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#1
Old 01-12-2014, 01:17 PM
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Why is female handwriting different from male handwriting?

Obviously, I'm not the first one to come up with this observation, but I find it remarkable that you can tell with a high degree of certainty if the author of a handwritten text is a woman or man. Is there a scientific explanation for this?
#2
Old 01-12-2014, 02:16 PM
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Smaller hands, perhaps. Also (as a generalization with many exceptions) women tend to be more concerned that things should look neat and pretty than men are.
#3
Old 01-12-2014, 02:53 PM
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I'm a woman with big hands and "manly" handwriting. I wouldn't be surprised if hand size had something to do with it.

My handwriting has always seemed more pointy and less round and flowing than other women.
#4
Old 01-12-2014, 03:32 PM
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They say that girls' fine motor skills (e.g. being able to hold and guide a pencil) tend to develop earlier than boys'. I suppose this could be a factor.
#5
Old 01-12-2014, 03:45 PM
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I believe a lot of it is social pressure to write "pretty." Women may have smaller hands, but that doesn't explain the whole dotting i's with hearts thing.
#6
Old 01-12-2014, 03:52 PM
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Social pressure, and it is going away. I have taught high school for ten years, and in that time I've seen a distinct convergence between male and female handwriting. I think its because handwriting is taught less and less each year in the younger grades, so there is less and less positive social reinforcement for "good" handwriting, and especially for "feminine" handwriting. You still have neat handwriting (or printing) but it tends to be evenly distributed; I think that all the remaining neat writers are the people who just intrinsically like things to be neat, and they are equally common among men and women.
#7
Old 01-12-2014, 03:53 PM
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Most of us develop our handwriting when we are quite young.

Is there really that much of a difference between the sizes of the hands of five-year-old boys and girls? And certainly a five-year-old boy's hand is smaller than most adult women's hands?
#8
Old 01-12-2014, 03:53 PM
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Also, language use varies by gender, as well. Girls are socialized to talk like women, and boys to talk like men. I wonder if kids unconsciously adjust their writing habits in similar ways.
#9
Old 01-12-2014, 04:29 PM
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Girls show both better innate and learned aptitudes in this respect.
#10
Old 01-12-2014, 05:17 PM
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In my generation (born 1974) I saw quite a bit of gender stereotyping going on which encouraged girls to have neat writing and boys to have messy writing. Not only would teachers return a girl's paper with a note that it needed to be rewritten for legibility when it was already neater than a boy's, but the students themselves disparaged boys who wrote legibly as "gay" or "writes like a girl". This encourages boys to write worse.
Quote:
Children’s stereotypes about writing from a Yahoo online discussion forum - 2008
(female response) “Well I know this guy in one of my classes and he writes like a girl. If his name wasn't on his paper you'd think it was a girls paper lol.
I guess it just depends on that persons personality.
People often tell me I write neat which sucks because whenever we do a project or expirement my whole table tells me to do the writing part.”

(male response) “I got really neat and pretty and cursive writing, but if I used that kind of writing in school, some people might call me gay and stuff, so I used my messy writing instead, by using that way, it's better for everybody!”
It is also suspected that efforts to improve young boys' writing in terms of content and mechanics leaves little time or incentive for the teacher to insist they improve their handwriting.
Quote:
Concerns over the quality of boys’ writing at Key Stage 2 (aged 7 to11) DfES, 2003
Projects to improve boys’ writing performance often neglect the contribution of handwriting
Quotes from this Powerpoint, also available in a cached version, from the study,
"Gender and handwriting performance," Debra McCarney, Lynne Peters, Sarah Jackson, Marie Thomas, Amanda Kirby

Those observations absolutely ring true for my experiences as a student. When I was handed a paper back for rewrites, it was often for handwriting, as the content and grammar was already fine. The teacher needed to give me something to do while the other students were rewriting for clarity or to meet the other requirements of the assignment. So I developed pretty good handwriting through teacher insistence, even though my "unacceptable" handwriting was already better than most of the class.
#11
Old 01-12-2014, 06:47 PM
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Being a surviving victim of a Catholic school education 1958 - 1971, for a long time, my handwriting was identical to that of all my classmates. We were taught "the Palmer Method, and all departures from the accepted style were cause for points removed from any grade we received.

A couple of moths ago, I wrote a work order for a service call. The woman for whom I performed this service asked what school I had attended. She had gone to the parish school just to the south of mine at about the same time.

She had also learned the Palmer Method....
#12
Old 01-14-2014, 03:52 AM
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I wonder if education level has something to do with it as well? I have a female doctor that writes everything in chicken scratch.


Also, I work with several people from Africa. I don't know if it's a fluke or what but every one of them (guys and gals) writes absolutely beautifully. Seriously, you just want to take whatever the hell the wrote and hang it up on a wall.

