Different Styles of Cursive Letters

Written by christina schnell
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Different Styles of Cursive Letters
Palmer style cursive dominated cursive during the first half of the 20th century. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Once considered the speedy alternative to hand printing, businesses, secretaries and government officials wrote lengthy documents in cursive for clarity and precision. In 2011, cursive lettering adorns wedding invitations and the occasional elementary school drill book. Just because the practical uses of cursive are limited doesn't mean you can't enjoy the various lettering styles.

Calligraphy Cursive Letters

The curly-q letters adorning wedding invitations and college diplomas are calligraphy cursive. The tails of each capital letter in calligraphy cursive flourish, loop and swirl. The rhythmic broad-tip calligraphy pen creates bold lines on the upstrokes of each letter. The connecting lines of calligraphy cursive are delicate and centred, without sweeping diagonal lines or crossovers. Precision and elegance are the focal points of calligraphy cursive, not expediency.

D'Nealian Cursive

D'Nealian cursive is modern cursive style with different letters for 's,' 'r' and 'f' than the printed alphabet. The letters are round and flowing, but not decorative or flourishing. Short strokes connect letters through the most direct route, including some upper-level connecting lines and diagonals, instead of uniformly connecting at the baseline. The short transitions and intuitive flow of letters makes D'Nealian one of the few styles of cursive still taught in elementary schools.


Before computers, educators and businesses used Palmer cursive lettering for its expediency and legibility. Palmer lettering slants forward and connects each letter through the most efficient angle rather than only connecting characters through the baseline. While formal aspects of penmanship remain, such as decorative loops on capital letters, the emphasis on Palmer style cursive is fluidity and rhythm, giving the lettering a natural flow.


Getty-Dubay cursive is a child-friendly style that doesn't slant forward or backward and connects characters through short strokes on the baseline or slight diagonals angles. Getty-Dubay is among the least decorative styles of cursive and adheres closely to the printed alphabet without flourishing tails winding down, around or under. The differences between traditional print letters and in Getty-Dubay is that cursive is minimal. Even letters commonly changed in other cursive styles, such as 'r,' 's' nd 'f,' remain unchanged in Getty-Dubay.

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