It’s not too late to have good handwriting

With most of today’s written communication typed on clackity keys or typed on a smudged screen, you probably don’t write on paper too often. But once in a while, you still have to fill out your old paper form, which is exactly when you realize your handwriting doesn’t look great.

It’s never too late to improve it. We’re not talking about the level of calligraphy, which would make your doctor’s office registration forms look like royal decrees from the 1500s. We mean readable and consistent, whether you’re using print or script.

Like most aspects of life, handwriting can improve with practice. Repetition will help you gradually change your handwriting and eventually you will reach a point where the letters will flow naturally and beautifully from pen to paper. We can’t promise the words will make sense, but at least they will look pretty.

Prepare your installation

If you’ve ever struggled to sign a paper or write a note without a table or clipboard in sight, you know that comfort is key when you want to jot down legible words.

Start by giving yourself a fighting chance and sit down at a stable, spacious table or desk where you can write as you please. As for the paper itself, it’s a good idea to keep things as flat as possible, so a loose sheet is better than a notebook. But if you hate the hassle of random bits of paper everywhere, the right notebook will work too. Avoid thick or spiral-bound notebooks and opt instead for a soft-bound notebook that you can open flat. This will prevent the heavier side of your book from trying to close everything and eliminate any wrist discomfort that a thick spiral can create as you approach the end of each line. Thinner notebooks will also prevent your hand from losing support when writing the last lines on a page.

[Related: Eight great pens to match your writing style]

Speaking of lines, you should use some kind of guideline at this point – it can be lines, a grid, or dots, whatever your writing-focused heart desires. This will help you gauge the direction of your script as well as the size and consistency of your letters. We therefore strongly recommend that you forego blank pages until you are more comfortable with your new improved handwriting. If you’re using loose paper instead of a notebook, you can purchase lined, squared, or dotted paper, or you can download and print your own from one of the many free online resources.

Next, find an angle for laying out the paper that suits your writing. Don’t fall for the idea that the only correct setup is vertical, as this can force your hand and wrist into an unnatural writing position, which could lead to pain and even injury. There is absolutely no shame in positioning your sheet of paper or notebook at a 45 degree angle or even fully horizontal alignment. The best way to find out which angle is right for you is to start with your paper laid vertically, then rotate it left (if you’re right-handed) or right (if you’re left-handed) until you’re comfortable. . That’s why having a spacious surface to write on subjects because you won’t want to knock over desk knick-knacks while you fiddle with your paper.

Take all the time you need to make sure your setup is to your liking. You’ll find that it will not only help your writing, but also help you relax. You’re welcome.

Now for the fun part: get a pen you like. If you’re left-handed, steer clear of broad-tipped fountain pens that could dispense a lot of ink with each stroke – you’ll likely end up with smudged words all over your page when your hand comes across your freshly printed letters. Gel pens and ballpoint pens usually dry quickly, so start there is a good idea. Right-handed people don’t have to think about anything: the world is made for you.

The best way to find out if a pen is right for you is to try it out. If you can, go to a stationery store and take your time to sample the pens there. Write a few words on the pads provided and see how each pen feels. Maybe buy two or three to continue testing at home. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always test out some fan favorites.

Many people swear by the Pilot G-2, for example. It comes in several sizes, but the tried-and-true version has a built-in handle, is retractable, uses quick-drying gel ink, and comes in a myriad of colors. If you want to go with a classic, try BIC’s Cristal or Round Stic pens. You’ve probably written with these a million times before, and they’re a must-have because of their comfort and reliability. A few other ideas: Signo from Uniball, RSVP from Pentel, Pigma Micron from Sakura, or any gel pen from Muji. These are all inexpensive writing tools with their own fanbases, so you should be able to find something that works among them.

