Saturday, August 29, 2015

Did ballpoints kill cursive?

Did the ballpoint pen really kill cursive, as Josh Giesbrecht suggests in a piece at The Atlantic ? Giesbrecht finds the strongest support for this claim in the work of handwriting expert Rosemary Sassoon:

She explains that the type of pen grip taught in contemporary grade school is the same grip that’s been used for generations, long before everyone wrote with ballpoints. However, writing with ballpoints and other modern pens requires that they be placed at a greater, more upright angle to the paper — a position that’s generally uncomfortable with a traditional pen hold.
Certainly strain is possible when one writes with a ballpoint — or with a fountain pen, if one writes for a long enough time. But I’m not persuaded by the argument from angles. I just photographed myself writing with a Bic, a T-Ball Jotter, and a Cross fountain pen, and I see virtually no difference between the ballpoints and the fountain pen. If anything, I hold the ballpoints slightly less upright.

I think that declining ability in cursive might be better explained as a matter of writers’ lack of interest in, or lack of care for, the handwritten word.

A sidenote: in the short film The Art of Hermann Zapf , Zapf does calligraphy with a ballpoint pen (at 14:38). Says Zapf, “Maybe I am going a little too far away from calligraphy with a broad-edged pen. But the ballpoint is also a good tool if it is used in the right way.” He goes on to produce some Spencerian script with his ballpoint.

Related posts
Ballpoints, not for writing?
Five pens (My life in five pens)
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)
All OCA pen posts (Pinboard)

comments: 3

The Subliminal Mr Dunn said...

Very interesting, Michael. Back in the days when I kept a diary, I used both ballpoint and fountain pen without any noticeable difference (in writing style or effort), so I'm inclined to agree with you.
On an associated note, an old friend of mine wrote in italic script. It was beautiful to look at end entirely effortless!

Michael Leddy said...

I’ve never understood how people can write an italic hand with such ease. But then I’ve never really tried. : )

Anonymous said...

I'm 30 years old. I think people stopped using cursive because it's so hard to read! Unless you have excellent penmanship it looks so much worse than non-cursive handwriting.