Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Listen to episode here. Last time, we began our series on handwriting, starting with its history. Don’t want to miss out on the backstory? You can read it here!
Today, we’re talking about handwriting technique and style. I’ll share practical tips on how to improve your own handwriting, as well as link to some of my favorite resources to help you refine your own natural style.
Your Handwriting Style
Before we begin, it’s important to mention that there isn’t an ideal style. You’re never going to rest on top of the mountain of perfection. Our handwriting changes with us throughout our life.
I see in America sometimes that we have a very myopic understanding of beauty. From how lawns should be manicured, to the shape of someone’s nose, we have a very prescriptive approach from society—of what things “should” look like, in order to look beautiful. It’s a lot of work for people to try to fit some ideal, instead of being themselves. I encourage you, as you are learning about handwriting and improving your own, not to think of it as trying to look like someone else. Rather, it’s finding things you’re drawn to from a design perspective, and finding them in your hand.
In time, you handwriting will improve, but it will never look like something that’s not yours. It will always be written in your hand, and that is a beautiful thing.
How to Improve Your Handwriting: Setting
Here are some recommendations from experts to refer to improve your handwriting. You should start with your setting. The right paper, the right pens, and the right posture are all important to your handwriting. But there isn’t necessarily a specific way you must follow with each of these.
First, with pens of pencils, that’s personal preference. When writing with a pencil, you want to be aware how soft it is. The traditional Num 2 pencil has equal hardness and blackness. The more black that a pencil is, like an HB2, which is more black than HB, the softer it will be. This has the ability to smudge easier, and also become duller quicker.
With pens, I like to write with something that flows pretty smoothly, so I don’t want something that gets dried ink easily. I like it to move with me. I also like the pen to be easy to hold. You want to find a pen that feels comfortable in your hand, that you’re able to control easily, without needing to grasp too tightly. There are grips that you can get for pens as well, so I would test out a few options to see what is good in your own hand.
Posture is important in well. I don’t follow a particular type of posture when I’m writing. I pretty much write where it’s convenient—sometimes at my desk, sometimes at the dining room table, sometimes I write before I go to sleep. It’s up to you, but if you want to have a bit more ceremony and make sure you have good posture, they recommend having a 90⁰ angle at your knees, with your feet flat at the ground, and a 90⁰ angle at your elbows, with your hands flat on the table. This allows you to easily access the paper without having to lean forward or back. It’s a comfortable upright position, that’s going to allow you to write for long.
I’m sure when you were growing up, you had a teacher that told you there was only one way to hold a pen, and if you didn’t hold it that way you were doing something wrong. That’s not quite true. You don’t want to hold a pen like you would hold a jug of water—you do want to hold it between your fingers. But there are multiple ways to do that. I recommend just finding a style that feels good in your own hand, and make sure you’re not getting too fatigued.
Things to Practice for Better Handwriting
Regardless of whatever style you choose, you can simply start practicing writing—whether you’re writing a letter, a grocery list, or even in formal exercises on ruled paper. The more you bring attention to your handwriting, the more you’ll notice it improve. Of course, there are a few things to keep an eye on. Here’s some of the main ones to look for: speed, pressure, size, slant, spacing, and margins.
The more you bring attentions to each of these areas, the more you’ll see incredible improvement in your handwriting:
1. Speed. You want to slow down your handwriting. When you’re practicing, try to go as slowly as possible. This makes you carefully form each shape.
About 15 years ago, I took time off of sports to recover form an eating disorder. When I finally when back, I gave myself the task of doing things really slowly. One of my greatest passions in life is skiing, so I told myself that I would ski as slowly as possible. What did I find? I actually was not a very good skier at very slow speeds. It was hard for me to get on the edge of my ski when I was going slowly. The more I practiced though, I was able to get on my edge, even if I was hardly moving.
Of course, it looked a little silly, and people passed me—but I found in that exercise that I became a much better skier. When I started going fast again, I had even more control, because I’d been practicing at those slower speeds. Handwriting also gets those benefits if you’re working slowly.
If you want to improve your handwriting, regardless of your style, just slow it down. Start to take notice of the characters you’re making. Deliberately make each of them very slowly. When you’re writing naturally, all those benefits will come back, because you’ve been practicing those forms
2. Pressure. There’s not a perfect amount of pressure, and it’s going to vary depending on the writing implement. Pencil versus pen, or even with different hardness of pencils. You may have a ball-point pen that requires you to press more, while a fountain pen with free ink makes you press less. Sometimes you press harder to make a letter look a little different.
Once you bring attention to pressure, you might notice that your hands get fatigued when you write. This can be an indication you’re pressing too hard. You also want to think of the pressure you’re exerting on the implement itself. How tightly are you holding it? If you hold it tightly, you’ll have a fair amount of control, but your hand will cramp over time. It’s important to think about bringing more of your harm movement in to the creation of your letters, so you’re not having to hold the pencil or pen so tightly.
