The ‘entry stroke’ or ‘in-stroke’ often used in ‘Continuous Cursive’ at the start of a letter is the subject of much controversy and debate amongst many teachers and educators.
This font has an upward flick at the beginning of each letter which often makes writing tedious and laboured.
What is an entry stroke?
An entry stroke (also known as the ‘lead- in’ stroke’, ‘initial flick’, ‘entry flick’or ‘continuous cursive’) is the aspect of a font, encouraged by many schools, involving a small flick at the beginning of all letters of the alphabet. This flick is often introduced when children first learn to write. This style of handwriting is sometimes referred to as ‘continuous cursive’.
Why should the entry stroke be abolished?
Even though the font looks old-fashioned and traditional it is often hard to form.
Devotees of the entry stroke used to enjoy the simplicity of having the same starting point for each letter. Initially, it seems logical to start each letter ‘from the ground’ and aesthetically the font is sometimes seen as being beautifully old-fashioned and traditional.
Some teachers may even feel that the entry stroke can help with the ‘b’ ‘d’ confusion, however, in my experience this is not the case. Furthermore, a pupil still needs to know how to form the rest of the letter and the importance of forming an ‘o’, ‘a’, ‘d’,’ g’ etc, in an anti-clockwise direction. A ‘c’ starts at ‘no 12’ on a clock and is formed by heading towards ‘no. 9’ and then ‘no.6’. These letters are much easier to produce without an entry stroke because a pupil can immediately focus on that direction.
If children have been taught to use a lead-in stroke with every letter, they often need extra guidance, particularly in the letters ‘o’, ‘r’ ‘v’ and ‘w’ . When they learn to join- up these letters there are 2 different types of strokes in the same letter – the entry stroke and the exit stroke and these two strokes are formed differently. Many children continue to use the accustomed lead-in stroke and end up with an extra loop that can be mistaken for a ‘u’.
The entry stroke makes simple letter shapes confusing.
The real difficulties caused by entry strokes arise from the stage at which they are introduced.
If lead-in flicks are introduced as part of a child’s first letters they make the simple letter shapes very confusing and more difficult to form. For instance, the movement made from a lead-in stroke leading into the letter ‘a’ is too complex for many small children to master.
If introduced at the joining stage many children see them as an ‘add on’ and write them in a downwards direction after the letter is completed and thus defeating the whole point.
The entry stroke slows down the speed of writing.
This small flick takes extra time to write and adds an unnecessary movement to the letter. For example, in the Magic Link font, an ‘i’ can be written easily from above the top line down to the bottom line, but instead, children are being taught to start from the bottom line and then go up and then down again. It takes double the amount of time for this movement and often confuses the pupil which leads to messy handwriting. Speed is one of the main, fundamental targets in handwriting as examinations involve a child’s speed. By insisting that the child uses this initial flick, the school is reducing a child’s chance of success. We do not want to become obsessed with unnecessary letter strokes that do not add to meaning, neatness or content. Therefore, it is pointless.
Therefore, having to repeatedly add the flick at the beginning of every word, the speed of writing becomes significantly slower. In my experience this is incredibly frustrating for children, especially as they get older, as fast, legible handwriting is a crucial factor in exam success. Teachers, who insist that the initial flick remain, are slowing down their pupils and potentially jeopardising their results.
The entry stroke can cause children to lose confidence in their writing.
The flick at the beginning is often difficult to master and as such many children lose confidence in attempting to produce letters with the entry stroke. There is also often difficulty achieving this consistently. This should be abolished!
The entry stroke serves no purpose, reduces a child’s enjoyment of handwriting and causes fatigue.
The flick at the beginning of words serves no purpose at all. It does not add to the flow or speed of a child’s writing and appears to be an obstacle, adding up to 50% extra time to the handwriting movement. Crucially the entry stroke does not assist the child with joining up their writing.
Children who are forced to write with the initial flick, appear to ruin the enjoyment of handwriting. Words and sentences are an important part of communication and this should be fast, fluent and fun. Adding an obstacle such as the entry stroke means that many children’s writing becomes laboured and slower. Hence they often tire easier and do not enjoy writing as much as others who do not adopt the entry stroke handwriting style.
6. The Magic Link font – a simpler and speedier alternative.
I strongly feel that the disadvantages of entry strokes outweigh their advantages. Having to write a flick at the beginning of every letter can be tedious and confusing often resulting in poor or illegible handwriting.The ‘continuous cursive’ style requires a higher level of gross and fine motor coordination which many children find too difficult. From my experience, teachers should abolish the lead- in stroke as children learn more easily when they are taught a simple font, such as in the Magic Link Handwriting Programme where most letters start from the top and ‘fall down’. This speeds up handwriting and allows pupils to focus on content rather than formation resulting in faster, fluent, neater handwriting.