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Why Was Cursive Writing Invented?

Why Was Cursive Writing Invented?

Cursive writing is a style of penmanship in which the letters are written in a flowing manner, connecting together in a continuous stroke. 

The word “cursive” comes from the Latin word “cursivus[1], which means running. This handwriting style is used to make the text look more elegant and to make it easier to write quickly. Each letter is joined to the next, and it was invented to write words and sentences quickly and efficiently.

This is in contrast to block letters and printing, where each letter is written separately, not connected to the next.

In this article, we’ll discuss why and when cursive writing was invented, along with the twisted history of this writing style.

Why Was Cursive Writing Invented? Infographic.

When Was Cursive Writing Invented?

Cursive writing was invented by the ancient Egyptians, who used it to write hieroglyphics on papyrus scrolls [2]. The ancient Romans also used a cursive form of writing, called cursive Latin [3], in the 1st to 3rd century BC.

Interestingly, it included the initial variations of lowercase letters and sometimes even flowed like modern cursive by the 5th century AD [4].

In the Middle Ages, cursive script writing was further developed and refined and became the standard form of handwriting in Europe. At that time, it was known as “running hand” [5].

It was started by Niccolo Niccoli [6], an Italian Renaissance humanist, in the 15th century. There are many historical documents written by him in cursive that are still preserved. His scripts evolved with time and became what we now know as italics.

In the early days of cursive writing, each letter was often written in a separate and distinct manner, with little or no connection between them. Over time, the letters were gradually joined together to form a more cohesive and flowing writing style.

The Palmer Method of Business Writing.
A. N. Palmer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This was especially true in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Spencerian [7] and Palmer [8] methods of cursive writing were developed. These methods emphasized the beauty and elegance of this writing style and were widely taught in schools.

Why Was Cursive Writing Invented?

The main reason cursive handwriting was invented was to make writing faster and more efficient. In the days before the widespread use of computers and other modern writing technologies, people had to rely on pens or pencils to write by hand.

Writing in cursive allowed people to write more quickly and easily because the letters flowed together, allowing the hand to move smoothly across the page. This was particularly useful for people who had to write a lot, such as scribes, clerks, and other professionals.

Another reason cursive writing was invented was for aesthetic reasons. It makes scripts more visually appealing than print writing because the letters flow together in a way that creates a more elegant and graceful appearance.

This is why cursive is still used in some contexts today, such as in fancy invitations or other formal documents.

Benefits of Cursive Writing

The following are some of the advantages that cursive writing brings to the table.

Improved Handwriting Speed

Because the letters are connected in a cursive method of writing, the pen (or pencil) can move more quickly across the paper, resulting in faster writing.

Improved Legibility

Cursive letters are generally more distinct and easier to read than printed letters, especially when written in smaller sizes. This can make cursive writing more legible than printing, particularly for longer pieces of text.

Enhanced Creativity and Self-Expression

Some people find that cursive writing allows them to be more creative and expressive with their writing. The flowing nature of the letters can make it easier to add flourishes and personal touches to one’s writing.

Improved Cognitive Development

In addition to its practical and aesthetic advantages, cursive writing is also thought to have cognitive benefits. Some studies have suggested that writing in cursive can improve children’s fine motor skills and even help with reading and spelling [9].

Improved Fine Motor Skills

Learning to write and read cursive requires the use of fine motor skills [10], such as finger control. Regular practice of these skills can help improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

Better Memory Retention

Studies have shown that students who learn to write in cursive have better memory retention and recall than those who only learn to print [11]. This may be because the brain processes cursive writing differently than it does printed text, leading to better encoding and retrieval of information.

A Look Into the Future – Will It Remain Relevant?

It is difficult to predict the future of cursive writing with certainty. In recent years, there has been a decline in its use in schools, as many educational systems have shifted towards teaching typing and keyboard skills instead.

Woman in White Long Sleeved Shirt Holding a Pen Writing on a Paper.
Image courtesy:

Some people believe that cursive writing still has value and importance, particularly for developing fine motor skills and improving handwriting. So, it’s possible that it may continue to be taught in some schools.

But as technology continues to advance, the use of cursive writing may decline even further. Most students now use computers, tablets, and smartphones for communication and writing; these devices do not require students to learn cursive techniques. 

So modern-day students don’t necessarily need to learn how to write cursive forms.

This may make cursive writing less relevant for some people, and it is possible that it may become a largely unused skill in the future. However, it’s still not possible to say anything with certainty, and we’ll need to wait and see what the future unfolds.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, cursive writing was originally invented to make writing faster and more efficient. It has been a valuable skill for many years, but its use has declined in recent times due to the increasing prevalence of technology.

While some people believe that cursive writing still has value and importance, it is difficult to predict its future with certainty. Although it’s possible that some schools continue to teach it, it seems that it may become a less commonly used skill.