3. Size. What is the difference in size between your capitals and lowercase letters? Are your capitals all the same size? Are your lowercases? They don’t have to be uniform—my lowercase r’s are usually a little larger than my other letters, but I think that looks really beautiful. I do notice that sometimes one r may be a different size than a different r, so in that case I want to become more consistent, so that all of my letters go well together, and if it’s the same character it will be about the same size.
4. Slant. You want to make sure there’s consistency across all of your letters. Is there an overall slant, and is it the same from letter to letter? Even if all the letters are slanting in the same direction, if some are more slanted than others, that’s going to look strange.
There’s not necessarily a specific slant you should work with, but you do want to have consistency. Bring attention to the ideal slant you’re looking for, as it will improve your handwriting overall.
5. Spacing and Margins. Both of these deal with space, but spacing is the concept of how far apart letters are, and if those spaces are consistent. You want to make sure there is the same amount of spacing across the lines, and across each letter.
Margins can be a hard thing to watch, because you’ll often be part-way through a sentence, with a large word to write, that’s about to go off the page. It gets crammed into the end of the margin. When you look at the overall affect of the page, not only is it hard to read those letters, it also makes the paper look not as beautiful, as the spacing isn’t uniform.
A tip I’ve developed is to create your own margin with a strip of washi tape, or to draw a margin with a pencil and erase it afterwards. Anything you can use to create a guide will help you. As you do, you will get used to creating that extra space even when the guide isn’t there.
A few people have asked for tips for left-handed writing. The most common grasp is the dynamic tripod hold. There are a lot of tips out there for left-handed writers. Though I can’t speak from my own experience, one tip I’ve found is to find an ink that still flows smoothly, but is fast-drying. The reason for those two things is because fast-drying will help reduce smudges, so if you’re moving your hand over something you’ve written, it’s less likely to smudge. Also having one that flows smoothly is important, because with a lot of strokes you’re actually pushing the pen, rather than pulling it toward you. If you’re in a place where you can have your hands free, you can try this:
· Take you left hand, raise it up in the air, and draw from left-to-right the bottom part of a smiley face.
· You’re pushing your hand to the right, pushing it away from you.
· Now use your right hand, making the same shape, but still going left to write as if you were writing.
This illustrates the difference. If you were going left-to write, using the left hand, it’s actually pushing the pen that way. If you use your right hand, it will be pulling the pen. Having an ink that flows smoothly will help you if your pen is being pushed, to help it have the right characters.
Graphologists do claim that it’s impossible to tell a left-hander from a right-hander simply from handwriting alone, so it’s not necessary for you to try all the tips—just find what resonates with you.
Resources for Better Handwriting
My intention with this post is to also give you some advice of experts to follow. The resources I’ve chosen are all equally worth your time—a lot of it comes down to personal preference, and what resonates with you. However, these are all people who emphasize teaching, and are also humble. Handwriting takes dedication and determination, it’s something you continue to work on over the course of your life. The people I’ve chosen to share with you demonstrate that in their work
Michael R Sull’s “𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘰𝘧𝘊𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘗𝘦𝘯𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱: 𝘈𝘗𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘈𝘥𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘴”
Breanna Jordan’s “𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘰𝘧𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨: 𝘙𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘉𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘺𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘗𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘗𝘦𝘯𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱”
“𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘯𝘗𝘦𝘯𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱” (Theory Book plus five copybooks) ((https://amzn.to/351wMtJ)
Michael R Sull ((https://www.instagram.com/michaelrsull/)
Kestrel Montes, INK ME THIS ((https://www.instagram.com/inkmethis/)
· Free Resources: https://bit.ly/2EHtzVG
· Classes: https://bit.ly/3bi0TOO
Sarah Richardson ((https://www.instagram.com/sarahscript)
· FREE 8mm Guidelines and Proportions Guidelines (http://www.sarahscript.com/resources)
· Additional Resources: http://www.sarahscript.com/resources
Melissa Esplin ((https://www.instagram.com/melissapher
Allison McClanahan ((https://www.instagram.com/wildwoodcalligraphyandpost) https://www.wildwoodcp.com/
Paul Antonio ((https://www.instagram.com/pascribe)
I hope these are helpful for you, and I’d love to see how your handwriting journey goes. I’ve had some people private message me that they hate their handwriting, others have told me that they love their handwriting—frankly, I don’t have an opinion on my handwriting. I’ve been told that I have good handwriting by people who see my calligraphy—but that’s not my real handwriting! But if you follow me on Instagram, you will see my handwriting pretty regularly. Start practicing, and share your handwriting with the world, because there’s a good chance others will want to see it as well.
To quickly recap my overall guidelines: Create the space for you to practice writing, find paper and pen you like, and get comfortable. From there, pay attention to some of the main elements: speed (slow it down), pressure, size, slant, spacing, and margins. Regardless of the style of script that you have, those are things to pay attention to. The more you do, the more your handwriting will continue to improve. And of course, follow some experts and get more tips. If you’re interested in this topic, engage with the community online, and let me know how it’s going for you as well!
Signing off today with a signature from Platt Rogers Spencer, the founder of Spenserian handwriting,
I bid you success,