until you get it just right, that's still practice. Keep working at it, and the more you use cursive the better you will get.
I wish you the best of luck, and never stop practicing.