This post has been sitting in my Drafts for nearly 6 months waiting to be finished. I get a tonne of questions daily asking for tips on my handwriting, examples of my handwriting, and just general comments about my handwriting. I’ve written a FAQs blog post about it back in June 2015, and from that point, I’ve done some research (in whatever spare time I could muster) on the kinds of tutorials that are being offered out there on handwriting, handlettering, calligraphy, etc., you name it, I’ve probably read it. The one aspect that stands out in all of them is that each course endeavours to help you write a particular way, such as brush lettering or Spencerian script or cursive handwriting, which, if that’s exactly what you’re looking for, are fantastic courses to take part in. But what about your everyday handwriting? You know the one that you use to write yourself notes, to write in your planner, to take down a phone message, etc. – I’m sure there are people out there who would like to improve their own handwriting skills.
The handwriting you see in my photos and my Etsy products is, in fact, my everyday handwriting. I haven’t changed it any way, that’s just how I write. So I thought to myself, instead of essentially developing a skill from scratch like the other handwriting courses, why not start from a base – that is, your own handwriting – and refine and hone those skills. I wanted to empower readers with some simple tips and strategies to improve their everyday handwriting skills for their planners, their note-taking at uni lectures, or just writing that simple message on a sticky note.
On the outset, I wanted to point out what this blog series is and is not.
- IS: I’m not making any guarantees or promises that you’ll have impeccable, pristine, pants-dropping everyday handwriting, but I do hope that this blog series at least gets you thinking about how you write and how to make small adjustments to make it that little bit better.
- IS NOT: I am in no way, shape of form an expert on handwriting skills. I was lucky enough to have a brilliant teacher – my grandmother – who saw the value in neat penmanship. Heaps of the advice, strategies and principles I write about in his blog series in anecdotal – that is, based on my own experiences with my grandmother, and what I’ve personally tried to improve over the years
- IS: This blog series is about improving your own handwriting skills and to provide you with simple tips and strategies to improve the wonderful talents you already have!
- IS NOT: This blog series is not about how you can write like me or copy my everyday handwriting. What’s the point?! You already know how to write, I don’t need to tell you how to write. I think a lot of readers like my handwriting because it’s neat and tidy – you don’t have to write like me to be able to do that :)
SO LET’S BEGIN!
Select a small quote or paragraph or excerpt from a book. Write this out in your current everyday handwriting and place a date on it. Look through your handwriting piece and take note of the following:
- How far apart do you write your letters (i.e. spacing between letters, spacing between words)?
- How far up and down do you write your letters (i.e. the height of your letters such as ‘l, f, h’, and baselines of your letters such as ‘g, p, q, y’)?
- Do you write on a slant or upright?
- Do you write predominantly in printing or cursive or a mad hybrid of both?
- What kind of idiosyncrasies do you have in your handwriting style, such as
- a little circled dot for the letters ‘i’ and ‘j’
- a little flourish for the letters ‘g, j, y’
- running on letters from the letter ‘t’, or from baselines letters like ‘g, j, y, and q’
- do you curl the bottom of your ‘y’ or have it straight down
- what makes your handwriting unique to you that everyone can identify that a piece of handwriting comes from you?
- Then ask yourself this question: what do you want to change/keep in your everyday handwriting? For example,
- I just want it to look less like chicken scrawl
- I would like the letters to look consistent
- I would like to improve the spacing between my words and letters
- I like how my letters look, so maybe this blog series isn’t for me… it’s OK to have a bit of a nosy about what this blog series is about *wink*
Fold up your current everyday handwriting example and then seal it in an envelope for safe keeping, but keep your notes handy. We’ll come back to this initial handwriting example a bit later.
- Writing implement of your choice – pencil or pen but I do encourage you not to rub out mistakes, just keep going!
- A note on writing implements: You’ll find that your handwriting can sometimes change depending on the type of pen you use, for example, my handwriting using a fountain pen tends to look like a mad hybrid of cursive and printing, whereas, my handwriting with a standard ballpoint is more representative of my everyday handwriting. Choose one for now, then hone your skills in on the other writing implements when you’re ready.
- A note on pen grip: It’s your handwriting, so grip that writing implement the way that you want to! Choke it, caress it, pinch it, whatever, I’m not here to break ‘bad habits’, you do what feels comfortable for you.
- Ruled paper: 6-8mm spacing is ideal depending on how small/big you naturally write
- Writing guide: this writing guide has two dotted lines in the middle and two solid lines above and below the dotted lines. The solid lines are guides for keeping ascenders and descenders consistent.