Last edited by Grrr!; 01-14-2014 at 03:53 AM.
#13
Old 01-14-2014, 05:22 AM
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The length of the index finger compared to the ring finger (known as the 2D:4D ratio) is generally higher in males than females due to prenatal exposure to testosterone.

In both sexes the ring finger is usually longer than the index finger, but measuring how much longer can be used as a rough way to estimate the level of androgen exposure an embryo received in the womb.

While certainly not conclusive, at least one study (PDF) found a correlation between handwriting differences between the sexes and the 2D:4D ratio of the right hand (but interestingly, not the left). Like almost all human sex differences this biological difference may be just one part of the question. Biology, cultural influences, expression of sexual identity, and other factors probably influence this difference in handwriting in much the same way they influence the difference between the body movements of a female when walking versus those of a male and any number of other generally consistent differences.

Quote:
The relationships between the triumvirate of handwriting, sex roles and hormones indicate that in women, at least, prenatal hormones influence both sex role identification and the femininity of their handwriting.
#14
Old 01-14-2014, 07:48 AM
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from what i have seen, women have had bubble y hand writing, dont ask me why
#15
Old 01-14-2014, 08:30 AM
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I recall at primary school, spending a lot of time practicing a particular handwriting style. Me and my friends would compare and steal aspects of each other's handwriting.

I wonder if other women on the board did the same?
#16
Old 01-14-2014, 02:17 PM
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Yes, I remember there was a handwriting fad in 3rd grade when all the girls in my class deliberately started making the same weird lowercase "S" (like this**).

As an adult, I stole a neat way of writing the word "of" from one of my college professors, in which he made it look like a tadpole (like this**).



**I feel compelled to say, "Please excuse my handwriting in these examples -- I awkwardly used my mouse to write this."
#17
Old 01-14-2014, 03:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
It is also suspected that efforts to improve young boys' writing in terms of content and mechanics leaves little time or incentive for the teacher to insist they improve their handwriting.
And actually, the rest of the post: Putting it kindly, this differs so wildly from my experience as to make me question what planet you (or I) came from.

My cursive writing was essentially identical from the moment I learned it to about a year into college (long story, had to resort to really badly formed printing which I prefer to this day). It was neither beautiful and thus subject to ridicule by my peers, who I can't imagine ever giving a damn about my penmanship, nor was it particularly wretched. My teachers always seemed to have time to tell me to write neater, and they wasted no opportunities to tell my my content and mechanics were shit. They were dedicated, I guess. If I try to write neatly today it is an easy match for my 4th grade penmanship. Funny story, my first college roommate, who is my best friend to this day, had handwriting that was indistinguishable from mine.
#18
Old 01-14-2014, 03:42 PM
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some examples of fine male script are John Hancock and Cletus Spuckler.
#19
Old 01-14-2014, 04:01 PM
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I have long but very thin fingers (my mother in law calls them "pianist hands") and very good handwriting, for a man. I'm going with hand size.
#20
Old 01-14-2014, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandra_nz View Post
I recall at primary school, spending a lot of time practicing a particular handwriting style. Me and my friends would compare and steal aspects of each other's handwriting.

I wonder if other women on the board did the same?
As a dedicated tomboy, I did this but in the opposite--that is to say, I looked at the way the girls were writing, and did my best not to write like that. I always disliked the big round "loopy" girl-style writing. That said, I did pride myself on my neat handwriting when I was a kid. Nowadays anything I write by hand looks like a drunken spider fell into an inkwell and then staggered across the page.

I did, however, go through a period where I write my Ss like gallows fodder did. I also wrote (and actually still do) my lowercase Fs like an upside down/backward 4, and my capital Ts like 7s.
#21
Old 01-14-2014, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandra_nz View Post
I recall at primary school, spending a lot of time practicing a particular handwriting style. Me and my friends would compare and steal aspects of each other's handwriting.

I wonder if other women on the board did the same?
Quote:
Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
Yes, I remember there was a handwriting fad in 3rd grade when all the girls in my class deliberately started making the same weird lowercase "S" (like this**).
We had the same lowercase "s" fad in my elementary school. We also had the bubble writing fad and the skinny writing fad.

I'd guess that some of it is learned behavior that was re-inforced by peers (and to a certain extent teachers).
#22
Old 01-14-2014, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by The Great Sun Jester View Post
And actually, the rest of the post: Putting it kindly, this differs so wildly from my experience as to make me question what planet you (or I) came from.
She came from the same one I did, although in my case my teachers basically gave up on doing anything to "neaten" my handwriting. They graded me down for "bad presentation" but never explained how to improve it. Of course they couldn't, as the same presentation would have been perfectly acceptable from a boy.

