For Handwritten Consideration
Nan Jay Barchowski
One Way to Write, NOT Two
If beginners learn a basic alphabet that will join up for a true cursive, why should they struggle to learn two alphabets, print-script (commonly known as manuscript or ball-and-stick) and then conventional cursive? (Cursive is correctly defined as flowing handwriting.) Almost all print-script letters start at their tops. Then those fine motor habits, so well learned for two or more years, must be retrained. Habits do not change easily. Lowercase conventional cursive letters start at the baseline. Capitals start at different points. Some letters even change shape.
The lines that form an exemplar alphabet must conform to one’s natural, internal, rhythmic movements. The exemplar will then develop into legible writing that stands the pressure of speed. Rhythmic movement of the pen is at the heart of consistent shape, size, and slant. It also governs space between letters and words. Practice patterns that relate to lowercase letterforms help. Background music is nice too.
Lowercase Before Capitals
Capitals are bold. They look simple and direct. “Look” means letter recognition. “Write” means letter formation. “Look” is for reading, where the eyes see shapes on a page and send messages to the mind. When we write, our mind creates messages for the hand to make and then for the eyes to read.
Lowercase Before Capitals – Again!
Teach lowercase letters first. They have fewer strokes per letter than capitals. One does not have to pick up the pen or pencil so often. They are easier for children to learn. Lowercase letters are written more often than capitals.
Tense Legs. Tense Arms. Tense Hands. Pencil Death Grips
Handwriting is a physical activity just like soccer or golf or piano playing. Stiff, tense body parts do not allow the freedom one needs for active movement. A tense hand will hold a pen or pencil tightly. Handwriting cannot be fluent. Pain is often a result.
Boys can write as legibly and rapidly as girls. Trouble arises when conventional cursive is taught. Would boys rather play baseball than learn a new script? Are they put off by all the curlicues? Girls are usually more eager to try new fashions.
Left-handers can write as legibly and fast as right-handers. Place the paper a little to the left of the writer’s midline and slant it so he or she does not need to do a twist-wrist in order to see what is going onto the paper. A hooked wrist will be painful. It’s awkward. Paper should never be placed vertically in front of either a left-hander or right-hander. For a right-hander, it should be a little to the right of the body.