Better handwriting
February 6, 2006 5:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I improve my handwriting?

I want to improve my handwriting, specifically its consistency. I have done some research, and most sites recommend something like this: writing out a series of slashes and circles to gain confidence and control. I wonder if anyone else has experience with improving their handwriting (I'm 25), and any suggestions about techniques, workbooks, etc..
posted by hugo to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I spent time in my junior and senior years in high school completely changing my handwriting. I hated the banality that had been created in me, and wanted to be able to recognize my handwriting from a distance. I figured the best way to do this was to teach my muscles how to write each capital and lower case letter exactly how I wanted them to look.

I first started laying out a list of all the letters, and the look I was trying to achieve. Then, I wrote out common words that I figured I'd be using a lot for written assignments. Finally, I practiced.

That practice time (I'm estimating, now) probably amounted to several months. It's seems less useful now, as the only time I really use hand-writing at all is when I'm writing out a check (even then, with debit cards and paying bills online, that's rare again). I can still look with pride on my distinctive writing, and beam just a little bit when someone compliments me on it.

It boils down, for me, to teaching yourself new muscle memory.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:49 AM on February 6, 2006

I got a server error the first time I posted this, apologies if it ends up duplicated.

See also.

Of course, I hate being snarky, so I'll actually follow this up: the previous question did ask about improving handwriting later in life, but they half-ruined it by then opening the question up to be very general. So the thread ended up being about half handwriting responses (and half of those didn't offer any actual tips) and half general 'teaching yourself new X later in life' ones.

Oddly enough I am almost the same age as you and have the same question (which is why I had that other thread bookmarked ;)) so I'll be looking forward to any helpful replies. I ended up buying a Moleskine (lol hipsters) and some pens due to the previous thread/43Folders, intending to practice handwriting, but since I suck at aquiring new habits, it hasn't gone so well.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:03 AM on February 6, 2006

Two things improved my handwriting immeasurably: a course in calligraphy, which teaches you really fine control, and writing headlines. Knowing how to fit letters together just so helps a lot when writing them, it seems.
posted by bonaldi at 6:14 AM on February 6, 2006

The only time I ever learned handwriting techniques was in elementary school (early 1970's). Subsequently I forgot how to handwrite anything except for my signature. But back then it was just a matter of copying the letters in the workbook over and over. It seems that copying the letters would be more help than just making circles and slashes.

A friend mentioned that their friends who live and work in France need to get a professional handwriting analysis for most new jobs. It sounds like it borders on pseudoscience but apparently most companies use it. So if you can't write in cursive I think you would be screwed.
posted by JJ86 at 6:20 AM on February 6, 2006

As I said in the linked thread on this topic, there's a chapter on improving your handwriting in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This is a very common book which will be available at your local library.

I have messy handwriting and intend (some day soon!) to use that chapter and take up calligraphy to improve my writing.
posted by orange swan at 6:47 AM on February 6, 2006

Just wanted to note that this sounded like a very weird question to me, no offense. Does one not improve one's handwriting by modeling their letters after other examples like when done in grade school? In about 9th grade I decided I didn't like my lower-case a's because it didn't have the little canopy, so I just started writing them with canopies, simple as that...

I guess I was just unaware that poor handwriting needed a training guide, as to me it would seem that the solution would to simply write better. Perhaps slower and more deliberate, than quick scribbling?
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:23 AM on February 6, 2006

I take it from your extended question that you want to have good handwriting for block lettering, not script (cursive). If so, I'll try to give some tips and tricks. I switched to block writing early on -- I hate the way cursive looks. Always have. Always will.

I then switched to all caps in college. All caps has that "architect" look, or the look of classic comic book lettering. It's very nice and pretty quick (though slowing down gives the best look, of course).

Here's what I did.

I just started. Just start taking your notes in your preferred style. It will be slow at the beginning (or at least slower than your current chicken scratch). And it will be bad. Letters will not be even. Ascenders and decenders will not be vertical or will not align (if you're going for that 5° slant thing). It will look bad. It will hurt your hand.

But it's better than making nonsense circles, dashes, and lines. That seems like it would not be very motivating.

Then, once you've been doing this for a couple of weeks, but not so long as you get perfect muscle memory at doing things incorrectly, you start to make your corrections. I did thins mostly letter by letter. I noticed that "wow, I really hate this 'R'!" and then I would practice Rs. And As. And Ws -- I want them to be sharp and not "curvy" on the bottoms. But I don't want to have to make 4 lines (that gets really slow). So I practiced it. Here's what I did: I wrote little practice letters in my margins as I took notes. When I was working on Rs, I wrote lines of Rs, and I wrote words with Rs in them. Tip: You need to write words that start with R, but also with Rs in other positions. Further, write similar letters too (such as P), because you're trying to train your muscles...

