This is incredibly important for you to understand before you do ANY more outreach advertising, encouragements, or communications creation of any kind, if you want the the maximum number of people in your church and community to be able to read them.
The reason for my urgent message is the realization that many people today cannot read cursive writing and that includes ALL the wonderful script fonts we like to use so much in our designs for church communications. That includes the group of templates I had ready to send out to you that I need to update. (Sigh.)
This is not a happy post for me to write. I don't like change any more than the average person and to have to change something as basic and natural to me as writing cursive and using wonderful script fonts in communication design just seems like a bit much to deal with.
When I am feeling grumpy like this I remind myself that the communication I do isn't about me, but about a world that needs Jesus and NOTHING should be too much to do, little or big if it can help us reach them. So I slap myself, ask for forgiveness and write a blog about it......
First I'll give you a little background on how I became aware of the loss of the ability to read cursive and then some very practical steps on what to do about it, plus a short Canva Tutorial on some creative ways to deal with this situation on a Fall Outreach Postcard.
It is later in the post, keep reading first for more background on this situation.
How I became aware of the challenge of people not being able to read cursive
First I read an excellent article by a former president of Harvard University who lamented her experience of teaching a history class wherein most of her students could not read a facsimile copy of the U.S. Constitution because they could no longer read cursive. In her measured and calm discussion of it, she noted that reading historical documents, even if they are in a language the student understands, will require learning how to decipher them in the same way they must learn any ancient script.
She also talked about writing a note to a student and realizing they couldn't read it.
After reading that article I did a little more research and here are three representative comments of the many online. The first is from a blog for teachers, the second from the Washington Post, and the third from an online discussion of if people can read cursive and can't read cursive:
Comment #1 Today, more and more children and adults — with and without disabilities — cannot read cursive handwriting, even when it is perfectly formed. In the USA, Canada, and India, for instance, non-readers of cursive include most people born after 1985 (in other words, most people 35 and under).
However, the “cursive non-reader” population also includes many adults above age 35. Most but not all of the older group are people with neurological disabilities or other differences affecting written language skills and/or visual perception. These cases occur at all educational and socioeconomic levels.
Comment #2 For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and notepads. Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype.
Comment #3 I really struggle to read cursive, even though I was taught to write it, mainly because I suffer from Dyslexia. In fact, I also find it hard to read serif typefaces, such as the classic Times New Roman. I much prefer sans-serif typefaces. When I was using Windows my default was Century Gothic, although now I’ve moved over to macOS I tend to go with Helvetica.
Debates continue to rage about the viability of cursive but we need to move past them if we want to be "all things to all people that we might win some"
In addition to volumes about the results of this shift in reading perception, I found reams of angry reactions towards what some considered lazy teachers and foolish decisions made by schools. I also found numerous articles about how to easily teach yourself and your children how to read cursive.
I'm sure the debates will continue, but the situation is what it and most likely won't change. In addition, they don't help us and the people who aren't able to read what we work so hard to create.
We need to know what to do about the situation as church communicators.
There are two areas that are important to consider:
- Handwritten notes in ministry communications
- Use of cursive-type fonts in our church communications
First, what to do about hand-written notes
One of the most time-honored responses to visitors, to those who are ill, to those we want to acknowledge someone or work done as special, is a handwritten note. We want to show someone we care in what we say and so we laboriously write down our thoughts. But what do we do when a carefully crafted message is met with a blank stare of incomprehension? We may have to read our message to them as many find they must do today, but if we are writing and sending the message out through the mail and won't be there when someone gets it–we won't know if they can read it or not.
Especially unfortunate is the reality that the highly coveted demographic of many churches today, the under-35 crowd, may be totally tone deaf to our efforts to personally reach out to them because many cannot read cursive and consider out hand-written message one more instance of the church being out of touch.
We need to do the obvious—we can't rely on a handwritten message to communicate.
Instead of a written note, send a text or email. Or both. Either one of these ways of communicating will be comprehended better than a cursive written note.
Short, time-sensitive messages work best as text messages. If you want to give more information or link to a website, directions, or additional information, an email works better.
For postcards and other printed cards you sent out in the past and hand-wrote a message on them, if you want everyone who gets them to be able to read them, you need to get creative. You can print a caring message that you composed but have it printed out in a clear typeface and then to personalize it, you can hand sign it. And since many signatures today are totally illegible—under the handwritten signature, print out the person's name and title, so once again people who can't read cursive don't have to wonder what that's all about. If this didn't make sense, here is a video that illustrates it:
Second, what to do about the designs we create for our church communications
I am in agony over this! Like every other graphic designer I know I LOVE playing with type! I love all the incredible, wonderful, beautiful typefaces available in Canva (my curent creation program of choice). I especially love the SCRIPT fonts (cursive by another name). I love their contrast with block, sans serif fonts, and the layering we can do in designs with them.
In fact, I just finished doing several sets of fall designs and an entire eBook on quotes about the Trinity with wonderfully decorative script fonts and after doing the research I did on how hard cursive is to read, I realized that I had to completely redo all of them.
This is a game-changer and for the "but I love pretty typefaces" part of me, not a happy one. However, for the part of me (that I hope is growing more and more) that wants people to be involved in the things of God and come to know Jesus, I was incredibly thankful that the Lord brought this challenge to mind. So, I am redoing the designs that I'm sharing with you for fall and still working to figure out ongoing changes I'll make with the templates I share.
There are still many things we can do to inject creativity and typographic innovation into our creations.
This isn't really anything new—type was never intended to draw attention to itself
Remember a primary rule of typography is that it should always be invisible—the message is what is primary.
The type we use should always be the servant of the message and we should use the tools of letter spacing, line spacing, line length, and contrast to make certain it is always our words
In the Effective Church Communications Library is an eBook on type, CLICK HERE or on the image to go to it to learn more about type and how to use it effectively.