Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a joke? What is this?

The Palmer Method of Business WritingThis entire website is an adaptation of The Palmer Method Of Business Writing, a textbook originally published in 1915.

The Palmer Method of penmanship instruction was developed and promoted by Austin Palmer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It soon became the most popular handwriting system in the United States.

Under it, students were taught to adopt a uniform system of cursive writing with rhythmic motions. Palmer’s method involved “muscle motion” in which the more proximal muscles of the arm were used for movement, rather than allowing the fingers to move in writing. In spite of opposition from the major textbook companies, the textbook enjoyed great success.

Proponents of the Palmer Method emphasized its plainness and speed, that it was much faster than the laborious Spencerian Method, and allowed the writer to effectively compete with the typewriter. To educators, the Method’s advocates emphasized regimentation, and that the Method would thus be useful in schools to increase discipline and character, and could even reform delinquents.

Palmer’s style fell out of popularity and was replaced by a movement to teach children manuscript before teaching them cursive, in order to provide them with a means of written expression as soon as possible and thus develop writing skills.  source:

Seriously? Why bother?

Admittedly, penmanship is a dying art:

Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of HandwritingIn the book Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, Kitty Burns Florey recounts how, in the 18th century, writing masters urged six to 12 hours a day of practice. But in 2006 only 15 per cent of students taking the SAT wrote out their essays in cursive script, with the other 85 per cent using block letters. Learning cursive takes up less time in classrooms these days, as “keyboarding” becomes the educator’s priority. source: The Globe and Mail, March 5, 2011: “What’s your typeface?” by Katrina Onstad

Yet some people will proclaim (loudly): Good penmanship shows the world we are civilized. Many more still “cling to handwriting out of a romantic sense that script expresses identity,” argues Oberlin professor Anne Trubek.

There is indeed a romantic feel to the idea of putting pen to paper. With the proliferation of e-mail and texting, most of us can go days (weeks? months?) without hand writing a single sentence. The scarcity of the experience renders it desirable. Poor penmanship is not (and ought not to be) shameful; yet who doesn’t secretly crave perfect handwriting?

On a practical note, the Palmer Method is experiencing renewed attention from those working in facilitated communication for the disabled. Because the Palmer method focuses on shoulder and arm movements, it’s said to be helpful for many with limited movement of the fingers.  source:

Regardless of your motivation for learning the Palmer Method, take these lessons with a grain of salt. Typewriting and keyboarding have liberated the less dexterous among us who struggled with handwriting – and this is undeniably a Very Good Thing.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this website strives to preserve the original text’s emphasis on regimentation, discipline and character-building through good penmanship. Consider this a historical snapshot, if you will, of a pedagogical approach from a bygone era.

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