English script is a Western style of cursive writing. The distinctive feature of cursive script is that the letters in each word are connected with a continuous stroke. The ancient old English fonts, which were developed around the 12th century, were penned with unconnected letters. In the 16th century, cursive-style writing was introduced in England as a way to save time when writing documents by hand, and by the 18th century, cursive English script had been widely adopted across Europe and America.
The fonts used in English script contain additional pen strokes called serifs at the beginnings and endings of written words. Serifs also can embellish certain letter features. The capital letters of old English script are often surrounded with thick serifs and elaborate flourishes that add a pleasing aesthetic. Another identifiable trait of English script is the varying widths of the strokes that form the letters and words, which is an effect caused by the earliest types of ink pens.
Before the advent of modern writing instruments, proper English script was penned with a long feather cut flat across the quill end and dipped in ink. The writer would press the flat tip of the quill pen to the paper at an oblique angle, taking care to keep the pen at the same tilt as it moved across the page. This precise method of writing caused the ink strokes to widen or narrow as each letter was formed — a distinctive feature of authentic English cursive script.
Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians usually use the words "handwriting" or "cursive" to describe the joining of words associated with English script fonts. Australians also call it "running writing." In the United Kingdom and Ireland, however, cursive style writing is commonly called "joined-up writing," "joint writing" or "real writing."
Around the world, wherever electronic fonts and digital devices are available, the use of cursive script has begun to fall out of favor. Typing and keyboard efficiency have replaced handwriting courses in many schools. In some jurisdictions, the teaching of cursive writing has been removed from school curricula.
Authentic English script handwriting is rarely practiced in the 21st century except by artisans of calligraphy. Modern calligraphers use special pen nibs to create the effect of old English writing. The calligraphy pens of today also have an ink reservoir that keeps ink flowing freely, unlike ancient quill pens, which needed frequent dipping in an inkwell. Although the means for calligraphy have improved over the years, authentic English cursive script has remained a hands-on method of writing.