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Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?

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Hey folks, I'm looking for some input/advice.

After decades of slowly deteriorating handwriting (terrible printing), I finally committed to do something about it and to relearn cursive. After a bit of research, I settled on monoline Spencerian, which I think looks beautiful when done well. I've been at it fairly consistently for almost 2 years and have made reasonable progress (I'm currently on Book 4 of the Mott Media workbooks). However, it still tends to get sloppy and fall apart a bit when I get going quickly.

Although I love the look of Spencerian, at the end of the day I want a functional and legible, everyday cursive hand that I can use consistently and at speed. My understanding is that Cursive Italic is often recommended for this purpose. I also understand that non-cursive Italic is essentially the same without the joins, so I can rehab my terrible printing at the same time!

So what would you advise? Stick with Spencerian (sunk costs, etc.), or start from square one with Italic and see how that compares? (And please no suggestions for Palmer or D'Nealian... even though they're related to Spencerian, I think they're hideous!)


Erica McPhee:
Funny - I find Palmer very similar to Business writing which is more or less the same as monoline Spencerian. I will have to some day take a closer look at the differences.

I say give it a try. You can always go back to Spencerian. I have tried many throughout the years but my regular every-day handwriting is still awful.  ;D

I recommend this book (Amazon affiliate link if you click on the picture):

Thanks, Erica. Maybe I will look into the book that you recommend... it seems to be a popular one from what little investigating I've done into Italic.

To give an idea, here is where I am currently at when writing carefully:

And here is at a normal writing speed:

One issue is that even when I think I've written somewhat reasonably (i.e., closer to the former than the latter), no one under 30 can read it!

In my years of teaching, there have been plenty of people who just want to improve their everyday penmanship. There are also numerous calligraphers who insist that they *can't* improve their penmanship and some insist it has gotten worse since they became a calligrapher. This was frequently a hot topic at IAMPETH conferences.

IMHO - it is all about the speed -AND- the warm up.
If I go to my grocery list to jot down a couple items quickly, the penmanship will be unpleasant.
We can all write mindlessly - and mindless cursive, done as fast as possible will be scrawly.
If I slow down -just a tiny bit - and think about what I am writing - it will be lovely.

If I am going to write a thank you note, I always do a couple lines of warm up. Otherwise, the warm up happens on the thank you note and the first line or two will be a little less lovely than the rest of the note. I'm the only one who will notice -- but, I prefer to see the consistency. Once I have warmed up, I can execute very pretty penmanship as fast as I can scrawl - but I know from experience that the warm up is essential. Anything that is called a *running hand* was intended to be written fast.

Something I recommend for handwriting repair is to look at your existing penmanship and start fixing things.
If your penmanship has no loops, then you might be a good candidate for italics.
If you have loops - maybe Spencerian is a good choice.
But, I recommend trying both.

Consider which style you learned in school. I learned the nasty Zaner-Bloser in the 60s and -for me- the best improvement came when I switched to italics because it nudged me out of the ugly ZB style. After I had pretty italic penmanship - when I went to Spencerian, it was much easier to morph the ZB into a Spencerian style. I call mine Jeanerian - since there are little quirks that I like - that are not on the exemplar.

Also, look at the shapes of your small letter a. Those little teardrops in Spencerian are a little faster to make than an oval.
Look at Spencerian Ladies Hand. It is not as extended as classic Spencerian. It is more compact and is a good choice for everyday penmanship.

I agree that Palmer is hideous. But it is mostly the caps that are so offensive. You can choose prettier caps.

Feel free to post a sample of your everyday penmanship - and it might prompt other suggestions.

The two years spent on Spencerian will never be a waste. You will never know if italics are going to help unless you try them. For me -- the combination of learning both was what tipped my everyday penmanship into something I really liked, that I can do at top speed (with warm up.)

Thanks for your response, Jean. Your point about warming up is well-taken; I always warm up a bit at the beginning of practice, but of course not when I'm just jotting something down through the day. And both of the samples I posted above are light years ahead of where I was two years ago, so I'm firmly in the "you *can* improve your handwriting" camp!

I'm very intrigued by your comment about learning both Italic and Spencerian, because even if I do give Italic a go, I'd like to hang on to Spencerian if at all possible. Is there any advice on how to do that, or how to balance practice of the two styles? Bearing in mind that I can really only commit about 20-30 minutes a day to focused practice.

(Sorry for the slow responses; each of my posts seems to take a few days to be approved.)


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