I type all day. I swipe and tap on my phone. I scribble notes to myself on paper. I’m happy with my mostly-digital life. But every now and then I’ll get a handwritten note—from an old lady, usually—and I find myself wishing I practiced cursive more often. Those old ladies can write.
If you want to improve your cursive, or learn it from scratch, there are really two main skills to work on:
Knowing how each letter is formed and what it should end up looking like
Being consistent in the letters’ size, spacing, slant and flow
The first is a little learning and a little practice; the second is all practice. So let’s get started!
Set up comfortably
When you’re good at cursive, you’ll be able to do it anywhere, but you’ll have the easiest time learning and practicing if you can sit down at a real desk (or kitchen table) in an actual chair. Angle your paper so that the bottom is toward your writing hand. Any paper will do, but make sure the surface is smooth—work on a clipboard or stack a few layers of paper if your table has a rough surface.
You’ll want a writing implement that moves smoothly when your hand is in a comfortable writing position. We have lots of opinions on what is the best pen, but some only write well when they’re held vertically; others write better at a slant. Do yourself a favour and don’t overthink it: just grab a pencil for these early lessons.
I’m going to say something really controversial here: your hand position is totally up to you. I remember being taught a dynamic tripod grip, which is great for pencils and fountain pens, but other grips can be just as effective depending on your hand strength, the type of pen you prefer, and other factors. You’re learning cursive from the internet, which means nobody is grading you on this. Experiment.
Find a model alphabet
Before you can write cursive letters, you have to know what they look like. Search for “letter guides” that show the shapes and the order of strokes. This is a good basic one that shows the whole alphabet. You can also download and print practice sheets like these that are made with lightly-coloured letters to trace over.
Before you choose a guide, take a look at how they form the letters. Capital Q and Z are weird as hell, traditionally, but you may choose to write them your own way. (Again, nobody is grading you, you are your own person). Alphabets differ in other respects, too: whether or not their capital A looks like a giant lowercase A, for example. Choose (or invent!) a style you like, and stick with it.
The only way you get good at this is to practice. Start with letters that have a straight upward stroke, like l, b, f, h, and u. Then move on to the ones that begin with a curved stroke, like a, c, and o. Practice writing each letter over and over until you can make the same shape consistently.
Lined paper helps you to keep the parts of the letter in proportion to each other. This calligraphy paper even has a slant built in, so you can make sure that all of your vertical strokes (like the tall part of an h) end up neatly parallel.
As you work your way down the page, keep the paper at a comfortable position. Use your non-writing hand to move the paper up, rather than moving your writing hand down. And if you’re having trouble, remember to slow the heck down.