* Boys learned "tilted" handwriting (which turns out to be what comes naturally to me) but girls were taught to write with vertical lines and round circles, rather than slopes and ovals. Even after the two schools merged¬, being tilted was still one of the things that made my handwriting unacceptable.
* I am a lefty trained as righty. My strongest hand and the one that's got better coordination is the left, but the one that's got greater dexterity thanks to the training is the right. This wrecks havok with any skill that required both dexterity and coordination (writing, sewing, most crafts).
* Story told before, my first encounter with sexism as something which applied to me was overhearing a conversation between two teachers: they were going over some students' written work; he asked why a certain report had been graded lower than others of similar quality; she answered it was because "that handwriting, it's horrible!" "Horrible? It's perfectly readable!" "Well, it... it would be all right if it was a boy, I guess, but it's a girl!"



¬ When I moved to town, the nuns had K-12, with K co-ed and the rest girls only; the Jesuits had 1-12, boys only. When I was in 2nd grade the two schools re-shuffled: nuns K-8 co-ed, Jesuits 9-12 co-ed.

Last edited by Nava; 01-14-2014 at 04:51 PM.
#23
Old 01-14-2014, 04:51 PM
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This thread is confusing me. Are people actually suggesting that women have better handwriting?! All their letters are touching! You can't tell where one letter stops and the next begins!
#24
Old 01-14-2014, 06:35 PM
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Those are thighs.
#25
Old 01-14-2014, 08:25 PM
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I'm telling you guys, I have a pile of essays in my bag right now that you couldn't sort into genders to save your life. It's cultural, and it's dissolving.
#26
Old 01-14-2014, 09:44 PM
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This is an interesting thread. Have there been any studies of the handwriting of gays, lesbians, tomboys, sissies, Bronies, transvestites, transgender people, etc.?

If handwriting is psychological, one might expect to see some gay men who write more like women. If it is mostly due to physical body proportions, not so much.
#27
Old 01-15-2014, 03:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
I'm telling you guys, I have a pile of essays in my bag right now that you couldn't sort into genders to save your life. It's cultural, and it's dissolving.
And Hallellujah praise the Lord, the Lady, the Spaghetti Monster, the Rainbow Fairy and the little men who live in mushrooms! It was a pain in the ass to deal with.
#28
Old 01-15-2014, 04:18 AM
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Actually the sex/gender of the writer was never something you could tell from handwriting with any degree of accuracy.
#29
Old 01-15-2014, 05:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarity N. Suze View Post
Actually the sex/gender of the writer was never something you could tell from handwriting with any degree of accuracy.
There are quite a few credible published studies indicating that is incorrect. Do you have some basis for this belief other than personal opinion?
#30
Old 01-15-2014, 12:20 PM
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So no one is going to bring up graphology? Study of personality based on handwriting? I think much of it is woo, but certainly there is some psychological component to how we choose to construct our letters. My wife's grandfather was quite into graphology and she would provide samples of her classmates' writing and he would give some pretty interesting psych profiles -- sometimes spookily accurate.
#31
Old 01-15-2014, 01:26 PM
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I must have missed the legible handwriting aspect of being female. I struggled with it in grade school where 'neatness counted', and couldn't wait to get to high school where it no longer was part of your mark on an assignment.

As an adult, my handwriting is still so bad that unless I make a special effort or print in all capitals, even I can't read it sometimes.

My mother, a former teacher, has nice, easy to read handwriting. I seem to have inherited my father's chicken scratch.
#32
Old 01-16-2014, 02:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazyhorse View Post
There are quite a few credible published studies indicating that is incorrect. Do you have some basis for this belief other than personal opinion?
Yes. I took several graphology classes--they were more in the nature of forensic graphology--and this is one of the first things we learned.

There are tendencies, for instance, for women to adhere more strictly to standard penmanship forms, but that doesn't mean a man won't or a woman will.

But there is also a tendency (and it's been too long since I took these classes so no cite) for someone who knows and uses shorthand to also adhere more strictly to standard penmanship forms. More women knew and used shorthand as well.

Oddly enough, it's easier to tell someone's age, but that's more because of different standards of penmanship over the course of decades, except for young people and very old people.

I will say, if someone is dotting their is with little circles, or hearts, or (god forbid) happy faces, that person is probably female. But according to the people teaching the class, hardly anybody does this for very long.
#33
Old 01-16-2014, 03:16 AM
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Because girls are made of rainbows, sparkles and cute-bubbles.

Guys are made of things that smell vaguely of meat and hair, along with assorted bits of bleh.

This has profound effects on penmanship.
#34
Old 01-16-2014, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarity N. Suze View Post
Yes. I took several graphology classes--they were more in the nature of forensic graphology--and this is one of the first things we learned.

