Learning to write
Cursive writing is what, as a child, I knew as ‘joined-up writing’. Writing goes back to the beginnings of civilisation, with symbols and glyphs carved on tablets of clay of stone. Man first began to write numbers for record keeping long before any written type of language developed. The first writing of a language can be traced back to around 3200 BC. Cursive writing in the form of a joined-up script was seen in Roman times, around 5 AD, but developed significantly, along with the quill pen and the craft of penmanship, in the medieval monasteries.
Can you remember learning to write? My grandparents started teaching me to write before I went to school. I remember my granddad ruling up pencil lines on the old paper bags that we brought back from the weekly greengrocery shop, and drawing ‘fishhooks’ for me to copy – he was teaching me to draw the letter ‘f’. I don’t remember much about writing lessons in school, but I loved writing and a pencil and paper could keep me amused for hours. Computers had not become widespread in those days, so at school, college and university all our notes were written down, longhand (and illustrations drawn). The only typed manuscript was my dissertation submission, which I wrote longhand and then sent off to a typist, who typed it up on an electric typewriter – no word processors.
Writing aids memory
I’ve always found that if I write something down, then I am much more likely to remember it, and I’m sure this is related to my old habit of taking notes in lectures, writing up those notes and then précising them down into revision notes, ready for exams. Even now, I prefer to make initial notes in hand-writing and edit later. My trusty orange notebook is usually at my side. This theory does seem to be supported by some research which says that cursive writing and typing on a keyboard use different parts of the brain.
I was quite shocked to read reports that some US states no longer teach cursive writing in schools, and what’s more that the teaching of cursive writing was to be completely phased out in all schools in Finland. In both cases, the argument is that keyboard skills are more important. Of course, this doesn’t mean that people will no longer know how to write (I hope!). Children will still be taught their letters, but they will be encouraged to use ‘print writing’, which is said to be easier to write and clearer to read. Eventually, it is thought, the keyboard will replace the need to write. I’m a little sceptical myself. I certainly feel that I get a lot more down on the page once the words are flowing down the pen or pencil than I do on the keyboard. It’s also a lot quicker to scribble a quick note on a scrap of paper, or in a notebook, than to open a file on my phone to create a memo. What do you think? Is it a generational thing – do you prefer to write on a keyboard or longhand?