Punctuality Rules!

Handwriting: Improving Legibility

Handwriting: Improving Legibility

j0399540.jpg We have talked about the epidemic of bad handwriting. So now that you know that you’re not alone (if you’re one of the many people suffering from poor penmanship), what can you do if you want to improve yours?

  • Number one answer? Practice. Good penmanship is based on muscle memory, so the more you practice the basic shapes and angles, the better your writing will be.
  • Of course, you’re going to want to be sure to use the right Muscles. Ideally, when you write, your fingers should barely move at all–it should be your shoulder muscles that do all the work (as discussed here). This is one of my personal handwriting faults–I tend to rest my hand on the paper and use my fingers to move the pen, which effectively means that I can’t write on a pad when I get to the end of the page–nowhere for my hand.
  • Discipline is important, too. All of us are used to writing in specific patterns, and it’s easy to just let those patterns continue. If you want to change, however, it’s time to break new writing paths–and that requires work. You have to resist the temptation to “just this once” scrawl a quick note in your usual, messy fashion just to save time. You have to exert the strength of mind to make your hand do what you want it to do, just as if you were learning to write all over again.
  • This, of course, also demands Patience. Re-structuring your handwriting is not going to happen overnight. If you expect improvement after only a few days, you’re going to be discouraged–so, don’t!
  • Then there’s the Grip. Hold your pen or pencil lightly–if you hold it too tightly, you’re just going to be adding stress which is going to make your hand tire quickly. You’ll want to hold it at a 45-degree angle to the paper, too (especially important with a fountain pen).
  • Slow Down. Even my own less-than-stellar handwriting improves when I take the time to slow it down from its usual break-neck speed and focus on shaping each letter.
  • Pay Attention. Part of what makes good penmanship good is its consistency. So focus on making the angles of your letters consistent (90 degrees, more or less, in the U.S.), the curves the same shape. Make the space between each letter the same. Keep all the extenders and descenders the same height. (Those are the parts that rise above and below the basic letter–like the top of a “d” or the bottom of a “y”.) 
  • One handy tip I saw here was to have a “test sentence” that you write once a week, which will show how much your writing has improved. Sometimes the changes are infinitestimal and you won’t see them … until you look back to where you started from and say, “Wow. My writing was really that bad?” This is the penmanship equivalent to yearly school pictures for your kids.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want a book on the subject. (Any time I’m interested in a new subject, I immediately go two places–the internet and a bookstore. The internet is great for instant gratification, but there’s still nothing quite like a book for studying.) Write Now is a good one. So is Teach Yourself Better Handwriting.

This is the fourth post in my series on Handwriting. The first post, on the act of writing is here, and the second, on the personal touch, is here. The third, on bad handwriting, is here.

13 thoughts on “Handwriting: Improving Legibility

  1. Harrison

    Good Tips! Personally I quite agree that we must hold our pen in the correct way. I tend to hold my pen very hard. So I can really get tired easily.

    People always complain it is hard to read my handwriting. However I never bother about it because that’s the way I write!

  2. Tom Stine

    Hey Deb,

    Do you think these tips would help a left-handed 7 year old boy? My kiddo has horrible printing, and I dread to think what next year and cursive are going to look like. The teacher’s aide in his class, a retired, elderly elementary teacher, has made it her mission to whip his handwriting into shape, but to no avail. Yet. Thanks.

    Tom Stine’s last blog post..Silence – Eckhart Tolle

  3. --Deb Post author

    @Tom–Well, it might, though the post was written more for adults–the rules still apply. But, here are some links that I found that might help–a couple seemed like really good explanations in the difference between right- and left-handed writing, in terms of the way letters are formed.


    Good luck!

  4. LaRene


    I smile at your passion for writing. It something that we all do and you have learned so much about it. I’m impressed with your knowledge on the subject. We need someone like you around to remind us that we can always improve the simplest things in our lives. Thus, we can feel successful about something.

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  6. --Deb Post author

    @LaRene–That’s awfully nice of you, thanks. I agree, too–it’s nice to feel you have control over SOMETHING (grin).

  7. JoLynn Braley

    Hi Deb,

    I love that you are blogging about handwriting, an art that almost seems to be falling by the wayside with most of us having a keyboard attached to us at all times! 🙂

    My handwriting used to be much nicer and if I concentrate on it I can still make it so, but I often don’t really focus on it. Your posts have gotten me thinking about it though, thanks!

    JoLynn Braley’s last blog post..The Fit Shack Is a Year Old and Has a New Look!

  8. --Deb Post author

    I still think it’s kind of funny that I, of all people, am talking about good handwriting, but … it’s true. It is important. Even the most wired person cannot go through life without needing to use a pen at least some of the time!

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  10. M. Ilyas

    This is very good to learn to other that how to writing a letter,
    plese add some samles for all writing letters.
    M. ILYAS

  11. gayle

    Actually you should be using your fingers for good handwriting and not your whole arm. Initially young children should learn to write with whole arm movement to help to move it to kinesthetic memory but when actually writing on the paper it should be your fingers moving while your shoulder, elbow, and wrist help stabilize.

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