DailyDirt: Should Touch Typing Replace Cursive?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Kids today are bombarded with technology — touchscreens, keyboards, Xbox controllers, and various gesture-based user interfaces are all competing against the lowly pencil and paper. Sure, finger painting and crayons are still all the rage with toddlers, but once kids get a little older, those activities might not be as attractive as a game of Angry Birds or Mario Kart. Is there any evidence that typing and touchscreens will hinder kids from learning? Here are a few links that seem to point to an association between handwriting and better learning.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Should Touch Typing Replace Cursive?”

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A Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That paragraph was a nightmare. I took the test in 2003 or 2004, and even then most of us didn’t know how to form several of the letters (because we hadn’t used cursive in years). It took about half an hour for the single classroom’s worth of kids to copy that paragraph. The proctor eventually told us to just make it up if we didn’t know letters.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Cursive

They aren’t learning to digest material while taking notes, they’re forced to do so without any association as to why. It’s treating a symptom, not the problem. The problem is that they don’t know how to take good notes. When they get out into the job market, they have a computer and a notepad right in front of them. They were never told why they were forced to slowly write everything out, so they go the faster rout and type. Then they’re right back to the original problem.

Teach them to take good notes up front, then it doesn’t matter what they’re using.

Fine motor skills can be taught a thousand other ways. I learned it from soldering. Painting would probably be a better way then writing (and it would get that brain activity up). Calligraphy would probably be just as good as handwriting, possibly better because it’s far more specific. Creative art in general would do what these articles seem to be suggesting only handwriting can do.

Funny thing is, we’ve known that for decades. That’s why we have art class.

Anon says:

Re: Re: Cursive

Anecdotal, but I can type quite decently without looking at the keyboard and I can type faster than I can write, but I do not “digest” the material nearly as well when I type than I write. And I hate writing.

I’m a programmer, but when I’m in a meeting, I take notes with a note pad and a pen because I do not take notes nearly as well with my laptop.

I find taking notes a bit more artistic than just writing down words. Maybe that’s the difference.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Cursive

Or it could be exactly what I said. You’re forcing yourself to slow down and take better notes.

This is also anecdotal, but when I’m typing or writing, I take the same type of notes. Ether way, I end up remembering the same amount. In Jr. High one of my teachers spent several days teaching us proper note keeping. He taught us how to do it and why it was done that way. To this day I still take notes that way no matter the medium.

Usually when I have problems with notes it’s due to having a touch screen, not a full keyboard or pen and paper. I can’t focus on what’s being said if I have to watch my fingers.

TRX (profile) says:

I had to write cursive in elementary school and junior high. I never learned how to read it past puzzling out individual characters.

Cursive came about because lifting an inked quill from the paper would cause a blot. When writing with a pencil or ball point pen that’s not an issue.

I had one teacher who rhapsodized about the wonders of cursive, but had no answer when I pointed out that all of our schoolbooks, including the teachers’ manuals, were in block characters.

Cursive had a place once, but it has been obsolete for half a century. It needs a stake through its heart.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


I almost failed a typing course, in the 9th grade. The teacher gave me credit for effort, not my typing errors and passed me with a D, and the caveat that I never try to type for a living. This was a junior high school. Two years later, I was in the computer lab, on a teletype equipped with a modem and a paper taper reader, when the head of the Math/Science department entered giving a tour of the brand new facility to his wife, my old typing teacher. She looked at me, at the keyboard, and gasped.

Later in life, a situation came up where there was a LOT of typing to do. I made a lot of mistakes, but proof reading caught them, and they got corrected. Never the less, I beat all the ‘other’ typists by about 147%. I fell into a ‘zone’ and performed.

I still make mistakes typing (you only have to review my posts for examples) but I am functional with a keyboard.

However, my typing, ahem, abilities, do not help me when someone hands be a piece of paper, and asks me to fill out the form.

In the 1800 and before, one may have been able to get away with ‘making their mark’, but then, public education was not the norm

We are not at a point where not being able to write by hand is acceptable, and even when everything is computerized, one still needs to be able to sign their name. Block letters may not be acceptable in that instance.

Computer ‘signatures’ are in use, but as with anything digital/electronic offers too many opportunities for abuse. If a nefarious person gets a copy of your ‘digital signature’ just what is going to stop that individual from ‘representing’ me, anywhere and every where. Fingerprint scanning. Ha. Iris scanning, a touch better, but still copy-able.

All the above is technical. What about social? Does a typewritten love letter have the same impact as a handwritten love letter? Ask your significant other, and I bet the answer is no.

