How can I make my handwriting stand out, but not be ridiculous?
February 1, 2010 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to change my handwriting. I would like to have good handwriting, that borderlines on possibly too fancy. Handwriting that wouldn't look too out of place in the business world, but that would definitely stand-out. I am male. What kind of handwriting should I go for?

I'm open to any suggestions really. I would hope that it could be somewhat practical. I have a lot of time coming up to practice and I am eager to get started.
posted by lakerk to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Who is your audience? I can't remember the last time I handwrote something for any eyes but mine.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2010

Are you just looking for style suggestions, or do you also need neatness coaching?

In other words, do you already have good control over what comes through the pen onto paper, either with your current handwriting or drawing/sketching? Or is your handwriting sloppy and so you're looking to neaten, but toward a particular style?
posted by thebazilist at 1:09 PM on February 1, 2010

My handwriting used to be abysmal until I switched from cursive to italic. It is legible and I get compliments on it all the time.
posted by pecknpah at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2010

I'm a male and I've been told I have nice cursive handwriting (dude, you should totally see my upper-case D, but it doesn't work if I know you're watching).

I learned the Zaner-Bloser style.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:16 PM on February 1, 2010

I really like how architects write. I've never learned drafting and couldn't tell you how difficult it would be, but it might be a good style to emulate.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:21 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Haven't found a good image yet, but what about something along the lines of what they used to use on blue prints/drafts? I think it would be one of the more legible styles of writing.
posted by kellyblah at 1:22 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: I could use some coaching on both style and neatness. My handwriting is decent and legible. Just boring. I'm just looking for a style to emulate I guess. Or a starting point to evolve from.
posted by lakerk at 1:29 PM on February 1, 2010

Seconding italic script. Even a beginner's sloppy italic is far and away neater than 99% of the handwriting you'll come across, and people will be impressed.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:33 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Italic script sounds interesting. I googled italic scripts, but am not 100 percent sure what you mean when you italic script. Any specific examples?
posted by lakerk at 1:37 PM on February 1, 2010

I taught myself how to write like an architect back in high school, and years later, have never regretted it! While you may want to work with a lettering guide or square to start out with, you definitely don't need one for day-to-day writing. There's plenty of room for personal style, and the general feeling is very legible and professional.
posted by Wulfhere at 1:52 PM on February 1, 2010

I googled italic scripts, but am not 100 percent sure what you mean when you italic script. Any specific examples?

Here's a site with a number of pages of introductory material on learning italic script.
posted by letourneau at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I learned how to write italic with the curriculum I linked to above. It was organized well and from just glancing at other handwriting books out there it seems to be pretty good.
posted by pecknpah at 2:04 PM on February 1, 2010

Find a letter or something written by an older person in your family (think your grandfather, great-grandfather, etc.) and emulate that. Back when writing by hand was a necessity rather than a choice, people had a writing style that I feel had a lot of interesting character. I mean, sure, my miniscule vertically stretched chicken-scratch cursive has character too, but my grandparents had handwriting that was LEGIBLE as well.

Best bet would be a relative who was an elementary school teacher. If you didn't have any relatives who were teachers, the next best thing would be someone schooled by really strict nuns. My mom (who was schooled by nuns AND was a teacher) had awesome handwriting.

By using something from a relative as a starting point, you might end up with handwriting that not only has some of the character you are looking for, but also reflects a little of your heritage as well. Much more fun than the bog-standard cookie-cutter Palmer Method I learned. Took me YEARS to turn that into my current cramped-but-personal style...

Another suggestion would be trying mechanical drawing (very much like the architect writing suggested above, but more regular in form and less stylized). I did a couple of years of it in high school because I wanted to improve my drafting and handwriting skills. My cursive is still pretty rotten, but my printing can be extremely neat when I want it to be.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:27 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

To instantly change your handwriting for the better, try a fine-point italic pen, even with your current style of handwriting. It's not only good for italics, though I agree with the others who suggest that style for you. Almost any handwriting looks better with an italic pen. If you don't have a pen store nearby, try an art supply store and look at their "calligraphy" pens. Here's a kit which includes pens with three different nib widths, ink cartridges, and instructions.

I use a Lamy cartridge fountain pen with an italic nib with my modified copperplate style cursive handwriting. You can buy beautiful pens with solid gold tips for hundreds of dollars, but I prefer to spend $30 or less for a pen I like a lot, and it would be silly to recommend an expensive pen to a beginner. Non-cartridge fountain pens are cool, but I like the way my steel-tip Lamy and Sheaffer cartridge pens stay fresh and ready to go even if I don't write with them for several days. Unfortunately, the tips of felt calligraphy markers wear out almost instantly for me, but a fountain pen lasts a long time.
posted by Ery at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2010

Metroid Baby: "I really like how architects write. I've never learned drafting and couldn't tell you how difficult it would be, but it might be a good style to emulate."