If you want to try your hand at fountain pens, start with something designed for beginners that hopefully is compatible with disposable ink cartridges, or even comes pre-loaded with ink. This will save you from having to buy a bottle of ink and a refillable cartridge unless you really want to. Pilot’s Kakuno or Schneider’s Ray fountain pens are solid, inexpensive choices – they’re light and comfortable, and can set you up to upgrade to more serious fountain pens in the future.

Audit your writing

You have your tools and your setup, it’s time to write. Start by filling between half a page and a full page with fresh writing. It could be anything: a story, your thought process, or the transcription of a song you like.

When you write, do it at a normal pace (not too fast or too slow) and pay attention to your grip on the pen. If your fingernails are white from the force you are exerting, your grip is too strong, relax your hand and try again. This is important because too strong a grip will lead to pain and discomfort, which can lead to hand and wrist cramps, as well as injury. On top of that, the pain will also affect the consistency of your handwriting and eventually deter you from putting pen to paper, making this whole process pointless.

Once you have a comfortable grip, check it every few minutes and correct it if necessary. If you’re having trouble controlling your stylus, you can always switch tools or try a stylus grip, one of those little rubber tubes that slip right over your pen or pencil for better control.

When you’ve finished writing your practice page, review your writing and analyze it. Pay attention to the spacing, slant of your letters, height, shape, and placement relative to the guidelines you used. The most important element you are looking for is consistency and readability, so go through your lines and highlight the words and letters that differ most from the others and those that could be misinterpreted.

These are the aspects of your writing that you will seek to change. Whether you’re writing in cursive, block letters, or a combination of the two, you want essentially identical handwriting across the page that everyone can read clearly and whose letters look more or less alike. That doesn’t mean your handwriting has to be perfect or look like words on a screen (not to mention calligraphy) – your handwriting is unique to you and you have to accept it as such.

If there are aesthetic elements you want to change, or if you want to completely change the way you write, take inspiration from others. A quick web search will bring up thousands of handwriting enthusiasts sharing their own immaculate note pages. Take a look, find what you like (free elements or whole styles), imitate it and customize it.

Practice, practice, practice

You knew it would come to this. Repetition is the key to learning, and only writing, writing, and more writing will get your body used to the changes you want to make to your personal script.

A helpful way to practice is to incorporate your exercises into your daily life. You can do this by taking up a hobby like journaling or meditative writing. This will give you the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes each day and put your growing skills to good use.

If you don’t like keeping a diary, you can simply set aside time to practice every day. Find books, poems and songs that you love and transcribe them. You can also write your own thought path if you can follow it. Your writing doesn’t have to be good, or even make sense – the point is to write, and as long as you’re putting words together, you’re practicing.

Besides that, take every opportunity to write instead of typing. Keep notepads and pens around your office and home, and collect them for writing reminders and lists. If time isn’t an issue, skip the emails and opt instead for writing a letter or sending a postcard. It’s not just extra practice, but it’s a nice, old-fashioned thing to do and people love it.

A quick reminder: take your time and be patient. The speed will come once your hand learns the moves you are teaching it. The more you write, the faster and more organically your lines will come. In the meantime, focus on form and consistency. Once in a while, take a moment to analyze your writing to see how far you’ve come and what you still need to improve. Also, don’t forget your grip and check it often to see if you need to loosen up.

Acquire help

If you’re having trouble analyzing your own writing or what exactly you need to change, there are people who will do it for you. There are plenty of courses (online and otherwise) that can teach you how to improve your writing and where to start.

For more independent learners, there are also plenty of online practice materials, such as worksheets and guides, that you can download for a fee or even free. Some of them have angled lines that can help you keep your angles consistent, and some of them have full instructions on the best ways to join letters and use spacing.

[Related: Turn your handwritten documents into searchable digital notes]

It bears repeating: handwriting is not calligraphy, and it is as unique to you as your fingerprints. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or look like someone else’s, so build chaos into your process.

Plus, you should enjoy it – keep it fun and relaxing. If at some point this is not the case, you can change it. Or you can try to find pleasure in filling out terribly formatted forms on your phone. Whatever works for you.

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