Mikael (profile) says:

Learned both, but still only use one

When I learned cursive in elementary school I was always just annoyed at having to write that way. It actually felt to me like it took too long to write things out in cursive instead of print. I stopped using it entirely when it was no longer required.

I had to take “Keyboarding” as a freshman in high school. I also ended up taking three other computer based classes before graduating high school. I am very happy that I had to take that keyboarding class because I don’t think I would be nearly as good at typing as I am now if I didn’t take it.

The tests in the class were done with a cardboard cover over the keyboard so you couldn’t look down at your hands while typing. That actually helped a lot too. I can type entirely without looking at the keyboard and most of the time I don’t use the “home keys” either. I have been using computers for so long I just know where the keys are at. Some people find it odd that I can also type something while paying attention to someone else talk (actually looking at them while they are speaking) and not type out what they are saying instead of what I was meaning to type.

I do IT work for a living and I am typing on the computer every single day. When I have to hand write things it is always in print or a somewhat combination of cursive and print that I use when I start writing fast.

Typing 1, Cursive 0

allengarvin (profile) says:

I remember being taught cursive in 2nd grade

I was terrible at it. I had mostly taught myself writing sometime around age 4-5. When I got to 2nd grade, I held my pen “wrong”, and I was absolutely terrible at writing cursive. As a consequence of my inability to write cursive and illegible handwriting, I was placed in the “slow-track” classes in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. All that time I considered myself one of the slower, dumb students. Then came 6th grade, where students got classified by standardized test scores, and I got placed in the smart classes, and also the accelerated learning, because I had the highest math scores in the district. In 7th grade, I went back to printing my letters, and ever since, I’ve been highly skeptical of cursive and any kind of tracked education placement–both kinds I encountered were so arbitrary.

Cursive should have been ditched with the ballpoint pen. Or the fountain pen. It only has real advantage with true dip pens. Speed is more a matter of practice. Even though I write very little by hand these days, I have such instinctive muscle memory that if needed, I can totally zip out hand-written “printed” notes at impressive rates.

(OK, I remain totally jealous of an elegant italic hand, but I know I’ll never master it)

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve always seen cursive as an art of sorts, and it seems that all things art are being pushed slowly away from kids, I love science and math, but writing needs to be preserved without it we lose more of our history and forms of art, cursive writing helps develop tiny muscles in the hand and aids in hand eye coordination . and also helps kids concentrate in early stages of life during the “oh it’s shiny age”.

Rekrul says:

I’ll be honest; I don’t like cursive.

I learned it in school, but never got very good at it. I always wrote at about half the speed of other students my age and made more mistakes. I was always terrible at taking notes in class because I couldn’t write fast enough to put down complete thoughts and still keep up with the teacher. I ended up missing half of what they said because I was busy writing. One teacher used to just write the notes on the blackboard and we were expected to copy them down verbatim. We were actually graded on how well we copied them. Of course she allotted half the class for copying them and I usually took almost the whole class to finish.

I also have a lot of problems reading most people’s cursive. Most people write so fast that none of the letters are distinctive. I make distinctive letters and my cursive is considered terrible.

I never learned to touch type. Instead I just learned where the keys are and use 3-4 fingers on each hand in my own style. I’m faster than a hunt-&-peck typist, but nowhere near as fast as a real typist. Even so, I make an effort to use proper grammar rather than resorting to what passes for “typing” on most other sites.

Scote (profile) says:

Cursive is for quill pens

Cursive should not be taught anymore. It is based off of a system made to look pretty when engraved in copper plates for printing and has been obsolete since the decline of quill pens. Teaching kids to write two separate systems of hand writing in separate school years, teaching writing *twice*, is an utter wast of teaching time.

There is a perfect alternative:

kids should be taught a hand writing system with “print” characters that can be connected into a running hand. That way the kids only have to be taught one set of letters, and they can learn to write it quickly. That system is the Getty-Dubay system.


Kids will likely need some form of handwriting even in the rise of electronic devices. Handwriting notes can even increase recall over typing. So a system that is easy to learn and can be used to write quickly is still something that should be taught.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Cursive is for quill pens

Thanks for that pdf… I was taught cursive at school (early 1970’s) though as I grew older my style has changed to include a script method with a mix of cursive styles.

It’s readable, fast for me to write and though my Capital letters all look like they use “Palmer” in that most of my lowercase are a mix of Getty-Dubay or dare I say it helvetica without even being taught that way.

