Friday, March 2, 2012

Edda Manley on Printing

I recently gave a day long workshop on analyzing printing.  When I first began studying handwriting over twenty years ago and a group of people gave samples of handwriting, usually all but one or two samples were in cursive writing. The two or so that printed I would ask if they worked in a technical field such as Engineering, Architecture or Mechanics. If they didn’t work in any of those fields I would ask if they were criticized for their cursive writing when they were learning to write in cursive. Usually the response was affirmative. In those days there were also lots and lots of stories about strict nuns who went to extreme measures to try to motivate the young children to write neatly. A yardstick rapped over the knuckles was often a common story. So, the first opportunity these people had to go back to printing they gladly took it.

Today, if I ask a group of people under the age of twenty for samples of handwriting, there might be one or two students who write in cursive, the rest print. I would ask those who used cursive if they went to private school or if they had parents who made sure they learned how to write in cursive. The answer was usually Yes.

From my experience in looking at handwriting for over twenty years I believe that we always have and will always continue to have some people who gravitate more to the technical professions and others who prefer to work in the people professions. There seems to be quite a strong desire to go into one or the other areas. It also means they do not like to do the opposite tasks very much. 

Here are two examples I’ve experienced.  A few years ago, a Human Resources Professional told me that in his company there were many technical professionals such as Engineers, Mechanical Design people and the like. He never had performance problems with these people.  All were conscientious, hard working and dedicated employees. What he did have on a very regular basis however were “people problems.” Usually, it would be a female coming into the HR office in tears over an issue that the technical people didn’t even know they had caused or how to prevent from happening. Dealing with people was a huge difficulty for the technical people.

A few years ago I was talking to a relative who was a career Registered Nurse. This profession was her passion and her life.  She knew she was a skilled and experienced professional. At this time the hospital where she worked was bringing in computers to handle patient records. Now, at 60 years old she was going to have to spend considerable time learning to type and use this new electronic technology. This is not what she had signed up to do. She was so frustrated and upset over the whole situation that she was looking into retiring early. We sometimes see similar situations with teachers where the parents raise funds to ensure that each classroom has its own “Smartboard.” Some teachers who are better in the electronic technologies gravitate to it and use it extensively, while others have a very expensive dust collector in their class because they are creative enough to find other fun activities to engage the children in.

We had our highest literacy rates in North America in the years after WWII when both printing and cursive was thoroughly taught. At the end of the recent Summit meeting in DC it was agreed that students should be taught both so that they have the possibility of choosing which writing style they prefer to use. I think we’ll find in the end that some will continue to mainly print and others will choose to write in cursive.  With children now only being taught printing there is no choice and I believe this can create difficulties for them. 


  1. I will continue to write the school board here in PA, and my district, WCASD.
    After seeing a college student not able to sign their name on the college application reinforces, we need to work harder as advocates.