Handwriting Without Tears

Model parameters




Continuous Cursive







The Handwriting Without Tears system was developed by occupational therapist Jan Olsen in response to her son’s struggles with handwriting in first grade, and it began gaining popularity in the United States from the 1990s. It is based on the perception that children would be more comfortable writing in vertical letters that look more like the printed letters they see, rather than slanted ones, and also eliminates ornamental swashes. According to the company’s website, the system has been adopted for English Learning Acquisition in ten American states by more than 2,100 public school districts and 1,500 private schools.

This system has two stages with formal progression. From preschool to the second-grade students (5–8 years old) are taught the “ball and stick” style, which features unjoined upright print or manuscript letters, which are based on geometric shapes.

The cursive style, which is notably upright, is taught to third and fourth-grade students (8–10 years old). Unlike the print style, letters are based on an oval shape. While the lowercase letters are always joined, the uppercase ones are semi-joined. There is an extensive set of guidelines provided to aid in the formation of strokes and letters.


  • Florey, K.B., 2009. Script and scribble: the rise and fall of handwriting.

  • Handwriting Without Tears [WWW Document], 2017. . Learning Without Tears. URL https://www.lwtears.com/solutions/writing/handwriting-without-tears (accessed 7.5.23).

  • Learning Without Tears, 2019. Handwriting Without Tears Adopted by More Than 100 School Districts in Texas [WWW Document]. CISION | PR Newswire. URL https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/handwriting-without-tears-adopted-by-more-than-100-school-districts-in-texas-300835833.html (accessed 7.5.23).