Cursive vs. Calligraphy

Cursive vs. Calligraphy: What’s the difference?

When I first came up with this topic, I thought I’d hit the jackpot with a quick blog post to share. But as I sit down to write it, I realise how hard it is to answer this question. Cursive vs. calligraphy – although they share many attributes, learning cursive in school while growing up, I’m of the strong opinion that, calligraphy isn’t cursive and vice versa. While both are forms of script lettering, there are subtle differences between the two which I discuss below.

1. Letter Connections

  • Cursive
    • Your pen never lifts off the page until you’ve finished writing the word
    • Every letter in a word is connected
  • Calligraphy
    • Not every letter has to connect
    • Combination of up- and down-strokes
  • This is my biggest argument for why cursive and calligraphy are not related. I had very strict teachers when it came to making sure every letter connected with the next.
Please don’t mind my terrible cursive as I am VERY out of practice. I’ve also been working very hard on my calligraphy so muscle memory wasn’t on my side :).

2. Intended use

  • Cursive tends to be used as a form of day-to-day writing. People will either use print or cursive when taking notes when using pen and paper.
  • Cursive tends to arise out of speed, meaning the faster you need to write, the more likely you are to use cursive (this is very dependent on age in terms of when and if you learned cursive in school).
  • Calligraphy tends to be more decorative and ornate. To achieve the true beauty of calligraphy, you have to take your time and slowly create the strokes required to form letters.
  • Calligraphy is definitely not an efficient form of handwriting.
Cursive vs. Calligraphy

3. Letter construction

  • Cursive tends to have simple letter form construction, with no attention needed to up strokes or down strokes
  • Calligraphy is more intricate in letter construction as careful attention needs to be paid when creating stroke weight. That is, creating thin upstrokes and thick down strokes.
Cursive vs. Calligraphy

Calligraphy is definitely more artistic than cursive, although there are some people with the most beautiful cursive I’ve ever seen. But from a technical, construction standpoint, calligraphy is considered more artistic.

I’ve neglected to include a lot of history behind cursive and calligraphy but I want to tackle that in a different blog post so as not to overwhelm anyone looking for a quick difference between the two. So keep an eye out for a history of cursive blog post by subscribing to this blog.

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