How does one go about improving his/her handwriting...?

A note on the Declaration of Independence: it was copied by a professional scribe (calligrapher? Not sure what they were called in that period.) Here’s Jefferson’s actual handwriting. Very pretty, also, but not quite so over-the-top.

I second this. My cursive in English in pretty inconsistant, ranging from illegible to “ok.”

I learned to write in Russian as an adult and get complements on how it looks like a native, educated Russian’s handwriting.

All I can think is, as an adult I paid more attention & took it more seriously. As a kid in school I didn’t & picked up bad habits.

So basically you have to toss out the old, and relearn.

My handwriting is appalling. I tried an iPac yesterday, and it read my “hello” as “tickle”. Every school report card, from the age of 3 onward, commented on my illegible handwriting. “Drunk spider” was a frequent comparison…I could go on, but I think you’ve got the idea.

So why am I posting? 'Cos I have just discovered, at the grand old age of 46, that I hold the pen wrong! The way I hold it, according to my daughter’s occupational therapist (she has messy writing too!) is a static grip, an intermediate child grip. It leads to a sore cramped hand, and sloppy letter formation.

Maybe it would help to get your grip checked too(!).


I’m only 20, and I get people looking at what I’m writing and then saying, “you went to Catholic school, didn’t you?”

And yes, I did.

[sub]And I can still do near perfect Palmer Handwriting alphabet sets and handwriting. Not that I do for my normal writing, but still.[/sub]

Also be encouraged by the fact that no matter how crappy your handwriting is it already contains all the elements of good handwriting. All script is just a combination of straight lines and curves, good or bad, you’re just trying to find a combination that is aesthetically pleasing.

I never wrote cursive in my entire life. I printed letters and they look awfully.

I don’t think catholic schools here (in my country) do such things with rulers and pens…I would have to check…

I had mostly illegible handwriting until approximately 10th grade. Then, I gave up on script and stuck to print-writing. No more complaints from teachers. Indeed, years later my graduate school pals used to Xerox the copious notes that I made in class.

To those who say that script is faster I say, maybe so, but print can be fast enough.

Admittedly, my print looks like it was written by a seven year old on drugs. But at least it’s legible and I never had to practice, practice, practice.

get someone who doesnt normally read anything you write to read your handwriting
they will point out the undecipherable parts and concentrate on those
eventually you will correct the necessary parts of your scripting
for God’s sake dont change into a betty crocker producer of film title graphics.

**Podkayne - **Were you wondering how long it would take me to find this thread? I think we were twins separated at birth… :slight_smile:

**LostCause - ** I am a penophile (read that carefully) and one of my life’s passion is collecting, restoring, and now selling vintage fountain pens. I am also passionate about the technical aspects writing.

The tools I use for writing are very important to me and I tend to use calligraphy pens for every day writing, with practice they can turn average handwriting into something that is also very pleasing to the eye .

Fountain pens in general do not require you to use very much pressure (if any) and you actually brush the paper with the pen rather then emboss it as you will with a ballpoint. I have tendonitis in my right arm from doing way too much typing and too much writing, using a fountain pen reduces the stress quite a bit.

I’m told that I have beautiful handwriting (for a guy) although this is not my finest example… my arm is killing me and I’m actually typing this left handed.


I hope the link works and that the pic is okay.

My kids used to have atrocious penmanship so this year they both got fountain pens and because of the novelty they practiced and practiced and practiced. They now have handwriting that is more legible than many of the adults I work with.

I’ll shoud be doing some writing workshops in Feb so if anyone in my area is interested in coming, you can e-mail me at
( ) for the details.

Writing in straight lines with no lines also only takes practice.

This one time, in real life, I started to dislike lined paper as I believed that the lines stifled my creativity. Plus my frugal side realized that blank sheets were cheaper. After a while I could write straight across the paper with no problems. At first the line of text would tend to head south at the end of the line. But after a while the lines went straight across. Friends accused me of using a ruler, or putting a lined sheet underneath, I won the bet by writing a few lines straight across.

Anyway, another way to improve your writing that I don’t see mentioned is to slow down. I found that by writing fairly slow I could shape the letters better. Then I slowly speeded up till I reached a balance of writing legible letters and not taking forever.

I also gave up on cursive and only wrote in block letters.

Anyway, good luck and remember that striving for better hand writing won’t be a lost cause.

Apparently… I still need to practice my spelling and grammar…


Agreed. I started futzing about with calligraphy at 12, and it helped. Now I have handwriting that everyone admires for its letterforms and even spacing. Unfortunately, I write in approximately 6pt, out of habit, but it’s exquisite 6pt.

Experiment with pens. Nib sizes, ink textures and colors, nib types. Some rollerballs have wonderful glide across the page easily, some scratch and blob ink all around. Experiment, and practice. And don’t rush. You’re trying to reprogram habits of a decade or more.

My print (we will dispense with anymention of cursive :wink: )wasn’t too good until about the 11th grade, when I started taking classes to train in CADD. The prelude to this is learning the old fashioned way of drafting, i.e. by hand with a drawing board. We were given a book that included exercises on adopting the engineers’ way of standard vertical lettering, which involved copying the letters over and over on graph paper until they looked decent. A little later on, I went on to architechtural applications, where you are encouraged to make your handwriting consistent with each letter as well as being distinctive. It was this practice that I have to thank today for my improved handwriting.