Good luck.
posted by zpousman at 7:32 AM on February 6, 2006

Tips for improving your handwriting. I saw this on BoingBoing or MeFi and bookmarked it for future reference to improve my own handwriting. I am not sure the future is ever coming for me on this one but perhaps it might help you.
posted by caddis at 7:41 AM on February 6, 2006 [3 favorites]

I have very nice penmanship. I got that way by doodling the alphabet whenever I doodled.
posted by dame at 8:22 AM on February 6, 2006

hmmm, I think I need to do a better job reading the links in the questions.
posted by caddis at 8:38 AM on February 6, 2006

Here is something I did years ago that wound up changing my handwriting for the better.

I decided to try to learn to print so it looked like a typewriter (i.e. Courier font). So I learned all the characters and paid particular attention to getting the serifs correct. By the time I could write fairly easily as a typewriter, I found that my normal faster printing and cursive had improved a whole lot.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2006

Don't ask why I waste time on this, but I occasionally amuse myself by trying to imitate the handwriting of family members and friends. I'm more successful when I hold the pen exactly as my "subject" holds theirs.

Caddis's linked article goes into a lot of detail about posture, arm motion, grip, and so on. I think all those things do matter. Try changing one physical aspect at a time to see how it changes your penmanship.
posted by wryly at 12:52 PM on February 6, 2006

If you're still trying to write cursive, you might consider italic instead.

Instead of being based on sticks and balls (like the printing we were taught as kids), or on loops and tails (like cursive), italic is based on a zig-zag motion which comes quite easily to the hand. It's now being taught instead of cursive in some elementary schools.

I naturally developed a semi-printed writing style as a teenager, and later found that I had reinvented an italic hand. It's quite legible and pleasant-looking. Plus, you only join the letters that join naturally, which I find makes it much faster than cursive. I can write fast enough to take nearly verbatim notes during interviews.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions. What prompted my question, vanoakenfold, was a search for techniques for learning. I don't remember taking penmanship classes at all, so unfortunately I can't go back and redo something I remember from before. I also have this dream that I'll have beautiful copperplate handwriting and someone would repsond with something like, "Oh, yeah, you just have to listen to this tape for 5 minutes while you sleep and eat bowls of lentils for a week and you'll write like a 19th century schoolboy." We can all dream.
posted by hugo at 3:26 PM on February 6, 2006

Get a broad-nibbed foutain pen and take up calligraphy. That will teach you a lot of extra muscle control and you have a specific font to aim for.

Try using a proper fountain pen as your every-day writing instrument: it will force you to slow down and be careful about how you write. Get one with a syringe-style refillable cartridge and buy a 50mL bottle of black Quink. The refill process becomes quite a relaxing ceremony that forces you to stop occasionally. The heavy (big nib) ones are easiest to handle since they slide beautifully across the paper and produce a nice bold look.

And yes, practise. Lots of practise.
posted by polyglot at 4:11 PM on February 6, 2006

I should probably explain why fountain pens are good: they only work at one angle and that angle is the correct one for your hand. They force your hand to adopt the correct posture for writing, which is half the problem I see in people with ugly handwriting. Anything which makes you slow down, concentrate, think about the letterforms and then place your hand deliberately is good.
posted by polyglot at 4:14 PM on February 6, 2006

I was lucky enough to start caring about my handwriting at about the same time that I had two teachers with the most beautiful script style I'd ever seen. It was like when you find an old book from the 19th Century with a random inscription to someone. Just gorgeous.

So I first set out to copy it, then after a couple of years I started getting interested in pre-printing press script (mostly illuminated manuscripts), so I borrowed a letter here or there. When I went about it in this way, I'd write the letter over and over again. Playing with styles. Seeing how it would look with different words. Could I write it clearly and quickly? Eventually I'd settle on a particular way. Then it was just remembering to use that letter whenever I wrote.

Thing is, you write a lot more when you're in school. I barely write at all these days... I'm just far faster on a keyboard. An unfortunate side-effect of having beautiful 14th Century handwriting is that your hand gets cramped up very quickly. If you're not still in school, it's going to take a lot of practicing at home to get to be "fluent" in a new style.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:44 AM on October 9, 2006

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