What Is English Script?

Kate Monteith

English script is a Western style of cursive writing. The distinctive feature of cursive script is that the letters in each word are connected with a continuous stroke. The ancient old English fonts, which were developed around the 12th century, were penned with unconnected letters. In the 16th century, cursive-style writing was introduced in England as a way to save time when writing documents by hand, and by the 18th century, cursive English script had been widely adopted across Europe and America.

Original English script was done with quill pens.
Original English script was done with quill pens.

The fonts used in English script contain additional pen strokes called serifs at the beginnings and endings of written words. Serifs also can embellish certain letter features. The capital letters of old English script are often surrounded with thick serifs and elaborate flourishes that add a pleasing aesthetic. Another identifiable trait of English script is the varying widths of the strokes that form the letters and words, which is an effect caused by the earliest types of ink pens.

In the U.S., English script is usually called cursive.
In the U.S., English script is usually called cursive.

Before the advent of modern writing instruments, proper English script was penned with a long feather cut flat across the quill end and dipped in ink. The writer would press the flat tip of the quill pen to the paper at an oblique angle, taking care to keep the pen at the same tilt as it moved across the page. This precise method of writing caused the ink strokes to widen or narrow as each letter was formed — a distinctive feature of authentic English cursive script.

Cursive writing was developed as a way to save time when writing.
Cursive writing was developed as a way to save time when writing.

Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians usually use the words "handwriting" or "cursive" to describe the joining of words associated with English script fonts. Australians also call it "running writing." In the United Kingdom and Ireland, however, cursive style writing is commonly called "joined-up writing," "joint writing" or "real writing."

Around the world, wherever electronic fonts and digital devices are available, the use of cursive script has begun to fall out of favor. Typing and keyboard efficiency have replaced handwriting courses in many schools. In some jurisdictions, the teaching of cursive writing has been removed from school curricula.

Authentic English script handwriting is rarely practiced in the 21st century except by artisans of calligraphy. Modern calligraphers use special pen nibs to create the effect of old English writing. The calligraphy pens of today also have an ink reservoir that keeps ink flowing freely, unlike ancient quill pens, which needed frequent dipping in an inkwell. Although the means for calligraphy have improved over the years, authentic English cursive script has remained a hands-on method of writing.

Writing in cursive may increase writing speed and efficiency.
Writing in cursive may increase writing speed and efficiency.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - It's actually kind of cool when you think about it. English script letters might only be the province of people who love obscure calligraphy now if it weren't for the fascination with computer fonts. I even know what a serif is, just off the top of my head, which I don't think the average person would know twenty years ago.

If you're looking to download some English script examples, it's pretty common and you can probably find it online for free with a quick search.


@KoiwiGal - I think kids should be taught calligraphy anyway, simply because it's stylish and fun and it could ultimately help them with learning design.

In fact, it reminds me of one of the stories Steve Jobs used to tell, I think in one of his graduation speeches, about how he took a class in calligraphy at university. He took it out of curiosity rather than because he thought it would ever be of use. But, when he started developing computer software he was the one who recognized that fonts should be an important issue and that people were more likely to respond positively to the new software if the fonts were easy to read and looked good.

You might not think much about calligraphy fonts, but they are a huge aspect of computer use now and I believe that attention to detail really helped Apple along at a time when they needed it.


Cursive isn't globally popular and hasn't been for a while. I lived in New Zealand for most of my childhood and we moved to the United States when I was about ten years old, maybe a bit younger.

I remember we had a lesson on cursive writing and the teacher came over and praised me for it and told me that it was the first time she had seen me write "properly". I told her that I had never been taught how to write like that before and she was very surprised. Of course, that might have just been the particular school I went to in New Zealand, but I think in general writing in cursive has fallen out of favor in a lot of places.

I can't get too worked up over it, as I much prefer typing to hand writing, but I think kids should at least be shown how to work this writing system, as a computer is not always going to be handy.

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