I still have the original templates; I don’t think they’re copyrighted, so if you would like a .jpeg file of these just say the word, and I’ll see what I can do.

Like was said already, I can write pretty, but my spelling oftentimes leaves something to be desired!

I used to take calligraphy lessons when I was 13 to 14. Those were my constant nightmares. I manage to do pass them (it was a school subject…the exams give you 2 hours for you to complete copying a a paragraph…)

Now when writing the portion of hand undereath the thumb will ‘cramp’ very fast (I would describe it as pain). It’s worse if I write slowly. I am beginning to think there’s something wrong with the way I hold my pen. I used to hold it very low…I realised that it might be wrong so I tried to hold it higher up but I didn’t have the strength to control it. Now I haven’t been writing for 2 or 3 years (except for the occasional form-filling or test).

Thanks, everyone, for all the tips. I really hope that those will help me to shake off the humiliation that my poor handwriting has given me…

Those of you who say it takes practice - how long and how often?

Of my 3 kids, my eldest has beautiful cursive. We moved when she was in 2d or 3d grade, and the new district never taught our younger kids penmanship worth squat. (Nor did they waste valuable class time on anything as insignificant as keyboarding! But that is a rant I have made many times before.)

I am often tempted to have my kids practice penmanship, but did not want to make it a huge struggle, and an additional requirement on top of homework, musical instruments, chores, etc.

Dinsdale, when I was really hardcore trying to change my handwriting, I’d practice maybe a half hour at a time, every day. If I was in a really boring class I’d practice for an hour or an hour and a half. :wink:

I agree, it shouldn’t be made into a chore. Feynn’s idea to give the gift of fountain pens is a good one. (But I’m always in favor of fountain pens!) Some sort of novelty to make writing interesting and novel might make practicing less of a chore. You could let them pick out fountain pens (cheap ones are okay), or gel pens, or calligraphy pens, or whatever they like, and some paper or a notebook that they also think is cool, and tell them that these are for practicing your handwriting and nothing else, except maybe writing letters and other Wholesome and Respectable Activities.

Practicing in a notebook is actually a very good idea, because you can see your progress. I didn’t do that because I was a bit skeptical of the whole process at first, but now I wish I did.

Wow, Feynn, that looks very nice! Wish I could do that, however, I don’t do to well with practice, practice, practice.

On a related note, what exactly is the correct way to grasp your pen or pencil? I hold mine between my thumb and middle finger with my index finger resting perhaps 3/4" behind where the other two touch the sides of my pen. My hands hurt after only a little writing. Am I doing this all wrong?


Dinsdale Because my job and business require me to write a lot I usually only practice on areas that I feel I need work in… if you looked at my handwriting you can see that my r’s and i’s are often indistinguishable and it really takes effort for me to make my r’s look proper. Because I restore pens I usually write a few test pages when they’re done to make sure that the nib performs well and that there are no ink flow problems.

I find writing to be an effective relaxation tool so I will sit down in the evening and just scribble.

My kids will often write several pages (double spaced) when they are practicing and the amount of time to practice can depend on your stamina. I’ll often write test lines that they can copy or use as examples.

novus - Unless you’re naturally gifted you need to practice to get better. This applies to most things and handwriting is an activity that requires well developed fine motor skills.

As to gripping your pen… I hold my pen with my index finger about an inch up and to the right of the nib point, my middle finger rests underneath and slightly ahead of my index finger, and my thumb sits to the left and behind my index finger. If you grip your pen too tightly that can cause problems and you want to be relaxed.

When I write I also keep my wrist and hand in a fairly stable position and most of the movement comes from my elbow and arm… not my wrist. If I write with my arm on the desk and write using the motion of my wrist only my handwriting will look cramped. Since I have acute tendonitis my writing style also minimizes discomfort.

Quite a few of the new pens have sections (the part between the barrel and cap) that have indents to encourage a proper gripping position and having gripped (rubberized or textured) sections makes it easier to maintain a good grip without applying undue pressure.

The size of the barrel and gripping section will affect your comfort level and deciding on size is a personal choice. I would suggest a pen with a wider grip for most people although some people really prefer skinny pens like Bics.

I just bought a Parker Reflex gel because sometimes even I need sometimes need a ballpoint. It is quite nice in that the section is fully rubberized and of a decent width, the pen’s weight is good, and the gel refill writes like warm butter. It is very similar to the Reflex fountain pen that my son uses and a very user friendly writing tool. Either one will cost less than 7.00 at a Stationary or office supply store.

My other son prefers his Sheaffer school pen which is again, fairly thick and has indents on the section to help him maintain a comfortable and proper grip.

By the way, in terms of beautiful old writing and how people did (and do) it, check out Be prepared to cry over your crappy handwriting. Somewhere online I know I’ve seen drafts of business letters written by, um, Mr. Zaner - how did they write like that? For one thing they wrote some serious drafts with all sorts of guiding lines and such, evidently. I’ll see if I can find it - it’s all really pretty neat.