Handwriting 101: Tips On How To Have Beautiful Handwriting

Updated: Mar 11

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.