When it comes to signatures, how messy is TOO messy?

I’m putting this in GQ because I’m looking for a factual answer about signatures.

I’m subletting my apartment for the month, and I drew up a short little contract just to ensure I don’t come back to a trashed apartment or anything.

So I mailed her the contract (she’s not here yet) and she signed it and mailed it back, but her signature is basically just four loops connected by one line. Like, in cursive, it would look like this: l___l___l___l where the "l"s are looped.

My question is, is this enforceable? I mean if that’s really the way she signs her name then I guess I’m covered, but couldn’t she claim she never signed it, since it doesn’t even look like a name? So where do we draw the line (no pun intended) with messy signatures? At what point do they become gibberish that wouldn’t stand up in court?

(Just for the record, I’m not too worried about this girl; the situation just got me wondering about what would happen with larger transactions.)

My signature has never resembled my name, and I’ve never had a problem.

When it comes to Debit/Credit cards, contracts, licenses, leases, etc. I’ve been in the clear with terrible handwriting.

I, too, sign my name so that it looks like a swoop. I’ve never had any problems other than a few funny comments from merchants. I’ve heard that it makes it more difficult to prove that I DIDN’T sign something because it would be fairly easy to reproduce.

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away I used to be one of those gas jockeys who took your cash or credit card at the serve-serve gas stations. I had a customer who had one of those signatures. We were a gas company owned and operated self-serve and we had lots of customers who used our gas credit card.

This one customer was in at least twice a week who paid with his card. His signature resembled a seismograph output of an earthquake. Her regularity prompted friendly comments so one day I asked him. He showed me his driver’s license and other credit cards. The seismo-signature was on all of them.

I don’t think it’s an issue that could be challenged in court. His signature was his signature, and who was going to tell him it wasn’t? That all of his credit cards and driver’s license had the same signature was sufficient evidence it was what it was.

Any mark that you use to indicate that you are signing is a signature. If you think back to when people couldn’t read, an X was just as binding as a legible signature. If you wanted to, you could sign your checks with a smiley face or a picture of the Eiffel Tower.

You can read my first name in my signature (although the variant of my first name in my signature is not the variant of my first name that I most prefer people to call me - like the difference between Fred and Frederick). However only the first three letters of my last name are remotely legible; the rest trail off in a wobbly line.

Consistency is more important than any other aspect of handwritten signatures, but that said, handwritten signatures are fast going the way of the Dodo. Credit cards will eventually all go to Chip & PIN, Cheques will become increasingly marginal (most shops here in the UK no longer accept them) - there’s still a place for them on contracts and handwritten letters, for now, but that may eventually change too.

I have an illegible signature. The only time I’ve ever had any trouble was when renewing my driver’s license here in Maine in six years ago. That was the first renewal when they used an electronic graphics tablet instead of having me sign on paper. For some reason the computer rejected my first two signatures, and the DMV personnel couldn’t tell me exactly why. For the third try I made a supreme effort to make my signature at least resemble letters of the alphabet. It looks more like Mhwm N. Nmm than anything else. I’m pretty sure that’s not my real name but apparently there’s a computer somewhere in Augusta that thinks it is.

A guy I used to work with got called out a couple of times in shops because his signature was such a mess. The cashiers argued that because the signature was basically just a line they had no confidence that they weren’t accepting a faked signature. He got quite pissed off about it but the banks supported the merchants, IIRC.

My signature does not resemble my name. I have a very long name overall. A long time ago my signature did resemble my name but years of working shipping and receiving requiring my signature 40 to 50 times a day it got shorter and shorter. I’ve had merchants reject it without further proof sometimes they’d note my drivers license other times showing a few credit cards with the same signature.

In VA the DMV would not accept my signature they required I write out my name similar to its printed layout. In MA they would not accept my signature alone but it was acceptable for my to sign then print my last name following the signature. My signature then printing my last name has become my standard for more important documents as it matches the license but for everyday things my illegible scribble is the norm.

My sig has two fairly recognizable initials, followed by a scribble that, once upon a time, was my last name. I gave up even trying to make it something readable years ago. On a good day, you can read the first and middle initials, and usually puzzle the first letter of my last name. On other days, there’s no point in even trying.

This is what happened to me. At one time my name was perfectly legible, now you can make out 5 letters (well, 4 the last one is only slightly resembling the letter it is). Recently my Grandma insisted my signature wasn’t my signature, even though I wrote it out several times in front of her.

The only 2 letters that are legible in my signature are my initials. There’s also an i in my last name, so there’s a large noticeable circle there.

Never had problems with my Ontario driver’s licence, health card, library cards, bus passes, school IDs, or any other ID I’ve carried. Nor signing cheques, contracts, etc.

It’s distinct, even though it’s not legible, and that’s all that anyone seems to care about.

I’ve seen plenty of signatures that were basically the first letter and then a straight line for the rest. They never had problems over it.

Mine isn’t exactly a scribble, but it IS messy in that somebody’s very likely to think that a sixth grader is trying to forge my name. As soon as I was allowed to, I printed everything, and my cursive still looks like the inelegant grade school scrawl it was when I was allowed to abandon it. OTOH, if I want to take the time to print carefully (I don’t always), one thing I can do is print very tiny. One way I’ve been known to annoy people is to leave them long messages written on a postit note in little teensy letters.

My signature has gained purposely over the years. My last name isn’t currently legible. I’ve only had a problem when I open an account at the bank. They asked for my driver’s license when I sign up for it and compared the two signatures. The only problem was that was my signature when I was 16. They noticed it, but I mentioned how old it was. “Oh, that was when you wrote everything out,” and they accepted it.

But as others have said, your signature is what you decide it is. It doesn’t have to be your written name. If VA made you write out your name, then they were asking for something that was not your signature.

Again, in days of yore, illiterate people just made an x mark and that was their signature. I guess since nobody would ever challenge your DL signature then nothing would come of it, but I would think that there would be a definite legal answer here.

I knew a mathematician with a 9 letter name and once I saw him sign a credit card chit using a scrawl that could be interpreted as the first and last letters kind of one on top of the other. But he told me that was his legal signature.

I have a friend who never learned cursive. So he would print his name. But banks who would accept any kind of scrawl would not accept a printed name. So he made up some scrawl that didn’t really look like his name (which was 11 letters long).

I had a visitor from Japan who got a check (or rather a cheque) for his expenses and he endorsed it in Kanji. He had no legal signature in roman script and so he endorsed it and the bank took it. I don’t think banks check signatures any more anyway.

I work for an electronics retailer and we recently replaced our electronic signature pads. The new ones are smart enough to detect the customer’s name from the mag stripe and compare it to the length of the signature provided. People who are used to signing in an abbreviated fashion get a little irate when we ask them to sign thier full name. I see the point though, often enough someone tries to sign with no more than a long line with a curve at one end. On a big electronics purchase, that’s a chargeback waiting to happen.

While agreeing that “your signature is your signature” if you see someone actually signing or check another document, like drivers license, that this is their signature.

With the OP it seems he did not actually see her sign the paper nor does he have any other document to confirm that this is in fact her normal signature.

Is her covering letter signed with the same squiggles?