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Handwriting Styles


We provide several alternative styles on our worksheets in order to meet the needs of parents, teachers, and schools that may require a certain style. Nevertheless, certain criteria should be considered in the choice of handwriting styles when the teacher has the prerogative. These criteria point rather strongly to a preference for certain styles over others.

Modern handwriting styles generally fall into two broad classes, which can be generally described as follows:

Modern Italic
Printing: Letters are sloped. Some style shift the shape of certain printed letters towards their cursive counterparts. Round capitals are formed with ovals.
Cursive: Letters are sloped. Some styles retain a modified shape of printed capital letters for the cursive capitals.
Ball-and-Stick (Traditional Block Printing)
Printing: Letters are completely upright (no slope).
Lower case letters are made with separate circles (balls) and lines (sticks). Round capitals are formed with circles.
Cursive: Letters are sloped. Ornate loops are added in cursive, especially to capitals. Some capitals bear little resemblance to printed counterparts.

The main argument made in favor of the basic ball-and-stick style printing has been that the letters are most similar in style to the basic fonts used in beginning reading materials. This similarity of form reinforces the visual discrimination skills used in reading. While this argument deserves a level of credence, it should not be overemphasized or extended beyond its actual usefulness.

The realities of the ball-and-stick printing coupled with ornate cursive is that the transition from one to the next is difficult, the rate of reversion from cursive back to printing is high, and the printing itself is not very neat in appearance (due to the many separate motions). In addition, the ornateness of the cursive does not lend itself to legibility of writing.

The italic styles, on the other hand, seek to minimize the change between printing and cursive, as well as to use more natural (and thus neater) strokes in the formation of the printed letters.

Note that one of the primary motivations for the development of cursive styles is to be a time-saving method. This is another reason to prefer a less ornate version of cursive. This is especially true with respect to capital letters. In practice, many adults either use printed or simplified capitals in the midst of their cursive writing. The italic style provides a very attractive option for cursive.

Additional contributions towards neatness and legibility provided by the italic styles include details such as the form of lower case 't'. The ball-and-stick writing systems typically use a lower case stick-'t' that looks like a plus sign '+'. In our rendition of 't', we have modified the letter to include a lower curve as used in standard printed fonts. This promotes the connection between the written and published forms, and it also alleviates future headaches and errors in math, where 't' and '+' can occur side-by-side in context.

Basic Recommendations

Our basic recommendations on the use of different writing styles can be summarized as follows:

  1. Start with an introduction to basic ball-and-stick block printing style while the child is still learning letter discrimination  and recognition but before they are ready to learn rapid writing. This may be only a short period of time since the writing reinforces letter recognition. Discrimination (such as 'b' vs. 'd') does not have to be 100% perfect before they are ready to move on.
  2. When they are ready to learn rapid writing, move to an italic script, which is more comfortable in its slant orientation and less circular curves.
  3. Move naturally to a cursive stroke when printing separate letters has become rapid.

The basic ball-and-stick printing style is associated with "beginning Kindergarten" in our worksheets, while later Kindergarten to third grade is associated with italic printing, then italic cursive.

Note that the letter sizes can be adjusted according to the student's comfort and mastery level. While bigger is generally better for beginning students, it is possible for letters to be TOO big for comfortable writing. In fact, at the largest sizes, the child may in fact be "drawing" the letters rather than "writing" them. Drawing letters (reproducing a picture) can be useful for learning the letters themselves, but the goal of handwriting is to move quickly to learning mechanical motions in a smooth rhythm.

© Copyright 1998-2007 Joe A. Friberg. All Rights Reserved.