Cursive: Is it really that important?

thick pencil lettering

NPR recently did a report about the value of cursive in child’s brain development. By their best calculations, all fine motor skill activities are valuable to brain development, be it printing, cursive or keyboarding. But the best option is for kids to be doing all sorts of fine motor activities.

This story, however,  does not address the issue of legibility, speed of writing or not writing like a 6-year-old when you’re forty.



A Special Collection Pencil

SFPL Special Collection Pencil

One of my favorite tourist and travel mementos are pencils. They are small and fit easily into my suitcase. Sadly, they are not as common to find as they once were. So I was tickled to see that the Book Arts & Special Collections at the San Francisco Public Library had a stamped pencils on the front desk.

When I asked the librarians if they would mind if I took one of the pencils to commemorate my visit, they held up a jar so that I could pick a “nice one.”

SFPL Use Pencils Only

I visited the Book Arts & Special Collections to see calligraphy and original typography designs. Since a lot of the material is rare, original drawings or small run prints, there were signs everywhere, written in beautiful script, reminding visitors to use pencils only.

SFPL Special Collection Folder

Even the folders and folios were beautifully handwritten in pencil. This folder was filled with hand lettering created by the head of the font group at Hallmark, Rick Cusick. Sadly, I was asked not to photograph any of the original work so this is as close as I can show you.

If you’re interested in calligraphy or the history of type design, I recommend visiting the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering.

Handwriting Day Follow-Up

Handwriting Day Penmanship Samples

Handwritten samples for Handwriting Day from Instagram: (left to right, top to bottom) Inktronics, MyCoffePot, AdamiHasegawa, Paperblanks, Bakanekosan, JetPens and AdamiHasegawa again (with her new Kaweco Sport!).

Lots of people put pen (or pencil) to paper yesterday in celebration and support of National Handwriting Day. Did you? If not, that’s okay because in our little corner of the internet, everyday in Handwriting Day!

Keep on writing!

Happy Handwriting Day!

Happy Handwriting Day

I hope everyone is having a day full of happy handwriting.If not, try handwriting your grocery list, copying down a favorite quote or poem or just jotting out a a few pangrams. If you do, leave a link in the comments so we can marvel at your penmanship — for better or worse.

Happy Handwriting Day!

Vintage Penmanship Shirt

In honor of Handwriting Day, I picked out my vintage penmanship shirt to wear today. Yep, I am that nerdy.

White House Calligraphy Office


I stumbled upon this video from the inflammatory article published earlier this year about how much the presidential calligraphers earn each year. While they may make more money than most of us, the skills they have are unquestionable.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I think this classic hand lettering skill should be preserved especially when its done for the President for State Dinners and other official events.I can’t imagine getting an invitation to dinner at the White House whipped out on someone’s ink jet printer, can you?

I spoke with a friend who works as a professional calligrapher (not at the White House) who said that the team that the team that work at the White House work under intense pressure, often having to letter 200+ place cards in a day or two for an official event. They also work with very strict expectations for the style of calligraphy they do. the whole office is staffed by one chief calligrapher and two deputy calligraphers — a total staff of three.

I think its worth whatever these folks are being paid. That being said, Politifact did their homework and the calligraphers salary is not so disproportionate to other staffers with uniquely specialized skills (the Social Secretary makes $118K).


In the video, you can see one of the calligraphers (a left-hander!) working on a certificate. He is a third generation White House employee. Watch the video for details.

Do you think the White House should continue to employ calligraphers?

News: The Case For Cursive Continues

Case for Cursive

The new American educational curriculum called the Common Core State Standards Initiative is being discussed in the news in part because cursive writing is no longer going to be required instruction. Handwriting instruction has been waning and many states have already chosen not to require it. A national chance in teaching strategies in the US will pretty much guarantee that the few remaining states teaching it, will abandon it as well.

I’m at a loss what to say. So much more is gained in learning penmanship beyond merely the skill to read and write the characters: motor skills, brain pathways, patience and so much more…

I won’t rant here, but there’s plenty of other people who have said it:

Some links from the graphics (couldn’t find the Washington Post article):

(graphic via Montessorium)

Why Handwriting Matters

Variation on my handwriting

Variation on my handwriting

This week I watched a well-dressed, articulate co-worker scratch out some notes in her on-trend, black Moleskine with a G2. For all intents and purposes, her set-up rivals any of the pen and paper bloggers out there though she is not a pen geek. When I looked at the writing, I was shocked at how awkward and unrefined her writing was. I didn’t expect her to have text book-perfect handwriting but she is fashionable, intelligent lady  and I had always assumed her penmanship would matched her outward appearance. Instead, her writing made me wonder if she was a serial killer.

My handwriting is not as neat as it could be and seeing her writing makes me think I should continue to focus on improving my writing. In this day and age where emails and text messages are the most common means of communication, handwriting can still color your perception. Or worse, could color someone else’s perception about you. I don’t think its a good career move to have handwriting that makes you look dangerous or unbalanced. Unless that’s the look you are going for.

There are some excellent books to help adults improve their writing.  Check out my previous post on handwriting recommendations.


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