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How can I Improve my Handwriting?

Dana Hinders
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Bad handwriting can be frustrating to others who have to read it, make you appear less competent on job applications and exams, and can even be a sign of an underlying medical problem. There are ways to improve your handwriting, however, starting with analyzing your writing to find out what the problem is. Once you've done this, you can learn proper penmanship techniques, and then practice regularly until your new writing style becomes a habit. If you need some extra training, then workshops and courses from a university or penmanship tutor can be very helpful.

Analyzing Your Writing

The first step in starting to improve your handwriting is to analyze it and determine why you write like you do. Many people find that they were trained to write incorrectly, or are just out of practice since they type more than they write. Other people have medical problems that cause dysgraphia, or poor handwriting. Brain damage from strokes, Parkinson's disease dyslexia, and dyspraxia can all make it hard to write properly, as can some medications that affect coordination.

In addition to figuring out why you write like you do, try to notice what you do or don't like about your letter formation. You might notice that your letters are slanted too far in one direction, that some are noticeably larger or smaller than others, or that the spacing between your words is uneven. If you write with very long loops in your letters, they may overlap down into the lines below them.

As you're doing your analysis, look at what your body does while you're writing. Many people with poor handwriting have very tight, tense hands and shoulders, which causes them to press the pen into the paper very heavily, leading to cramped, mis-shaped writing. When you know what parts of your writing style you don't like, you can focus on consciously changing them as you practice.

Proper Techniques

Once you've determined what you want to fix about your handwriting and have had any underlying medical conditions treated, you should learn and practice the proper writing technique. This consists of using your shoulders and arms to make the movements of the pen or pencil, rather than just your fingers or hands. You shouldn't press your hand down into the paper while you write, but rather, keep it loose and lifted above the paper. This can keep your hands from getting tired and also makes your writing look more relaxed. If it feels too uncomfortable to write at your normal size with this method, then try tracing large letters on a mirror, whiteboard, or on a worksheet

Posture is an important part of good handwriting too. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your stomach a few inches away from your desk or table. This gives your arm enough room to move properly. If you're right-handed, then keep the paper to your right, and if you're left-handed, then keep it to your left. Make sure to keep your paper straight, since slanting it to one side or another can cause your writing to become overly slanted. Once you feel comfortable with the basics of good penmanship, you can then start to focus on improving individual problems you have, like improper spacing or overly large loops.

Practicing

Try to practice daily, remembering to use the correct posture and way of holding the pen or pencil, and consciously focusing on writing correctly. Pay attention even when writing things like grocery lists or memos. If you are in school, you can occasionally take class notes by hand instead of on a computer. If you still need additional practice, consider getting practice books or worksheets, which are available online and offline for children and adults. If you don't feel like you're improving, or want to learn more elaborate styles, you can consider taking a course in penmanship or calligraphy. Many schools, community colleges, and universities have handwriting workshops and courses, and there are also people in many areas who offer personal penmanship tutoring.

Benefits

There are many benefits to improving your penmanship. Aside from simply being more convenient to read and nicer to look at, proper handwriting can be written very quickly, and is more personal than typed work. It also makes you look more cultured and competent, which can be a big advantage when filling out job applications and in business communications. Additionally, practicing the fine motor skills needed to write is good exercise for the brain and can help improve hand-eye coordination.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders , Writer
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the Language & Humanities team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.

Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Nov 03, 2012

@indigomoth - I don't think there's any substitute for handwriting in some cases though. I'd love to have really neat, classy looking handwriting for letters and notes.

My handwriting isn't too bad as long as I pay attention to it, but if I don't or if I'm getting tired, it goes downhill. It seems to me that kids should be taught how to write from the shoulder so that it's automatic for adults like me and we don't have to retrain ourselves.

But I do wonder how much emphasis on handwriting there will be in schools in the future, when so many people use typing instead. It just seems a shame when it's probably quite easy to improve your handwriting and the act of writing things out longhand can be quite beneficial. You have more time to contemplate what you're writing and every word is given more weight.

