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From Printing to Engraving: A Guide to Cursive and Calligraphy for Beginners

Most of the letters and documents that people receive today are typed, whether it be business correspondence through the mail or personal letters sent via e-mail. Because of the lack of the need to hand write documents and letters, many people have never learned how to write in cursive and would not know where to begin when using calligraphy. Many people from generations prior to the computer age feel as if cursive and calligraphy are a lost art form. As these skills are not commonly taught, many people seek out both means of writing as a hobby. Both cursive and calligraphy are very sought-after skills for special events, such as handwritten greeting cards and wedding invitations, as well as for use with crafts and art.

What is Cursive?

Cursive is a style of handwriting that was introduced to the English language sometime during the sixteenth century in England. This style of writing was more popularly referred to as "secretary hand." It was developed in efforts to create a more universally recognizable style of writing, in lieu of the more detailed "book hand" script used during the Middle Ages. Although "secretary hand" was the first form of cursive writing, it evolved a great deal from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century to become a more uniform, standardized form of writing. Cursive handwriting became increasingly popular among professionals before the creation and development of the typewriter and this more uniform style was referred to as "fair hand." Many professionals were trained to write in the same "fair hand" style for all professional correspondences. Aside from looking professional, this style allowed for more words to be written on a single sheet of paper than traditional printed letters. As cursive is a handwriting style where letters in a word are often connected to one another, it was also much quicker for people to write in cursive as it did not require a pen to be constantly lifted from letter to letter as with print. This style of writing remained very popular for both professional and casual letters for many years, although with the introduction of computers into homes and businesses, the handwriting style has drastically decreased in popularity. Many consider cursive handwriting a lost art form in this day and age, despite the fact that cursive style scripts are also available as fonts on computers.

Learning Cursive

As cursive is no longer as popular as it was in years prior to the computer technology boom, a lot of schools have stopped teaching the style altogether and have opted instead for teaching more practical computer keyboarding skills. While cursive handwriting may not be a necessity in today's world, it can be a valuable skill to possess. As it is much faster than individually printing each letter when writing, it can be an excellent resource for those who frequently take notes or for those who prefer to write handwritten letters as opposed to typing them to give a more personalized feel. When beginning to learn cursive handwriting, it is best to start learning in the same way that print handwriting is learned. First, individual letters of the alphabet should be studied and practiced. There are various cursive alphabet charts and guides available to help beginners, and surprisingly, a lot of these letters are close to their printed forms. As the learner begins to recognize and write individual letters, they should attempt to piece together small words in cursive. As the handwriting improves, larger words should be attempted until the handwriting is legible. When this portion has been completed, sentences should then be formed and practiced frequently until reading and writing cursive letters becomes second nature. This may take some time to perfect as learning to connect most or all letters together, very quickly, with a lot of looping and very little lifting of the writing utensil is much different than writing printed letters.

What is Calligraphy?

Calligraphy is a very artistic, elegant and decorative manner of writing. It is considered an art form more so than a type of handwriting and is generally used now for more elaborate purposes, such as wedding invitations, birth certificates and inscriptions. Calligraphy is very popular and has history among various other languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Mongolian languages. Calligraphy in the English language was not used until the eighteenth century, although the roots of the art form can be traced back to as early as 220 B.C. in Ancient China. In history, calligraphy was a common practice in important legal and historical documents, and as with cursive writing, calligraphy is also available as a font on computers in today's society.

Learning Calligraphy

Because calligraphy exists in so many different languages, it can be a very difficult skill to understand and master. English calligraphy, commonly referred to as "modern western calligraphy," is usually drawn through the use of felt pens, although in the past, painting the letters was a very common practice. Line spacing, angles, and pen width are extremely important to the success of calligraphy, so rulers and calligraphy specific felt pens are recommended for those who are attempting to learn the art form. Once comfortable with the tools, the next step is to begin simple practice strokes. Practice strokes are important in calligraphy as they are the basis for the letters of the alphabet. It is difficult to progress to more detailed work before the simple letters and basic strokes are perfected, as the style is intended to be elegant and flawless. There are endless guides to learning detailed calligraphy for those who wish to master the art form.