I still use a paper diary, still write out minutes and also use a form of shorthand that I was taught by my mother who was a stenographer in late 70’s too.

I see students trying to grasp with taking notes using a tablet, laptop or even phone but they still take less time to do this than the good old pen/pencil

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cursive is for quill pens

“I was taught cursive at school (early 1970’s) though as I grew older my style has changed to include a script method with a mix of cursive styles.”

I stopped writing in cursive the same day that I took my last grade school writing class (except for signing my name). It is easily the most useless thing I learned in school.

Anonymous Coward says:

From my reading of the comments above, it appears that it is the males who want to dispense with cursive writing and it is the males that have difficulty with cursive writing.

My three year old granddaughter is already learning to write her cursive letters. on the hand my five year old grandson has no real interest in learning to do this. His interests lie in machines and motors, etc.

I have listened to my wife talk to my daughter about this and she regularly highlights that it is a significant difference between boys and girls and not to be concerned as he will pick it up eventually.

Learning to write cursive script is simply a skill, no different to learning to calculate with numbers in your head or learning to cook. It takes practise but as most of us can attest, when we have learnt it in school, it was not fun.

This is the same for any skill, if we don’t see a significant purpose to what we are learning, we don’t really care to learn it. Unfortunately our education systems have lost the plot and have lost the students in all their methodologies.

When I get a hand written letter from someone, it tells me that they actually care enough to write what they have written. It means that they care about what they are communicating.

To sum it up, whether you learn to write cursively, print, type, take shorthand, each of the methods of communication can only enhance an individual’s ability to communicate effectively. Where everything falls down is that we don’t encourage our young with all of these different methods irrespective of their individual talents, we make it a trial and painful and irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I went to mostly all boys schools and when we went co-ed, it was the boys who had the most difficulty writing neatly and legibly in cursive. Most of the girls had legible and neat cursive writing. Even when printing most of the boys still had chicken scratchings.

We only had one boy who could print faster than write cursively.

Today, my writing consists of a mishmash of printed and cursive chicken scratchings unless I am writing a letter in which case it is neat legible cursive.

Eric Stein (profile) says:

By how much?

I hear many individuals blather about how this or that aspect of writing cursive, but what I don’t hear is anyone – here or at the NYT saying what the magnitude, measure or amount of the difference is. This is the same as saying there is no difference at all, because magnitude is what we base our choices on, unless we make these changes for sentimental reasons, which is to say the craziest, most stupidest, most ignorant of what we choose these things for now. Certainly I would choose the candidate that was doing something useful. It’s too bad that no one could use today’s technology to make students’ brainwaves wiggle like that doing something useful.

FM HIlton (profile) says:

Writing as a study

“Knowing how to write is still a necessity, but all the fancy loops and swoops of cursive are not.”

I think there’s a very bad trend developing that is making kids not learn to write at all. Touch typing might be out-moded, but it does help to be able to work on a computer keyboard without having to look at it.

I learned cursive but always had a problem trying to duplicate all those fancy little curves and swirls. My writing is execrable only because I’m a ‘leftie’ by default and I was taught to write right handed.

I still laugh about the time I got one of my first jobs doing copy-checking. When I got fired for not being able to adapt to the computer system it was recommended that I shouldn’t use computers again..ever.

Now I work with them every single day.

But cursive is old and writing is getting tired. Pretty soon literacy will be a ‘thing of the past’ as well.

Technology is degrading our ability to communicate. Chatspeak is taking the place of talking to one another and typing. Twitter is considered the ideal writing mode for making your point. 140 characters to do a thesis with will be next.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Writing as a study

What do you call “literate”?

The problem with spelling is that it is more than just a “bit off”. Not spelling the same word the same way twice in the same paragraph is not just a “bit off”.

The high usage of acronyms like OTSBH and LOL or M8 in communication lessens comprehension than a more literate approach.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Writing as a study

It’s not just a matter of being ‘literate’ it’s also a matter of being to interpret and understand the written word and being able to communicate that in a concise and CONSISTENT way that has contextual meaning.

Literacy might be on the rise (and spelling is not really of relevance in this though is a pet peeve of lots of people myself included) though the ability to communicate other than in sound bites and actually retain meaning with that communication and hold conversations IS becoming less and less due to the influx of technology that gives them an illusion that they are multi-tasking on a huge amount of conversations at once, when in fact they are not actually communicating and instead are barely conversing.

I see this constantly in University with students and graduates alike where they try to place everything into small pockets of points that do not flow together and make a whole. Its quite annoying trying to interpret what they are trying to state sometimes.

