For most of us, once we learn how to write by hand, handwriting becomes less of a focus area and we never try to actively improve it as we grow up.
The digital age has worsened that problem; more and more people are becoming obsessed with digital platforms and prefer the keyboard to a pen.
However, there are a lot of people who are still in love with pen and paper and the art that beautifully written text embodies. And… write things by hand out of necessity (i.e., university students). Whether you handwrite out of love or out of necessity, you don’t want your notes to look like footprints of a thousand insects.
Do you, now?
Handwriting isn’t just a form of communication, it’s unique and it is part of us. Your writing identifies you. Who wants to be associated with schlocky handwriting?
I know I don’t.
But we still find ourselves sometimes writing using bad handwriting. What if I told you that you could improve it?
Continue reading this post to see just how you can improve your handwriting.
Why Is My Handwriting Getting Bad?
Have you ever asked yourself why your handwriting is getting worse? There are two answers I can give you:
The first reason is… You are lazy! I admit that, sometimes, my heart wants to do something but my body does the complete opposite. It happens, procrastination and all. However, good handwriting—if you still write by hand—is essential and you just can’t let your laziness get the better of you or you risk forfeiting the benefits in the long run.
The second reason why your handwriting is getting bad is simply the lack of practice.
Laziness plays a part in this too but the computer has to share the blame since, nowadays, people do a lot of stuff (leisure or work-related) on their computers. If you’re not writing by hand, you’re not practicing. Simple.
Benefits of Writing Faster
There are plenty of significant benefits, especially for people who often take notes by hand. The benefits include the following:
- Increased automaticity: This means that you write using less concentration on your muscle movements and that lessens the load on your working memory. Instead of actively concentrating on the writing itself, you can instead focus on listening and thinking about what to write.
- Writing as fast as you think: Since you’ve increased automaticity, there’s an increase in the speed with which you can write your thoughts. Once you think of something to write, you can immediately write it down since your writing does not take up a lot of your working memory.
- Improved overall performance: If you’re doing tasks that require a lot of handwriting, your performance increases because you’re concentrating on important things other than the writing itself. This is even better if your assignments have time constraints since you have mastered the speed element of your writing.
What Are The Characteristics Of A Good Handwriting Style?
What’s good writing? Is it something that looks aesthetically pleasing? Is it functional?
Well, I don’t think we can objectively define good handwriting. However, there are generally accepted desirable qualities when it comes to handwriting. If the handwriting style possesses at least two of the three qualities (rapidity, legibility, and ease), it is likely going to be considered “good” by a lot of people.
Let’s look further into these three aspects.
One thing that determines the usefulness of handwriting is how fast it can be produced. We normally think and speak faster than we can put those words on paper (and sometimes, that gap leads to typos).
Sometimes, handwriting is used to take notes of random things. But if we use handwriting to record thoughts, we need to shorten the gap between the time we receive sensory information and the time we turn that information into our handwriting.
So, now you write faster but what you’re writing can’t be easily read. That’s no good, speed doesn’t matter if what is written cannot be read. Although the general perception might suggest that speed and legibility are always at opposite ends of a spectrum, that isn’t necessarily true. Actually, the two can exist in duality if the writer successfully manages to speed while forfeiting some inessential legibility elements.
This is a subjective element, and it somehow depends on the familiarity of the reader with the styles and letterforms used by the writer. If it’s a style that a reader isn’t familiar with, they might find it difficult to decode and conclude that it isn’t legible.
Bottom line? Not every style of handwriting is legible to everyone.
That being said, there are things you can do to increase the legibility of your handwriting.
- Use regular and familiar shapes. Using characters that a lot of readers are familiar with makes the handwriting more legible.
- Write using even spacing. The spacing used controls the rhythm and legibility of our writing to readers. When you use even spacing, the rhythm becomes sort of legato and makes the handwriting a bit easier to understand.
- Maintain a consistent slant. Whatever slant you choose, make it regular. You have to achieve a uniform appearance so that your writing doesn’t tire the eyes of the reader as they switch from one slant to another, on the same page.
The third characteristic of a good handwriting style is that it has to be fairly easy to create. One of the reasons why some types of calligraphy fell out of favor is because they require an above-average effort to create. Of course, they still look beautiful, but the laboriousness of their creation doesn’t serve our purposes.
