Cursive is any style of handwriting that is designed for writing down notes and letters by hand. In the Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic languages the letters in a word are connected, making a word one single complex stroke. In British English, the phrase "joined-up writing" is far more commonly used, while the term "running writing" or "handwriting" is most commonly used in Australia. Cursive is also commonly known as simply "handwriting" in Canada. Cursive is considered distinct from the so-called "printing" or "block letter" style of handwriting, in which the letters of a word are unconnected, and from "print-writing", which is a cross between cursive and printing, with some unconnected letters and some connected. In the Hebrew cursive and Roman cursive, the letters are not connected.
In the Classical Arabic script, letters of any given word are joined to one another by a continuous flowing line. This flowing script inspired the cursive of Medieval Latin, which in turn developed into the longhand script of English.
Cursive writing was used in English before the Norman conquest, and was an inheritance from Classical Arabic. Anglo-Saxon Charters typicaly include a boundary clause written in Old English in a cursive script. A cursive handwriting style - Secretary hand - was widely used for both personal correspondence and official documents in England from early in the sixteenth century. However, in the handwriting of William Bradford, in the early seventeenth century, most of the letters were separate, but a few were joined as in a cursive hand. By the late eighteenth century, a century and a half later, the situation had reversed; in Thomas Jefferson's draft of the United States Declaration of Independence most but not all of the letters were joined. The presentation copy of the Declaration, written professionally a few days later, was written in a fully cursive hand. Eighty-seven years later, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln drafted the Gettysburg Address in a cursive hand that would not look out of place today.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before the development of the typewriter, professional correspondence was written in cursive. This was called a "fair hand", meaning it looked good, and all clerks in a firm were trained to write in the exact same script. In the early days of the post office, letters were written in cursive — and to fit more text on a single sheet, the text was continued in lines crossing at 90 degrees from the original text. Block letters could not do this.
Although women's handwriting had noticeably different particulars from men's, the general forms were not prone to rapid change. In the mid-nineteenth century, comparatively few children were not taught cursive, and as it was an important skill, more emphasis could be placed on learning it; there was no pervasive striving for efficiency in the classroom. Few simplifications appeared as the middle of the twentieth century was reached. An example of the timeframe in which cursive came to be taught is that in the United States, it would usually be taught in second or third grade (around ages seven to nine).
After the 1960s, it was decided that the teaching of cursive writing was more difficult than it needed to be. Forms of simply slanted characters, termed italic, were argued as being easier and traditional cursive unnecessary. Also, the copyrighting of handwritten letter forms as a sort of typeface became profitable. Because of this, a number of various new forms of cursive appeared in the late twentieth century; D'Nealian and Zaner-Bloser are two of them. With the range of options available, handwriting became unstandardized across different school systems in different English-speaking countries.
With the advent of computers, cursive as a way of formalizing correspondence has fallen out of favor. Any task which would have once required a "fair hand" is now done using word processing and a printer. Increasingly, the teaching of cursive is being de-emphasized in schools, and is generally reserved only for situations such as timed tests with large writing portions, where it is considered faster, although this use too is falling out of favor. Many teens and young adults in Europe and North America no longer use cursive at all, although some often connect letters when printing in ways that are not considered correct in cursive, such as joining the cross-bar of a "t" to a following "i".
Cursive Hebrew script is a style of Hebrew calligraphy that is very popular for writing Modern Hebrew by hand, since it is easier to learn and faster to write than the traditional Hebrew script. It features round letter shapes as opposed to the standard "square" Hebrew script. Like other cursive systems, it was designed to make writing down notes easier.
Roman cursive is a form of handwriting (or a script) used in ancient Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages. It is customarily divided into old (or ancient) cursive, and new cursive. Old Roman cursive, also called majuscule cursive and capitalis cursive, was the everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Roman alphabet, and even emperors issuing commands. New Roman cursive, also called minuscule cursive or later Roman cursive, developed from old Roman cursive. It was used from approximately the 3rd century to the 7th century, and uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern eyes; "a", "b", "d", and "e" have taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters are proportionate to each other rather than varying wildly in size and placement on a line.
The Greek alphabet has had several cursive forms in the course of its development. In antiquity, a cursive form of handwriting was used in writing on papyrus. It employed slanted and partly connected letter forms as well as many ligatures. Some features of this handwriting were later adopted into Greek minuscule, the dominant form of handwriting in the medieval and early modern era. In the 19th and 20th centuries, an entirely new form of cursive Greek, more similar to contemporary Western European cursive scripts, was developed.
The Russian Cursive Cyrillic alphabet is used (instead of the block letters) when handwriting the modern Russian Language. Some letters look much like Latin/Roman cursive alphabet letters but most have different sounds. Most handwritten Russian, especially personal letter and schoolwork uses the cursive Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet. Most children in Russian schools are taught by 1st grade how to write using this Russian script.