Fine Motor Skills & Writing Font
Although there is still some debate regarding the fine motor skills involved in print and cursive styles, the research and many Occupational Therapists agree that cursive writing font requires greater motor coordination and complexity of letter formation. With print (such as foundation writing font) each letter is isolated, it’s shape stable and the pen lifts between letters allow planning time, whereas cursive writing font is more difficult to master (Poudou, 2018; Bara & Morin, 2013).
Occupational Therapists explain that a cursive tick (that is the final aspect of letter formation in cursive writing fonts) is quite a mature controlled movement and often an inappropriate expectation for young students. What you will frequently observe is young students finishing letters with a large or elongated tick, rather than finishing letter formation with a small and controlled tick. You may also observe students forming the letter and then after taking their pencil off the page adding the cursive tick onto the end of letters in a secondary movement.
Hence from an Occupational Therapists’ point of view, foundation writing font is recommended, as introducing cursive writing font too early will challenge students and may result in a negative impact on their posture and pencil grip.
Literacy Perspective & Writing Font
Most text and educational support resources that students use in the classroom are presented in print. Print writing fonts are more closely related to foundation writing font, rather than cursive script.
From a literacy point of view, this can add complexity for young students. We are asking them to master both a reading font (typically a foundation font), AND a spelling and writing font (cursive). This complexity is amplified when dealing with certain letters (e.g. p, r, and b) as their shapes vary significantly between foundation fonts and cursive writing fonts.
Additionally, the most recent research suggests that cursive font is much harder for dyslexic students as it is more complex. Each letter is connected to the next in a word, so students have to not only form the letter but consider what letter is coming next so they can join them correctly.
By using foundation font as a consistent text across reading, writing and spelling it simplifies the start of their literacy journey.
Speed and Automaticity of Writing
When we teach handwriting, our ultimate goal is for students to automate their handwriting so they can write with speed and accuracy and focus on the task of sharing their ideas through written composition.
What’s interesting is that the research is inconclusive whether this speed and automaticity is best achieved with either print or cursive. In fact, much of the research is reluctant to recommend one style of handwriting over another. However recent studies of older primary students have shown a mixed style of print and cursive is faster and equally legible as either cursive or print (Bara & Morin, 2013).
As Bara and Morin (p.614) concluded, students will eventually develop their own style often combining letters from different writing styles and perhaps teachers should not “insist on a strict adherence to a particular model.” Professor of Education Psychology at the University of Washington, Virginia Berninger suggests “evidence supports teaching both formats of handwriting and then letting each student choose which works best for him or her” (2012, p.31).
What Writing Font to Teach?
At PLD, our position is always to suggest a foundation writing font from the Early Years to Year 2 and thereafter a cursive writing font. We believe that this sequence gives students the best opportunity to establish confidence in literacy and fine motor skills allowing them to gradually develop speed and their own style.
PLD Underpins High Performance
The 2015 Department of Education Western Australia study, conducted by Professor William Louden, selected nine top-performing schools based on their NAPLAN results and reviewed their processes. The report, “High Performing Primary Schools: What do they have in common?” noted key characteristics included lower variation in teaching methods and the use of explicit teaching strategies for teaching phonological awareness and phonics. Among the mandated resources utilised within these schools were synthetic phonics resources. PLD programs were commonly used in the schools investigated. Professor Louden found that high-performing schools used explicit teaching strategies for teaching phonological awareness and phonics through a Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) program.
Bara, F. & Morin, M. (2013). Does the Handwriting Style Learned in First Grade Determine the Style Used in the Fourth and Fifth Grades and Influence Handwriting Speed and Quality? A Comparison between French and Quebec Children. Psychology in the Schools, 50(6), 601-617.
Berninger, V. W. (2012). Strengthening the Mind’s Eye. The Case for Continued Handwriting Instruction in the 21st Century. Principal. May/June, 28-31.
Poudou, M. T. Z. (2018, May 1). Cursive Writing and Script Writing. Teacher’ Hub. Retrieved from ;
This blog was first published on the 11th of July 2011.