Is Cursive Handwriting an Obsolete Business Skill?

By on February 3, 2014 | Topics: Culture

Notwithstanding Jimmy Fallon’s clever “Thank You Notes” Late Night skits, the need for precise cursive handwriting in business circles seems to be on the decline.   Is cursive handwriting an obsolete business skill?  I recently attended a corporate seminar where ideation was captured on super-sized Post It Note Wall Posters.  Since we all took turns “note taking”, it was clear early on that there was a gap between those who had learned “cursive writing” in school vs.the “key board” generation.

For years, cursive handwriting was part of the 3 “R’s” of education (reading, writing and arithmetic.)   But recently, the nation’s educators omitted cursive handwriting from the curriculum of the Common Core State Standards, declaring it an outdated field of study.   Advocates of the skill cite academic studies and champion it’s benefits.  Indiana University’s psychologist and cognitive scientist Karin Harman James states, “In one study, college students remembered information better when they copied a paragraph in cursive compared to both printing and typing.”   However, there is not enough academic research to draw any definitive conclusions about the benefits of teaching cursive (fine motor skill development, improved retention, increased concentration, etc.).  So, this academic debate is ongoing.

Not so in today’s business environment.  One of the objectives at the aforementioned week-end seminar was to create a 4 part marketing campaign.   Ideation and creative group think ensued!  The participants with beautiful handwriting held no advantage over those with poorer penmanship.    Brilliant insights and intriguing ideas flowed from everyone (although being able to read those ideas was a different story!)

In business circles, the best idea people and those who know how to execute them are the winners.   In presenting those ideas, the overwhelming best practice is data and keyboard driven communication.  Prospective employees without tech savvy skill sets are not likely to be hired.  Employees with advanced “e-skills” are far more likely to progress by mastering the tablets, PC’s and smart phones along with the software, social media and electronic artistry of the digital age.   The elegance of the cursive pen may be mightier than the sword, but it is no match for the speed and clarity of the electronic age!    Jimmy Fallon should continue to write “thank you” notes and to keep us laughing!  But in today’s business environment, a failure to master the tools of the digital age is no joke.

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