Easy and useful handwriting takes less strain on the body to create, and this is especially important when you want to continuously write for a longer period. Now, I did a bit of research and I found out that using larger muscles (i.e., in your shoulder, chest, and back) actually helps ease the strain placed on your fingers, wrist, and forearm muscles. This, they say, reduces the so-called “writer’s cramp.”
I’m yet to prove that, but it just seems wonderfully ergonomic.
If you get some things right, writing becomes easy and you reserve mental energy, which can be used to improve legibility and speed. You have to get your posture, positioning, and lighting right, right enough to make handwriting as simple as possible.
Tips and Strategies for Improving Your Handwriting
1. Use a Comfy Pen
I don’t know why I used ‘comfy,’ but it seems to work. So, what do I mean by ‘a comfy pen’? Well, any pen that works for you.
The market is flooded with thousands of pens, and you are surely going to find one that works for you—whether it’s a gel pen, fountain pen, ballpoint pen, or whatever pen you feel is perfect for you.
I had to shop around and found some pens, and I thought, ‘well, if I like them, maybe they could too.’
Check them out:
1. The Pilot G2 05
2. Stabilo EASYoriganl Rollerball Pen
3. PILOT Dr. Grip Limited Refillable & Retractable Gel Ink Rolling Ball Pen
2. Maintain a Relaxed Grip
Get a grip on your
life pen! A nice, relaxed grip, actually. Instead of clutching your pen like a gorilla, relax all the muscles in your hand a bit, and make sure your fingernails aren’t overly squeezing the pen’s barrel.
If the way you hold your pen involves stressing a lot of your muscles (in your hand), you’ll end up having an achy hand, even if you just write for a few minutes.
3. Maintain Good Posture
Not only does maintaining good posture improve your writing speed, but it also helps you feel more comfortable while you write, thereby helping you maintain your health.
Don’t slouch over the paper while you write. Doing that will only put unnecessary strain on your arm, and that only makes it more difficult for you to write.
So what’s the ideal posture? Your feet should be resting flat on the floor, your hips and lower back must be supported by your seat, your knees should be bent at an angle of 90˚, your elbows should be slightly flexed, and your forearms have to rest comfortably on the desk.
To be able to maintain good posture, you must make sure that the height of the desk and the chair are set in a way that fits your height.
4. Practice Daily By Journaling
The most obvious and oldest trick in the book—practice makes perfect, right?
Since you’ll be writing down your thoughts most of the time, you can use some of your journaling sessions to improve your handwriting. Write slowly, and follow any calligraphy instructions available to you.
5. Pick the Right Paper
Writing on lined paper with properly spaced lines helps make sure that the body of the letter is correctly formed.
Alternatively, you can put a piece of notebook paper under printer paper, and you can use the notebook paper lines as guidelines for writing. The notebook paper also acts as padding.
6. Check the Heights of Your Letters
Get heights of your letters in relation to each other right. You can’t have your ascenders and descenders all over the place.
If you write tiny ascenders but, at the same time, you write longer descenders that go beyond the line below, your writing will look cramped, always.
You have to practice each letter over and over again until you get their heights right.
Handwriting vs. Typing: What’s the Best Method for Taking Notes
Should you write notes by hand or just type using a computer?
Simple question, complicated answer. To simplify that complicated answer, let me give you the pros and cons of both and you can decide for yourself; after all, you’re not going to type or handwrite all the time.
Studies seem to suggest that writing notes by hand helps you remember the material better than typing it. Writing by hand is ideal in scenarios where you are required to fully process the material as you write. Handwriting helps you get a conceptual understanding of the material you’re writing.
The flipside of writing things by hand is that it’s usually slow and not ideal for scenarios where you need to write fast enough to keep up with faster speakers.
Typing your notes is ideal when you have a lot of material that you need to write down in a short period. Typed notes are easier to edit, allow automated searches, and can be easily backed up on the cloud.
However, with typing, you end up processing less material than if you wrote them by hand. In addition, working on your computer or mobile phone presents way more distractions than handwriting.
Improving your handwriting requires finding a style and set of tools that work for you, and practicing, a lot!
If you’re studying or just want to journal your everyday life, handwriting is better than typing and you don’t have to come back to your journal or notebook only to be met by ugly notes,
Whatever you do, just make sure that good handwriting is fast, legible, and easy to write.