In our digital era of texting and typing there seems to be little space for writing. We just scribble down some notes during meetings or quickly jot down a grocery list on a piece of scrap paper. Although we write these things down in a rapid fashion without much thinking, you would be surprised by the amount of people that judge somebody else by their handwriting. Receiving a birthday card that shows neat handwriting and good penmanship will definitely give a much more favorable impressing than receiving a card with indecipherable scribbles.
Why Improve your Penmanship?
So you are wondering why you would work on making your handwriting better? Going from typing on the computer to writing with pen and paper definitely seems a little like taking a step back on the evolutionary ladder.
First of all, writing with pen and paper is much more convenient. There are many apps that will allow you to take notes for both your phone or tablet. But while with pen and paper you can write something down as soon as you hear it, in case of these devices you first need to insert your password and navigate to the right app before you can start. Not only is writing much faster, it is also much more accurate since you don’t have to struggle with autocorrect and finding the right tiny key.
Secondly, pen and paper are much more accessible and widespread. Needless to say, paper doesn’t require batteries to work and neither does a pen. We have all been through painstaking moments were your phone is on low-battery just when you need it the most. And you don’t want to be that person that is always looking for a socket to charge, right?
Moreover, research has shown that practicing and improving handwriting can be beneficial for a child’s motor skills and help their cognitive abilities. Additionally, adults can also reap some of the benefits. By learning something new, such as Chinese characters, adults can keep their mind sharp over the years.
But the most important factor is the personality you can instil in your writing that is impossible to convey with some sterile keystrokes. Everyone that went through the effort of making their handwriting neater realized that the way you feel influences your writing. When angry, people tend to press the pen down harder and write letters closer together. Besides, a handwritten card, regardless if it is neatly written in cursive or with the skills of a 6-year-old, shows that someone actually put in some real effort and time thinking about you, unlike hitting the send button on a 2 sentence email.
Check out Jake Weidmann’s TED video below if you are still sceptical about the importance and necessity of good handwriting. He links the pen with how we learn, think and interact with our cultural heritage.
Analyzing Your Own Writing
There are many reasons why your writing might look sloppy or is difficult to read. The first step of getting better at handwriting is by taking a closer look at some of your own writing. Here are some points to look for in your one writing.
- Slant: the angle of your writing depends on both your wrist movement and the angle of the paper. A slight slant can result in an elegant italic or cursive font. However, too much of a slant can be very difficult to read, so don’t overdo it.
- Alignment: in primary school we all learn to write on the lines. As we grow up we take some more liberty and are content as long as we write somewhere in-between the lines. Remember that those lines are there to help you, so use them to your advantage.
- Size: there should be a clear size difference between upper and lower case letters. This difference should neither be too big or too small. Double lined paper can be a great help if you have difficulty with size.
- Spacing: both the spacing between letters and between words is important. Letters should be spaced in such a way that each letter can clearly be identified individually. At the same time, they shouldn’t be too far apart since that might make it seem like the start of a new word.
- Consistency: many mistakes can be considered to be style choices as long as you make them consistent. Neat handwriting is characterized by a consistent slant, alignment, size and spacing throughout. Although writing is done in a straight line, your wrist and elbow move in a circular motion. To guarantee consistency, frequently move your arm or the paper for the most natural motion.
Just like children, adults can make their handwriting neater through lots of practice. Although there might be some quick fixes along the way, there is no substitute for putting in the hours. Below is list of things you can try to improve your writing. We recommend trying one at a time and if you finished one step, move on to the next.
- Stretching: it takes no genius to realize that texting and typing are very different motions from writing. Just like any other type of exercise, its best to do some light stretching before you start writing. Jumping in headfirst might result in some severe finger cramps.
- Proper Pen Position: it is worth paying some attention to the way you hold your pen. Use your thumb and index or middle finger to hold the pencil around 1/3 from the bottom. Let the end of the pen rest against the web of your hand while you keep your other fingers relaxed.
- Use Your Whole Arm: don’t just use your fingers, but also your forearm and shoulder while writing. This will let you move in the natural rotation your arm is supposed to make and will decrease the amount of times you need to take the pen of the paper. As you write on the page from left to write you might feel difficulty keeping your arm relaxed. Simple use your other hand to move the paper as you go.
- Posture: your posture while writing can be just as important as the way you are holding the pen itself. Make sure you are comfortable; adjust the chair to the right height, let your entire arm rest on the table and keep your back straight.
- Utensils: there are many different utensils you can use to write. The fountain pen is a popular choice because the special tip of a fountain pen allows for both thin and thick lines, resulting in many possible techniques. If fountain pens are a little too challenging you can always start by using a different utensil such as the ballpoint, felt pen or the good old pencil.
- Paper Position: to allow for easy writing slightly tilt the paper to a 40-degree angle to the left if you are right-handed and vice versa. As you are writing make small changes to the angle to find what works best for you. Remember that a slant that is too steep will make your writing difficult to read.
- Basic Shapes: you have to practice the basics if you want to improve your penmanship. Most letters are made up out of lines and (semi) circles. Take out some paper and start filling it with lines and circles with different slants. If you can make these shapes consistently with the same size and shape more on to the alphabet. Practice every single letter individually until you can reproduce them perfectly.
- Slow Down: over time bad habits slip into our writing. If you are not careful, they are there to stay! Don’t rush you writing when you are trying to improve it. Writing at half your maximum speed is a good way practice the basics.
If you have gone through all these steps, a great way to keep practicing is by keeping a journal and writing an entry every day. Alternatively, you might consider copying pangrams or inspirational quotes.
Cursive Handwriting Practice
Many people consider cursive handwriting as elegant and a stylish. So if you are going to work on your writing, you might as well choose to work on your cursive handwriting. Depending were you live you might have already dabbled in it during primary school.
Don’t be discouraged if your cursive handwriting isn’t as good as you hoped it would be though. It takes a certain amount of dedication and attention to master that doesn’t come to a child easy. Besides there is plenty of resources on cursive handwriting practice for adults out there.
First of all, having a reference material on cursive writing can be very useful. Just as before, you want to start out by practicing basic shapes and then slowly move on to individual letter. The catch is that this time you not only need to practice cursive letters, but also how every specific letter is connected with ever other possible letter.
Also keep in mind that uppercase letters are very different from lowercase letters and gives cursive writing some additional flair. If you are not sure make sure to look up the proper stroke order. For the best results practice both upper and lowercase letters separately.
Even if you have never learned it as a child and you only just started practicing your cursive handwriting as an adult, you probably know that you should keep the pen on the page as much as possible when writing. Beginners might pause for a short time between two letter to think about the right way of connecting them. However, this will cause the ink to leak onto the page and will result in easily smudged inkblots. So instead of pausing in between two letter, try to write a little slower and anticipate the next letter ahead of time.