Pamela says:

We're homeschooling

My husband and I have discussed this question a lot. We want our kids’ education to be practical, but well-rounded. Personally, I use the same type of self- developed “connected print” for my handwriting that G Thompson was talking about, but I wasn’t sure about actually teaching that. (Yes, there are standardized lessons for connected print.) There are also people who endorse teaching cursive first. The connectedness of the letters alleviates spacing issues, since the only spaces are between words and they occur naturally. Also, the fact that each lower-case letter is different alleviates the problem of letter reversals, such as “b” and “d”. (Believe me, spacing and letter reversals are both big problems when teaching reluctant children.)

Teaching manuscript was a given, and while my husband didn’t have an opinion on cursive, I felt that it was important that our kids learn cursive for many of the reasons in the links. Add to the educational decisions a husband who’s a programmer (good typing is essential) and a grandmother who was a secretary (if you’re going to learn to type, you learn to do it the right way), and we’ve got the issue of what to teach and when.

We weren’t brave enough to try cursive first, because I’m still not convinced about that. Our two older children were terrible at manuscript, but we started teaching cursive anyway once there was a certain — very minimal — level of manuscript proficiency (around age 7-8). At the same time, we gave them free access to Mavis Beacon Kidz (without forcing it on them) starting at about age 6. Effectively, we exposed them to everything within a short period of time.

The effects have been interesting. The oldest is ten, so he’s the only one who’s been using all three systems for any length of time. This son hated printing with a passion (we’re talking constant fighting over lessons), but fell in love with cursive. His cursive is not perfect, but it is attractive enough and much more legible than his manuscript. (This was also the child who reversed a lot of letters and smooshed his words together.) The problem is that I cannot get him to make cursive his default handwriting style. If he wants to get something out of his head and onto paper, he will print every single time.

He has also gotten into touch typing, and I think he’s currently typing at about 18WPM — fast enough that he’s no longer looking at keys. His ten key is much faster. The most interesting thing to me is that once he started really touch typing, about 18 months ago, his compositions totally changed. It was like he had all of these ideas in his head, but having to physically write them down was a tremendous barrier. He would dictate wonderful compositions to me, but if he had to write them himself I would get a three sentence paragraph. Once he got the hang of touch typing, everything changed. Last summer he wrote — on his own — a ten page play, properly formatted, for his sisters and him to perform. I cannot tell you how stunned (and relieved!) I was to see all of that creativity finally gaining an outlet.

This is, of course, only one child, and it’s anecdotal. But if you’d asked me five years ago whether typing was important at an early age, I would’ve said that it could wait. I still am not ready to give up on cursive because, like art, I think it has benefits for our brains that don’t necessarily come from manuscript print or typing; but now I’m inclined to see each of those forms as having its own strengths and weaknesses.

OolongKaloofid (profile) says:

Writing as Study

Yes we should teach touch typing instead of cursive writing. After all there is no longer a need for signatures – just the RF-ID tag to identify you. We no longer need to read because of text to speech converters. That negates the need to learn to spell because spell check is prevalent. There is no need for math skills because of calculators and cash registers that do the math for you. There is no need to pay attention while driving because of lane keeping and anti collision radar on cars. No need to learn to park because cars do that for us too.

With all these advantages we can spend our time in more artful pursuits creating beauty and harmony in our world… Right!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Touch typing vs. Cursive

Personally, I’m HUGELY in favor of this trend. I remember back when cursive was commonly used, it was rare that such writing was easy to read. More typically, it had to be deciphered rather than read.

Nowadays, I rarely encounter cursive at all — it’s usually print or some variant (connected block letters, etc.). And I am so very thankful for that.

Lisa says:

Touch typing is not taught in most schools

There is no research that proves that conventional cursive is the best method for writing by hand. But let?s not confuse absence of evidence with evidence of absence.

Most schools (and parents) overlook the necessity of teaching touch typing. It is a skill that is almost as important to learn as math or languages. Children do almost all writing on a keyboard and by learning touch typing they can increase their productivity for life.

There seem to be plenty of courses out there.



and free:


Gayna (user link) says:


There is overwhelming research that indicates having our kids learn this life-long skill helps in the development of their young brains. There is room for both technology and learning cursive. The kids most in jeopardy are the ones in public schools since private and home-schoolers are learning this skill. Modern handwriting only takes 15 minutes a day to learn and best to teach in first grade. We think our kids deserve a well rounded education to be able to compete globally. In addition, they should be able to feel the pride and ownership of being able to write their own name.

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