I can’t write in cursive. I don’t know how anymore. I can sign my name. For everything else, I print. In school, when teachers stopped caring about cursive, I stopped caring about cursive and went back to print.

I’m not alone in this. Every so often I read an article online bemoaning the fact that fewer and fewer Americans can write in cursive. Usually in these articles, the writer places the blame on technology — keyboards, mobile phones, tablets.

This article in The Atlantic makes an entirely different argument. Yes, technology is to blame for cursive’s declining appeal — because pen technology has improved.

Cursive script is perfect for a fountain pen because the thin ink fountain pens use won’t really work any other way. But a ballpoint pen doesn’t have the inkflow problem that a fountain pen does that’s thicker and won’t smudge (as easily). With a fountain pen, you can’t really take your pen off the paper without making a smudgy inky mess; with a ballpoint pen, you can lift the pen all you want, cutting off the flow of ink to the paper the moment you do.

I hadn’t thought of pen technology in this way before, but this makes sense to me. A ballpoint lets you write in bursts instead of a continuous flow as with a fountain pen; your hand can take a “time out” between letters and words in a way that it can’t with a fountain pen.

The article also brings up pen grips — “the type of pen grip taught in contemporary grade school is the same grip that’s been used for generations, long before everyone wrote with ballpoints. However, writing with ballpoints and other modern pens requires that they be placed at a greater, more upright angle to the paper — a position that’s generally uncomfortable with a traditional pen hold.”

This prompted me to look at how I hold a pen. The pen rests on the intermediate bone of the middle finger (which acts as a fulcrum) at roughly a 20-degree angle from the perpendicular, with the index finger wrapped lightly around the barrel and the tip of the thumb holding the tip of the pen in place.

I don’t find anything uncomfortable in that. I like writing that way. It works for me at home. It works for me at the office. It works for me when I take notes at a baseball game with a notebook propped up on my knee. It worked for me when I wrote on the train or the schoolbus.

Printing all the way!

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