Invisible Ink – The Vanishing Art of Cursive Writing

All right, so let’s start by a confession.

I am old.

I can remember sitting in my classroom and seeing those big flash cards displayed above the blackboard that showed a student the difference between a printed “A” and a cursive “A” and a printed “a” and a cursive “a”.

If you would like to order a downloadable copy of these flashcards for homeschooling purposes just click the image and it will take you directly to the blog CONFESSIONS OF A HOMESCHOOLER, where you can download them from the creator.

How many of you folks out there remember that sort of thing?

I remember how much I had to focus and concentrate on what I was writing.Β  I remember when I figured out that if I tilted the paper just a little bit that I would automatically develop one of those cool slanted signatures that I had always admired.

Then, when I got a little older I began to let go of my cursive skills. It began as a side-effect of my warehouse work. Back then I had to sign an awful lot of tiny slips of yellow paper. I had to sign orders and invoices and packing slips and all manner of paperwork. As a result I forced myself to speed up my signature until it degenerated into something that looked a little like the seismic graph of the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

It never seemed to affect my writing that much, because even then all of my submissions were type written. I was mostly writing for small press magazines back then and all that it involved was me sending out submission after submission in big wonderful manilla envelopes, with SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) in long white business envelopes for the magazine’s reply.

I learned to print those SASE because I never did master the technique of feeding an envelope into my typewriter.

Oh yes, I remember typewriters too.


However, in 2004, I began to become more involved in actual books – first through the North American small press through the release of certain of my earlier books such as LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY.

Like that cover? That was the second cover I hand-designed myself. I found the images and my wife helped me with photo-manipulation and in hindsight this is a very good example of why I really ought to pay an artist to do the thing right in the first place. Van Gogh isn’t losing any sleep over my artistic abilities.

Then, in 2006 Nimbus released my first traditionally published book, HAUNTED HARBOURS, and folks started asking me to sign their copies and I felt somewhat ashamed of that chicken scratch signature that my hand had built. So I sat down with a stack of blank paper at the dining room table and practiced studiously, until I managed to come up with a signature that could actually be read.

I still am a bad hand-writer and I ought to practice it more often. The 21st century and the wonders of the keyboard steal from the time that might be spent working on my handwriting – and I wonder sometimes if that isn’t a loss.

You see – I have always felt that the ability to write cursively was an extension of the writer’s actual thoughts. I believe that to a certain extent the motor skills and hand-eye coordination that a good cursive hand demands does not improve the inner working gears of your brain.

Some experts agree with that theory.

While other folks feel that cursive handwriting ought to be filed next to eight-track tapes.

Our school systems have decided NOT to pursue the teaching of cursive.

But some schools are leaning back towards the practice.

Here in Nova Scotia that verdict is mixed.

Speaking for myself, I believe that anything that takes you a while to learn is most likely worthwhile learning. Learning is always an opportunity to develop your core muscles – and, metaphorically speaking, the brain is a muscle that NEEDS to be exercised regularly.

Not to mention those many times in life when a signature is still required – such as passports and certain business and bank applications. A signature is something that is personal and unique and to a certain extent completely individual.

Let me step out onto this shaky limb, with a bucksaw in one hand and a pint of heel-grease in the other and offer you this sweeping generalization.

A fine cursive signature can be what separates the drone from the creative artist.

I can readily replicate your typewritten signature. The clatter of my keyboard sounds exactly like any other keyboard – but my handwritten signature is fairly unique. It is a muscular signature – the handwriting of a man who must still mutter to himself “quick, quick, slow, slow” when he is attempting to fox trot. It is a heavy, pencil-snapping hand that speaks of years spent on loading docks and in factories. A man who was born in mud and rolls his eyes up towards heaven as he dreams in lighter-than-a-dove-gasp fabulist dream-song.

It is the hand of a man who can casually slap down a paragraph full of wonderful hoop-doodlery and make it look easy.

Still, I am an old fart and I do not need to stop and Google the terms “fox trot” or “eight track”.Β  I also do not know and refuse to learn how to text. I do not own a cell phone, nor will I ever likely purchase one.




I will admit that I no longer hand write my manuscripts – although I did hand scribble my first attempt at a novel – five drafts of about three hundred pages each.

I have killed a lot of trees in my time.

So how many of you folks out there still know how to cursive write?

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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7 responses to “Invisible Ink – The Vanishing Art of Cursive Writing

  1. Here in Germany, teaching cursive is still de rigeur, though there is less focus on it than there used to be. And some overeager parents occasionally complain about their children spending weeks in first grade tracing loops and curves, because they view it as a waste of time, even though those loops and curves are needed to build up the necessary hand muscles.

    Occasionally, a state wants to abolish cursive or some consultant thinks that we should teach typing instead, but parents and teachers always object.

    I also believe that we need to be able to write by hand, because we don’t always have computers or smartphones (and for many exams, you’re not allowed to use a computer anyway, but must write by hand). And when writing by hand, cursive is much faster than printing.


    • Agreed, Cora.

      I believe that we are all too interested in plugging into the hive-mind these days. We all want to be talking on the aether and we feel that the old skills are no longer necessary. I am not advocating a return to cassette tapes, for example, but I think that some of the older skills need to be hung onto.

      I would love to see a mob of people marching through the streets waving pens and pencils instead of picket signs!


      • Well, during the Je Suis Charlie ralleys in France, many people did wave pens and pencils as the classic work implements of the cartoonist, though they had signs as well.


  2. Hi Steve – I remember Cursive – and still use it – when I actually write snail mail letters, which is not too often anymore. πŸ™‚ I have perfected my signature to where I like it. In high school I typed first on a manual typewriter and then they moved us up to IBM “Selectrics”!!! Ooh, we thought we had won the lottery. πŸ™‚ But I am one of the Cursive Defenders, I mean, when kids nowadays grow up into adults, won’t they need to know how to WRITE their name and not just use an “x”?


    • That was how it went for me in high school, as well. I took two years of typing – first because I thought it would be EASY, but later on just because I enjoyed it. I use my typing skills with my writing and ran a typing service back while I was putting myself through college.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, Steve — I wish I had run a typing service! I took the typing classes because I wanted to be a secretary, then in college I also took transcription classes (and of course, shorthand, which I don’t think is taught anymore). Thanks for the nice trip down Memory Lane! πŸ™‚


  3. I write in cursive sometimes – I remember my teacher always being mad at me because I didn’t stay between the lines (and still don’t).

    I would think that today’s kids would grasp the skill quickly – it is about eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Remember all those studies back in the 90s about the effects of video games on those areas of development? I imagine today’s tools would have the same effect on those motor skills so cursive might be easier for today’s students.


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