Monday, November 1, 2010

Improve your handwriting skills

How many times per week do you write a note for someone in the office only to have them bring it back so they can get the correct spelling? In my job, I'm on both sides of this issue - both giving and receiving notes. It might just be annoying for other people who have to read what you've written, but it's most critical when dealing with names, addresses, phone numbers, and other bits of information that are critical. It's not just spelling that needs to be improved, but the handwriting itself.

I know why my handwriting is bad; it's because I'm impatient. My handwriting becomes increasingly bad as the word count increases. The letters start turning into random vertical and horizontal lines. My u looks like an n. My n looks like a u. Why are my p's so big? Is that an o or an e?

Sometimes I don't write actual words, but partial words, or even strange symbols that vaguely resemble Roman characters. This is usually when I'm writing a note for myself to remember something. Usually just a partial word will bring the task to my mind, but if it sits there for a while I'll forget completely what the symbol ever stood for.

Why should I care about my handwriting?

There are many reasons why you should care about your handwriting. The first is simple: it presents yourself to others as intelligent. You're smart, but people who read your handwriting may judge you based on your script. If you're chicken-scratch looks like it was drawn with a big crayon by a 4-year-old, people are going to underestimate your intelligence.

But there are other reasons you want to improve your handwriting skills:

  • Increased chances at landing a job. Many employers still use handwritten employment applications. Chances are the applications filled out clearly, legibly, and thoughtfully will get more attention than the ones which are hard to read, misspelled, and uninformative. There are many skills employed in finding a job, but if your prospective employer can't read what you're writing, she may not know what those other skills you have are.
  • Increased productivity. Imagine how much time you would save if you only had to do everything once. It's not a lot of time, relatively, compared to other tasks throughout your day, but for every minute you take away from one task to correct mistakes in past tasks, you lose at least three minutes from your daily output. Having to answer questions concerning a note you wrote by hand will certainly pull you away from your current task.
  • Increased self-esteem. We all fill better knowing we've mastered an art. I'm not necessarily advocating learning calligraphy, but as you see your penmanship improve, you will feel the pride associated with achieving something. And apart from that, being able to write love letters, thank you notes, and even in your diary is certainly a great feeling. I feel like I'm encumbered with my poor handwriting as I always have my wife fill in greeting cards and guest lists. 

How do I improve my penmanship?

There are a few simple techniques to improve your penmanship. By practicing these techniques a few minutes a week will help improve your handwriting skills.
  • Practice writing with your hand and arm in the air on a white board/chalk board. Move your arm and shoulder, not wrist and fingers. Draw simple shapes (circle, triangle, etc) before going to characters.
  • Write full sentences instead of single characters. The transitions between letters is as important as the characters themselves. Try writing "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," and then "THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG" to practice upper and lowercase characters.
  • Copy text from a book, newspaper or magazine. This will keep you interested in what you're writing. (As a bonus: it also helps you retain the information you're reading.)
"Practice makes perfect," they always say. This is easy to say, but how does one practice? I don't think I need to rewrite the manual, so I'll just point you at a few choice websites.
  • PaperPenalia is a great resource. It has pictures to help guide you, and practice techniques to help improve your penmanship.
  • Handwriting Worksheets offers printable pages to practice writing.
  • wikiHow has a good tips and nice video tutorial.

I hope this article has encouraged you to improve your penmanship and become A Better Human Being!


  1. Excellent new blog. Next on your list: everyone should take CPR/First Aid, right?

  2. That's funny that you said this, because it's exactly what I had prepared.