Script and Scribble

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

In our increasingly electronic world penmanship is a lost art. In her book Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwritting Kitty Burns Florey ruminates on the end of handwriting instruction in our public schools and the decline of scriptwriting in our society.


Kitty Burns Florey

Comments [26]


Thank you for the information provided.

Nov. 07 2010 01:25 PM
Cathryn M. from Long Island

My son goes to a Waldorf school where handwriting is still considered an art. They even write with fountain pens into the 8th grade. The teacher tells the students that since their writing springs forth from them, it should be done beautifully. I agree.

Mar. 06 2009 12:29 PM
Nan Jay Barchowsky from Aberdeen MD

Recently, so many calls have come my way for handwriting help. I can only guess that Script & Scribble is generating interest. Hooray! I welcome your visits to and
Happy Writing! Nan

Mar. 05 2009 02:37 PM
Kate Gladstone from Albany, New York

Some of you may recall Ms. Florey mentioning my name during the broadcast. To answer some questions that others have asked in the comments:

For adult-level instruction in handwriting (specifically, in the Italic handwriting that other commenters have mentioned), visit my site -- please put the words "Leonard Lopate" somewhere in your message, to let me know where you heard about this.

Re "Whatever happened to the Palmer people?" Their company, the A. N. Palmer firm (noted for elaborate cursive formations along with such preparatory exercises as the "Round, round, ready, write" to which another commenter alludes in describing how his grandmother wrote) folded sometime in the mid-1980s after a long decline from its former glory days which had made founder Austin Norman Palmer a millionaire before his death in the mid-1920s.
(The "Coca-Cola-like" script in the signatures of many early Palmer administrators may reflect how they themselves had learned to write as children: an even more elaborate style known as Spencerian, which somewhat pre-dated the rise of Palmer.)

/3/ Several people (including the deservedly famed Mr. Briem, myself, and others) have used the phrase "Handwriting Repair" in describing our efforts to upgrade American handwriting through the Italic style. Only I myself, though, actually use it as the name of a business.

Kate Gladstone
Founder and CEO,
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
Director, World Handwriting Contest

Mar. 05 2009 01:39 AM
Mercedes Batista from Manhattan

Though I do all my writing at the computer. I'm proud of my handwriting. I work at it as often as I can. To me is like drawing.

I had done all the exercises from "Your Handwriting Can Ghange Your Life" by Vimala Rodgers. Pages and pages of mastering one letter. It's like meditation. Bad habits are hard to erase though.

I also practice writing with my left hand.

Mar. 04 2009 10:21 PM
Roger Anderson from Westchester

A week ago i stumbled over a Suitcase, long forgotten, and presumed lost in many transfers and changes of country. It contains hndreds of leters written decades ago.
I thougbt as I have been reading letters, hand written of course, how sad for my children and their generation. Looking at an email is no where close to the feeling and response to a handwritten letter.

Great program

Mar. 04 2009 02:11 PM
Julia Paterson

I suspect that in a tight job market the person who follows up an interview with a handwritten thank you note will be remembered more than the person who emails a thank you.

Mar. 04 2009 01:28 PM
Holly from Kinnelon, NJ

Teachers complain about the boys fine motor skills and I believe they need to continue practicing with all handwriting in order to develop fine motor skills. Smartboards are now being used in our Kindergarten to practice handwriting. I dread what this will do to the next generation.

Mar. 04 2009 01:27 PM
dale b. cohen from new york

I have always loved penmanship. So much so, that I had three or four versions of my handwriting in high school. To this day I am delighted when people compliment my handwriting, which at this point is now some combination of sloppy architectural printing and vertical cursive. There are friends who tell me that they have kept every letter or note I have ever written them because of my handwriting.

I too lament the loss of writing by hand and drawing by hand, especially architectural drawings done in pencil on vellum. It is a sensuous experience and very beautiful. And I know that not everyone is as proficient as I am with pen or pencil on paper.

And to that end, one of my favorite nephews has ADHD and has trouble with his fine motor skills. Once discovered early in his life, by the wonderful school he was attending the Sheridan School, in Washington, DC, they had him typing/writing on a computer in the classroom. Suddenly, his grades improved, his writing composition improved and he became a better student. While do wish he would have stellar handwriting, I marvel at his mind that is now revealed because he has a tool to express himself.

dale b. cohen

Mar. 04 2009 01:24 PM
Anna Westley from Upstate New York

I just wanted to let you and your guest know that among my generation (I'm 30) handwriting, especially cursive, is alive and well. In fact, for many zinesters, makers of comics and other DIY creations cursive is very common.