- A comfortable seated position
- A note on where you write: Ideally, you’d like to write on a table, where you can sit comfortably on a chair with your feet flat. My grandmother insisted on having the table top to the level of where your elbows can comfortably bend, and you shouldn’t have to smoosh your face up close to your notebook to see what you’re writing. If you write on your lap, then your handwriting will come out differently, same goes if you’re handwriting on a train, on a rollercoaster, or skydiving, you get the idea.
- Beverage of choice (optional)… alcohol, also optional
- 5-10 minutes of your time daily
If you’re using ruled paper, write the first 5 letters of the alphabet (a-e) in lower case letters, one on each line:
If you’re using the writing guide, this is how the first 5 lowercase letters would look like:
You’ll notice that the examples above aren’t my own everyday handwriting style, but a slight and much cleaner adaptation (at least in my opinion :P). This is a reference for all of the letters of the alphabet in lowercase and uppercase plus numbers, but remember, the idea of this blog series is to use your own handwriting as a reference point, with the intention of improving the skills you already have :) I don’t believe that anyone has shockingly awful handwriting that can’t be improved with a few strategies and simple tips.
Once you’ve set this up, practice writing each letter until you get to the end of the line. Some tips to keep in mind while you practice:
- Leave at least a letter length’s space between letters, or if you want my grandmother’s advice, leave a space that’s equal to the letter ‘w’
- Try to keep the letter shapes and lines consistent from one letter to the next. This will only happen if you take your time writing each letter.
- Be mindful of the slant that write your letters in, again, do what comes naturally to you. If you write on a slight slant to the right, then keep doing that, it’s what you’re comfortable with. Of course, if this is what you want to improve, then be gentle with making the slight adjustments.
- Try not to erase any mistakes – these are good to review once you’ve completed your practice page
- Your ultimate goal is consistency in letters
Now, you can go through the lowercase letters in a few different ways, and really, it’s entirely up to you. The key is that you practice each letter at the same frequency – that is, if you practice the letter ‘b’ across 5 sheets, you’ll need to do the same for the letter ‘p’, ‘z’, etc. My grandmother got me started on only a few letters at a time until I finished the alphabet in lowercase, then started me on uppercase letters. In the schools that I service, they will go through 2-3 letters in lowercase and uppercase practice simultaneously across a few weeks. There’s no right or wrong, just whatever you can do at any given time frame. If you want set instructions and writing schedules served to you on a silver platter presented elegantly under a cloche, then this isn’t the blog series for you. We’re all grown-ups here, and taking accountability for your practice habits can only be a motivator to improvement.
I started handwriting practice from the age of 5, and this consisted of sitting down for 20-30 minutes a day with my grandmother writing drills. She was only happy with my handwriting when I turned 16, and even then she was still harking on my cursive (this is another story…)! You really don’t need to invest that much time into handwriting practice, but to get results, it’s something you should do daily. Give yourself 5-10 minutes each day, and longer on some days if you can. Again, I’m no expert on what the ideal time frame is for practice, so this is entirely up to you.
These are just a few tips and thoughts to keep in mind when you’re first starting out (again, all are based on personal experiences, and what has worked in my clinical practice when improving skills):
- Nothing can ever replace PRACTICE: There’s a scientific explanation around this. Put simply, practice of anything creates new pathways in the brain that eventually become automatic, or what some athletes may call muscle memory. The more practice you invest in a skill, the more proficient you get. There’s also the theory that if you don’t use the skill, you eventually lose it. I started playing the piano when I was 4 years old and quit when I was 22. It’s strange that I can still read music but the fluidity in my movements between musical phrases nowadays when I try to play is very disjointed. This theory behind practice is the evidence-base that my work as a speech-language pathologist is grounded upon, so I firmly believe in its value. Invest some time, even if it’s 5 minutes. We spend wasted hours on the internet so what’s 5 minutes of your time to improve your everyday handwriting?
- Be gentle with yourself when you’re first starting out and resist the urge to compare yourself with others. Remember this is about improving your own handwriting, so your progress is about acknowledging how far you’ve come, which is why it’s a great idea to date your practice sheets.
- Set a SMART goal for yourself: see point 2 of this site.
- Embrace the mistakes. Don’t rub anything out. Just stop and keep going. If a page looks like dogs balls, just accept it and move on. Do another sheet or practice, but remember the key is progress not perfection.
- Pace yourself. If you get to a point where it’s no longer fun for you, take a break and go back to it later.
Well that’s it from me for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little introduction into improving your own everyday handwriting. Feel free to ask any questions via the Comments section below or through email.
What’s up next?
Improve your everyday handwriting in words… Til then, happy handwriting!