By indigomoth — On Nov 02, 2012

@Ana1234 - To be honest, I know I'm never going to get any better with my handwriting. I'm too impatient to even try. These days, I do all my "handwriting" on my laptop or my tablet, with a keyboard.

Typing is much faster once you get a good technique going and it's always going to be easier to read (even if you have the worst spelling). Bluetooth keyboards aren't expensive either, so people don't really have an excuse anymore.

By Ana1234 — On Nov 01, 2012

@olittlewood - It might help him to take a calligraphy course. Calligraphy isn't quite the same as normal handwriting, of course, but it can help people to pay more attention to what they are doing and how the letters are shaped.

He might also just need to slow down and try to form each letter perfectly. It will be very frustrating for him at first, but he could retrain himself this way to be a better handwriter and pay off in the long run. Left handed handwriting is difficult because we are all trained from a right handed point of view, but with time and patience he could work out his own best way of doing things.

By anon167813 — On Apr 14, 2011

Thanks for the good tips. I really like your point to avoid putting too much weight on the fingers rather than using the forearms. I will practice and hope it will help me out. English is not my native language but my handwriting my mother tongue is also not very good. I don't know why. I think people are born with good handwriting and the personal efforts play a small role.

By anon150143 — On Feb 07, 2011

@ Post 11: This is the best advice I've ever received. Man wow!

By anon132018 — On Dec 05, 2010

I found some tips for this and now I'm working out with that and its really helpful. I learned my good handwriting with "baby notebooks." -Maitri

By anon126177 — On Nov 11, 2010

I'm also left handed and never learned how to write or spell properly. I'm a father of three year old twins and thought it would be a good idea to relearn with them.

By anon118400 — On Oct 14, 2010

Someone wanted help on writing from the shoulder.

Wipe the bathroom mirror with a cloth. Note that your hand and wrist are still and all the motion comes from your shoulder and adjusted from the elbow.

Now write on the bathroom mirror with your finger.

That's how you write correctly on paper. The fingers shouldn't move as you write.

By anon108368 — On Sep 02, 2010

use baby worksheets. they help.

By anon88009 — On Jun 02, 2010

Sorry can I just say thank you so much? I am also a lefty and it's really annoying smudging everything when I write but taking the weight off my hand really worked!

By anon85650 — On May 21, 2010

For anon85526: If you write try to imagine as if the the center of your hand movement is your elbow. As such your hand movement will not limited to your hand palm and fingers.

By anon85526 — On May 20, 2010

I don't understand how I can write from my shoulder. Can anybody help?

By anon66072 — On Feb 17, 2010

Thanks for the handwriting tip of taking the weight off the hands and using your forearms and shoulders to write. I tried it and my writing is much more fluid.

Now to practice my new writing style. Wish I would have know about this earlier in my life. I am 78 years old. It proves there is always something new you learn. Thank you. GeorgioF

By anon28021 — On Mar 10, 2009

It's amazing how the simple tip of using one's shoulders and taking the weight off the hand can do. In a minute I found my writing moving far more effortlessly than ever before, and I am sixty seven years old! Thanks a million.

By halimh2 — On Jan 31, 2009

I found the tips on how to improve handwriting were very helpful. I just learned that the problem of my handwriting is my using of the finger to do the job rather than using the forearm as advised in the tips. I have now improved my handwriting significantly thanks to the tips.

By olittlewood — On Jan 07, 2008

is it really possible to re-learn how to write (of course, there are people who have strokes, etc., who re-learn how to write, i know) if you have exceptionally bad handwriting? my husband has the WORST handwriting known to man, and plans to be a teacher. he is a lefty, and his handwriting is atrocious. i used to type his papers in college and spent a lot of time being extremely frustrated. even when he tries to write neatly, it looks bad. this article has a lot of good tips, but how do you really change the way you write dramatically?

Dana Hinders

Dana Hinders

Writer

With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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