Why is female handwriting different from male handwriting?

Obviously, I’m not the first one to come up with this observation, but I find it remarkable that you can tell with a high degree of certainty if the author of a handwritten text is a woman or man. Is there a scientific explanation for this?

Smaller hands, perhaps. Also (as a generalization with many exceptions) women tend to be more concerned that things should look neat and pretty than men are.

I’m a woman with big hands and “manly” handwriting. I wouldn’t be surprised if hand size had something to do with it.

My handwriting has always seemed more pointy and less round and flowing than other women.

They say that girls’ fine motor skills (e.g. being able to hold and guide a pencil) tend to develop earlier than boys’. I suppose this could be a factor.

I believe a lot of it is social pressure to write “pretty.” Women may have smaller hands, but that doesn’t explain the whole dotting i’s with hearts thing.

Social pressure, and it is going away. I have taught high school for ten years, and in that time I’ve seen a distinct convergence between male and female handwriting. I think its because handwriting is taught less and less each year in the younger grades, so there is less and less positive social reinforcement for “good” handwriting, and especially for “feminine” handwriting. You still have neat handwriting (or printing) but it tends to be evenly distributed; I think that all the remaining neat writers are the people who just intrinsically like things to be neat, and they are equally common among men and women.

Most of us develop our handwriting when we are quite young.

Is there really that much of a difference between the sizes of the hands of five-year-old boys and girls? And certainly a five-year-old boy’s hand is smaller than most adult women’s hands?

Also, language use varies by gender, as well. Girls are socialized to talk like women, and boys to talk like men. I wonder if kids unconsciously adjust their writing habits in similar ways.

Girls show both better innate and learned aptitudes in this respect.

In my generation (born 1974) I saw quite a bit of gender stereotyping going on which encouraged girls to have neat writing and boys to have messy writing. Not only would teachers return a girl’s paper with a note that it needed to be rewritten for legibility when it was already neater than a boy’s, but the students themselves disparaged boys who wrote legibly as “gay” or “writes like a girl”. This encourages boys to write worse.

It is also suspected that efforts to improve young boys’ writing in terms of content and mechanics leaves little time or incentive for the teacher to insist they improve their handwriting.

Quotes from this Powerpoint, also available in a cached version, from the study,
“Gender and handwriting performance,” Debra McCarney, Lynne Peters, Sarah Jackson, Marie Thomas, Amanda Kirby

Those observations absolutely ring true for my experiences as a student. When I was handed a paper back for rewrites, it was often for handwriting, as the content and grammar was already fine. The teacher needed to give me something to do while the other students were rewriting for clarity or to meet the other requirements of the assignment. So I developed pretty good handwriting through teacher insistence, even though my “unacceptable” handwriting was already better than most of the class.

Being a surviving victim of a Catholic school education 1958 - 1971, for a long time, my handwriting was identical to that of all my classmates. We were taught "the Palmer Method, and all departures from the accepted style were cause for points removed from any grade we received.

A couple of moths ago, I wrote a work order for a service call. The woman for whom I performed this service asked what school I had attended. She had gone to the parish school just to the south of mine at about the same time.

She had also learned the Palmer Method…

I wonder if education level has something to do with it as well? I have a female doctor that writes everything in chicken scratch.
Also, I work with several people from Africa. I don’t know if it’s a fluke or what but every one of them (guys and gals) writes absolutely beautifully. Seriously, you just want to take whatever the hell the wrote and hang it up on a wall.

The length of the index finger compared to the ring finger (known as the 2D:4D ratio) is generally higher in males than females due to prenatal exposure to testosterone.

In both sexes the ring finger is usually longer than the index finger, but measuring how much longer can be used as a rough way to estimate the level of androgen exposure an embryo received in the womb.

While certainly not conclusive, at least one study (PDF) found a correlation between handwriting differences between the sexes and the 2D:4D ratio of the right hand (but interestingly, not the left). Like almost all human sex differences this biological difference may be just one part of the question. Biology, cultural influences, expression of sexual identity, and other factors probably influence this difference in handwriting in much the same way they influence the difference between the body movements of a female when walking versus those of a male and any number of other generally consistent differences.

from what i have seen, women have had bubble y hand writing, dont ask me why

I recall at primary school, spending a lot of time practicing a particular handwriting style. Me and my friends would compare and steal aspects of each other’s handwriting.

I wonder if other women on the board did the same?

Yes, I remember there was a handwriting fad in 3rd grade when all the girls in my class deliberately started making the same weird lowercase “S” (like this**).

As an adult, I stole a neat way of writing the word “of” from one of my college professors, in which he made it look like a tadpole (like this**).

**I feel compelled to say, “Please excuse my handwriting in these examples – I awkwardly used my mouse to write this.” :slight_smile:

And actually, the rest of the post: Putting it kindly, this differs so wildly from my experience as to make me question what planet you (or I) came from. :wink:

My cursive writing was essentially identical from the moment I learned it to about a year into college (long story, had to resort to really badly formed printing which I prefer to this day). It was neither beautiful and thus subject to ridicule by my peers, who I can’t imagine ever giving a damn about my penmanship, nor was it particularly wretched. My teachers always seemed to have time to tell me to write neater, and they wasted no opportunities to tell my my content and mechanics were shit. They were dedicated, I guess. If I try to write neatly today it is an easy match for my 4th grade penmanship. Funny story, my first college roommate, who is my best friend to this day, had handwriting that was indistinguishable from mine.

some examples of fine male script are John Hancock and Cletus Spuckler.

I have long but very thin fingers (my mother in law calls them “pianist hands”) and very good handwriting, for a man. I’m going with hand size.

As a dedicated tomboy, I did this but in the opposite–that is to say, I looked at the way the girls were writing, and did my best not to write like that. I always disliked the big round “loopy” girl-style writing. That said, I did pride myself on my neat handwriting when I was a kid. Nowadays anything I write by hand looks like a drunken spider fell into an inkwell and then staggered across the page. :smiley:

I did, however, go through a period where I write my Ss like gallows fodder did. I also wrote (and actually still do) my lowercase Fs like an upside down/backward 4, and my capital Ts like 7s.