Mar. 04 2009 01:20 PM
Connie from NJ

I went to Montessori school till 5th grade, in the 60s, and wasn't taught penmanship. So my handwriting has always been rather ugly, to my regret, but it's gotten worse with age. I don't think it has to do not using a pen, I think that I just can't control my hand muscles the way I used to. This is very common, isn't it?

Mar. 04 2009 01:19 PM
tom from nyc

My grandmother was born in 1903, and used a kind of method for cursive which starts with the hand making circlular motions just above the page. She had beautiful handwritting. Was this a taught meathod?

Mar. 04 2009 01:19 PM
Patricia from Brooklyn

You need decent handwriting so that you can make that other lost art: The Thank you note!

Mar. 04 2009 01:18 PM
anonyme from NY NY

Teh French take graphology seriously - cover letters in job searches are handwritten by custom

Mar. 04 2009 01:18 PM
steve from Englewood, NJ

I'm looking at my Palmer certificate right now -- issued in 1967 when I was in 5th grade. Ironically, the signatures of the honoring board are NOT in the Palmer method. Looks like the "Coca-Cola" script.

Whatever happened to the Palmer people?

Mar. 04 2009 01:17 PM
Pati Rock from New York City

It's always amusing when you can identify a former Catholic school kid by their beautiful, cursive handwriting. Ugh. My whole 1st grade memory was handwriting drills.

Mar. 04 2009 01:16 PM
John from New York, New York

Great segmennt! I've been working for attorneys for years, and I'm amazed that some of them made it through 7 years of higher education and the Bar Exam, one of the hardest tests in the country, but still be incapable of writing legibly. I still write block manuscript, so I'd like to hear more about this Italic script.

Mar. 04 2009 01:16 PM
RLewis from The Bowery

I was always a block printer because Teachers were awful at teaching cursive to Lefthanded people. It just doesn't work (my letters slaint everywhich way, and dragging your hand across what you just wrote smudges everything. I am thankful for keyboards. It's the only egalitarian thing that works for Lefties.

Mar. 04 2009 01:16 PM
philior from NY

Hello Leonard,

Would be nice if you explore with your guest this strange anachronism - for some reason there are no popular word processing applications based on speech-to-text voice recognition, which is currently available. Some inaccuracy is not the valid reason for not using voice recognition as they are pretty accurate nowadays.
I think it is human conservatism what is playing role in this strange delay in introducing modern technology.


Mar. 04 2009 01:16 PM
m from nyc

Cursive writing is important to teach also for its AESTHETIC aspect. The Chinese teach children this with regard to the characters in their written language.

Mar. 04 2009 01:16 PM
anonyme from NY NY

Catholic schools used Zaner-Bloser. we had so much fun ridiculing this! Then I went to a round-the world finishing school where even our homework was written on italics with an osmiroid. (we were also graded in posture and penmanship and took more subjects than regular schools.)

I think all those old skills are important for so many reasons - I am talking about traditional cooking and sewing, too

Mar. 04 2009 01:15 PM
Jack from Brooklyn

I'm pretty excited about this segment. I had excellent handwriting in elementary school. And in JHS. Until I had a calligraphy teacher who drained any joy out of simple writing.

Is there such a thing as an adult class on cursive writing to improve handwriting? I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to improve their handwriting.

Mar. 04 2009 01:15 PM
Suki from Williamsburg

This is definitely an issue of gender. I have never had a boyfriend who's known how to write anything but his name in cursive. Most of the women I know still write in cursive.

Mar. 04 2009 01:12 PM
David from Upper West Side

A great source of free ebooks on handwriting is available online at (hosted by Icelandic calligrapher and type designer Gunnlauger S.E. Briem). His "Handwriting Repair" will be useful to many.

Mar. 04 2009 12:26 PM
Beth from CT

There's a shop called Cursive in Greenpoint that is expanding in Manhattan. I'm wondering if younger shoppers know what that is!

Mar. 04 2009 12:24 PM
Kathy from Brooklyn

As a 43 year-old mother, I lament that penmanship is not given more attention. During my own elementary school years in Carlisle, PA penmanship drafts were sent out for review and then awards given. I LOVED receiving those awards.

My 9-year old daughter is interested in neat cursive writing, while my 7-year old son's writing is practically illegible. The public school my children attend gives some attention to handwriting -- and even less to learning how to type properly.

Recently I was looking through a box of old birthday cards and letters I received over the years. I was struck by how identifiable each note was by the hand of the writer. Floods of memories came with reading the writing of each personally crafted the note. I probably wouldn't have taken the time to read a typewritten note.

Penmanship allows you to make your individual, recognizable mark on the world, to craft words in a meaningful way and to take pleasure in the act of writing itself.

Mar. 04 2009 09:36 AM

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