, Salem, MA


September 28, 2013

Shribman: Putting pen to paper to save cursive writing


There is real intimacy involved in a handwritten thank-you note, so much more personal than an email thanks, which we all know is often dashed off in a few seconds without even the courtesy of pushing the shift button to employ capital letters at the beginning of the sentence. It is heresy, and very bad manners.

There is emotion that can be loaded onto anything written in cursive, impossible to describe but impossible to miss. And there is the utility of picking up a pencil and writing down a phone number or a personal note on a piece of paper and then tucking it into your breast pocket, where there is at least a 50 percent chance you will retrieve it before it goes into the washing machine and leaches all over your best dress shirt — in the increasingly unlikely event you still wear a dress shirt. Don’t get me started.

All of that is without considering that four of the most important documents in American history were written in forms that resemble script: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address ... and the Laffer Curve that launched the supply-side revolution. Take away the pen and you erase much of American history. It’s enough to make you think this entire movement away from cursive is a communist plot.

Many of us of a certain age remember the torture imposed upon us by the traveling salvation show run by the evangelists of the Palmer handwriting method. These hard-bitten pilgrims — worse than the volunteer traveling dentists who shoved tongue depressors into our mouths once a year in an often-successful search for cavities — would drive from town to town, reigning terror in classrooms as they assured there was a little jagged edge to the “F” we wrote in the upper case and made sure that the lower-case “z” had the three required precise and distinctive motions.

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