How to improve Handwriting ? l Gujarati l : My handwriting has been deteriorating for at least a decade, but last year was a tipping point. My brain seemed to stop connecting to my pen; I found myself missing out letters and scrawling in handwriting that was often illegible, my hand aching from the effort. It was better when I was eight years old.
How to improve Handwriting ? l Gujarati l
once a calligrapher-in-residence at the V&A, gives handwriting lessons to adults, and believes it is perfectly possible, even in adulthood, to change your style completely and adopt, say, an italic hand – although all I’m after are techniques to improve its legibility, make it more attractive on the page, and lessen the discomfort. In a 90-minute introductory class, Cherrell assessed my writing and set me homework. It made an immediate difference, but real change takes daily practice. Here’s what I learned:
1. Choose the right pen
Before you write a word, think about your pen. I usually write with a thin Hi-Tec rollerball, but Cherrell thinks I might have more control with my writing if I try a thicker barrelled pen, which will help to extend the fingers and loosen my super-tense grip (hence my aching hands). We work our way through a range of brightly coloured ergonomic pens meant for young children. A lurid orange pen by Stabilo with a dimpled grippy barrel and a medium to slow ink flow feels perfect. My hand relaxes and when I start to write, the letters flow across the page.
2. Check your posture
Sit with your back straight, feel flat on the floor, legs uncrossed. Relax your hand and arm. Shake your hand until it feels floppy. Breathe. Many children curve their arm around the page while writing, but handwriting benefits from sitting up straight, with your forearm resting on the table, so that the arm moves the fingers rather than the wrist.
3. Pick the right paper
Write on lined paper, but make sure the lines aren’t too narrow: Cherrell advises that writing much larger than normal helps to make sure letters are formed properly. You can shrink it down again when things have improved. A thick pad may distort your posture, so tear a few pages out or use a thinner pad. I started with traditional school writing paper, which has lines to make sure the body of the letter is formed correctly with the right height for ascenders and descenders.
4. Slow down
Cherrell says I write much too fast, probably because I’m trying to keep up with the speed I can type. Unless you are in an exam and forced to rush, there’s no need to write at a galloping speed. Letter formation takes care.
5. Examine your writing
Take a sheet of lined paper and write the alphabet, aiming to join every letter. Focus on which letters you have the most trouble with. Do your Os look like Qs, or vice versa? Are some letters not properly formed? Perhaps your a and g are left open at the top, so they can be confused with u or y. Circle the letters you’re not happy with and work on improving those. Does your handwriting slope backwards or forwards, or is it upright? A traditional hand-writing style slopes slightly forwards so it guides the reader’s eye in the direction they are reading.
6. Check the heights of your letters
Letters must be the correct height in relation to each other – if the height of your letters are wrong, your writing will be difficult to read. My ascenders and descenders are all over the place. My letter k, for example, has a tiny ascender, while my g , j and y have massive descenders that invade the line below, making my writing look cramped. Cherrell made me practice each letter again and again until I’d got it right.
7. Let yourself doodle
Making relaxing scribbles on a page will help your writing style, by training your hand and eye to work together, and also teaching your pen to skim across the page smoothly and easily. Use spare moments to practise this – it’s actually strangely relaxing.
8. Copy handwriting you like
If you particularly admire a different style, get some tracing paper and start to copy it – the more you imitate a particular way of writing, the easier it will be to bring elements of that into your own script.
9. Start a journal
Starting a daily journal will give you a reason to practise your handwriting every day – if only for five minutes. Little and often is best.
“Your handwriting will change,” says Cherrell, “but sometimes it looks worse before it gets better. Your spelling may also go to pot as the artistic side of your brain takes over temporarily. Don’t worry if your writing looks childish at first. Once you get the letter formation right, then you can start to reintroduce more character into your style.”