I'm a certified architectural draftsman, though I'm not in the field anymore. When I went to school, a good chunk of time was spent on our hand-lettering. I've got a binder full of old lettering assignments kicking around.

At least once a week we'd cut and set up a sheet of velum with our trusty Ames lettering guides, one of our instructors would pick a page from a textbook and we'd start copying it out. It took a decent chunk of time, we'd have a given 'font' to emulate most of the time (later we got to develop our own style), vertical lines were made with a straight edge, line weight, quality and letter spacing was critical. In short, it was a pain in the ass, but I still write in a similar style today, just without the straightedge and anal attention to spacing.
posted by jjb at 3:04 PM on February 1, 2010

When I was in middle school I started emulating Carolingian miniscule, over subsequent years it has been influenced by old Arabic texts and morphed into its current form.

Warning: your hand will cramp like a bitch until you get used to it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:20 PM on February 1, 2010

If you want to develop a really characteristic handwriting style, maybe you could look through handwriting fonts and decide on a lettering style for each individual letter, that flows together into a coherent hand?
There are so many ways to draw an 'H' for example.

You can type in your own example text to display from the link above. Maybe "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog"?

Good luck...
posted by Elysum at 4:53 PM on February 1, 2010

The best things that every happened to my handwriting was having no choice but to use an architectural method of printing while I studied design. But right now (and I could have asked this question) I'm trying to impose some changes to my regular writing (lowercases/script) and it's basically like going back to first grade. Take a pad of lined paper and start with continuous loops and circles - both over hand and underhand - across the page. Do this with straight down lines, too. I did this until my hand ached - which was the point, as I think I lost something when I broke my finger a few years ago. Then concentrate on specific letters. I'm working on a few I don't like (lower case f, g, j, o, s). I found what I think are better forms of these letters via other people's writing, and am simply practicing them over and over until it sticks (not there yet!).

One problem I've noticed is that I seem to revert (when under pressure). This drives home the fact that it takes time and pratice to make it part of the way your brain automatically works while writing.
posted by marimeko at 5:52 PM on February 1, 2010

Weird! I was recently contemplating starting an ask on exactly this subject. Googling around, I found Copperplate Script, which is an older and more traditional script. It's a bit ornate, but people used to write this way all the time, so it's not completely unfeasible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to have a look at Betty Edward's book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" - she takes the approach that if you are going to fix the way that you draw you might also want to fix the way you write. To this end she recommends some cursive styles based on the Palmer method. Personally I'd recommend studying drawing techniques when looking at your hand writing since this will make you think about topics such as visual composition: the overall effect is not just about what you write but also about how this fits into an overall page for example.
posted by rongorongo at 1:01 AM on February 2, 2010

I get compliments on my handwriting, which is somewhere between architect and cursive.

What worked for me was a) studying calligraphy and typesetting so I could understand how letters actually work: what a bowl is, where the baseline should be, where the horizontal strokes should fall and so on. Once you know those rules you can break them with extended descenders and so on (I combined my hand with some of the angularity you get from graffiti writing, which worked well).

What I'd do in your case is work on traditional calligraphy -- if you can get a class, all the better. Once you know how letter shapes are really made, you'll naturally begin to express yourself by putting your own flourishes in. This is stuff that hardly anybody even thinks about -- they usually write using rote muscle memory that was drummed in, but without understanding the rules, they're lost when they try to improvise.
posted by bonaldi at 4:01 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Nthing the italic idea. Not only is italic a beautiful and time-honored hand, you'll also find a lot of resources for using it to improve your daily handwriting. Five minutes on google brought up these:

The NYTimes on switching to italic

Impressive examples of an adult student's progress learning italic

A program/kit for changing to italic (from the NYTimes op-ed folks)

The Society for Italic Handwriting

Some attractive italic variations

129 results searching amazon for italic handwriting
posted by dpcoffin at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2010

Just to hammer the italic idea home, I've scanned a few pages from a favorite old book with what I consider much better examples of its beautiful use in handwriting, than the kinda flabby (to my eyes) examples in the previous post:

Queen Eliz I, at 16 years

Lady Jane Grey

Valter Falk
(A Swedish calligrapher?)

Various other calligraphers

There's also at least one beautiful font based on italic, with a vast library of glyphs: Poetica

My scans are from this book, btw; a treasure if you can find a copy.
posted by dpcoffin at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2010

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