What is wrong with print script?

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Print script comes in many versions. Here’s one.

These letters aren’t joined to each other, and are usually upright. When they are well written, they look tidy and legible. But teaching them to beginners is not a good idea.

Difficult movements
Writing print script is harder than writing joined letters. Somehow, the pen has to get from one letter to another. Moving it on the paper is easier than lifting it. That’s why joined writing came about, and why ordinary handwriting has been joined for nearly two thousand years.

Here’s what happens when you write the print script letter r. It involves a pen lift in the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Jumping in the air

You lift the pen from the previous letter, put it down, and make the stem.

Next you lift the pen, put it down halfway up the stem, and make the second stroke.

Finally, you lift the pen to put it down again where the next letter begins.

Print script has clear shapes and difficult movements. But if the history of writing can teach us anything, it should teach us that movement comes first and lettershapes follow. Capitals, too, have clear, simple shapes and difficult movements. As handwriting, they failed 2000 years ago. If they hadn’t, the lower case letters might never have evolved.

Make learning easy for beginners. Start with a movement. Then teach the shapes.

Twisted paths
Print-script letters haven’t got obvious starting points. Which stroke comes first? What is the right direction? Children don’t always remember. The results may look fine, but they may have been written randomly and backwards. A little confusion at the outset can mean trouble later.

The path of a letter makes little difference in unjoined writing. But when children start to connect their letters, strange habits sometimes come to light. When one letter is finished, the pen should be in the right place to start the next. The right direction and the right order are important. Here’s an example.

Different paths, same shape

Wrong: This letter begins at the baseline on the right. After the bowl has been made, the pen will then end up in the wrong place. The result looks all right, but a joining stroke would start from the top.

Right: Begin on the right side of the letter, close to the top. Draw the elliptical curve of the bowl. Lift the pen. Move it to the top, and put it down again. Make the stem.

Right or wrong, the finished letters both look the same. Print script can be written in any order. It is not a good foundation for joined writing, where every letter should have a fixed path.

Print script is not easy to write well. Uneven tilt stands out in letters that are meant to be upright. And an ellipse is not a convenient shape for the bowls. Any kink catches the eye. For beginners, these are unnecessary obstacles.

The stops and pen lifts of print script are different from the flow of joined writing. Writing movements are hard to unlearn. Getting them right from the beginning is easier. And breaking one habit to master another is really not necessary. (Imagine teaching multiplication tables to six-year olds, and then teaching them new and different tables when they turn eight. Fortunately, six times seven is the same, no matter what age we are.)

For many children, the change from print script to a joined hand is a struggle. Some fail.