There are tendencies, for instance, for women to adhere more strictly to standard penmanship forms, but that doesn't mean a man won't or a woman will.

But there is also a tendency (and it's been too long since I took these classes so no cite) for someone who knows and uses shorthand to also adhere more strictly to standard penmanship forms. More women knew and used shorthand as well.

Oddly enough, it's easier to tell someone's age, but that's more because of different standards of penmanship over the course of decades, except for young people and very old people.

I will say, if someone is dotting their is with little circles, or hearts, or (god forbid) happy faces, that person is probably female. But according to the people teaching the class, hardly anybody does this for very long.
Most facets of graphology are considered to be pseudoscience and as far as I can tell there has never been proof of any ability to tell almost anything about a person's personality, state of mind, preferred occupation, etc. based on their handwriting.

Alongside this, scientists have noted that assessing gender based on handwriting can be done reliably at a rate far greater than chance would allow.

Obviously that doesn't mean 100% of the time. Most of the studies linked in the study I cited previously show success rates from 68% to 80% when people were asked to judge the gender of handwriting. That is a highly significant rate - the odds of it being mere chance that they were more successful than 50/50 are millions to one.
#35
Old 01-16-2014, 09:28 PM
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Forensic graphology is a different discipline from woo graphology: forensic graphology IS the scientific part. It's the one along the lines of "do these two bits of handwriting look like they come from the same person?", not the one about saying that the writer was bipolar, 6' tall and overweight.

Note that Hilarity's post contained the admission that some patterns do have a higher probability of being from a woman's hand... absent any "telling" signs, is it possible to tell? No, but then, a baby's sex can't be told unless you see relevant bits or there's some sort of cultural signage attached to their clothing. The thread is about the existence of those telling signs.

Last edited by Nava; 01-16-2014 at 09:31 PM.
#36
Old 01-16-2014, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
Note that Hilarity's post contained the admission that some patterns do have a higher probability of being from a woman's hand... absent any "telling" signs, is it possible to tell? No, but then, a baby's sex can't be told unless you see relevant bits or there's some sort of cultural signage attached to their clothing. The thread is about the existence of those telling signs.
Agreed, and my point is that those telling signs existed in 70%-80% of handwriting samples across the board, consistently, across dozens of published studies conducted over decades, using thousands of handwriting samples that were evaluated by tens of thousands of eyes and the presence of those telling signs and people's ability to recognize them wasn't just a fluke or random chance.

This was in response the statement:

"Actually the sex/gender of the writer was never something you could tell from handwriting with any degree of accuracy"

But it was something we could tell with up to an 80% degree of accuracy, even using samples of handwriting from other languages, cultures and alphabets.
#37
Old 01-17-2014, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
This is an interesting thread. Have there been any studies of the handwriting of gays, lesbians, tomboys, sissies, Bronies, transvestites, transgender people, etc.?

If handwriting is psychological, one might expect to see some gay men who write more like women. If it is mostly due to physical body proportions, not so much.
I can be your first data point. I'm a gay man who learned the Palmer Method back in the 50s. Of course over the years it changed, but I don't think I ever wrote "like a girl." And by the time I was in college I was printing everything. Today, on the rare occasions when I have to write something in cursive, it looks very "forced."

But I do have a unique (?) way of holding a pencil (or pen, paint brush, etc.). Rather than just the index finger resting on top, I add the middle finger, which is exerting slightly more pressure than the index finger. If I try to hold it "normally," I have less control. I don't remember a time when I held it differently, but I wonder why some teacher didn't get me to correct this. And I seriously doubt this has anything to do with sexuality.
#38
Old 01-17-2014, 02:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazyhorse View Post
There are quite a few credible published studies indicating that is incorrect. Do you have some basis for this belief other than personal opinion?
Maybe a significant proportion of those published studies had little hearts above the "i"'s when submitted for thesis review?

"^_^ Hi plz approve my study LOL kthxBYE ^_^"
#39
Old 01-17-2014, 02:34 PM
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It's gotta be the Corpus Callasum. Plain and simple.
#40
Old 01-17-2014, 02:41 PM
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Are there invariable anatomical differences between male and female hands?
#41
Old 01-17-2014, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Infovore View Post
That said, I did pride myself on my neat handwriting when I was a kid.
Penmanship was one of the subjects on our report card so yeah, it was important to me too.
#42
Old 01-18-2014, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Crazyhorse View Post
Agreed, and my point is that those telling signs existed in 70%-80% of handwriting samples across the board, consistently, across dozens of published studies conducted over decades, using thousands of handwriting samples that were evaluated by tens of thousands of eyes and the presence of those telling signs and people's ability to recognize them wasn't just a fluke or random chance.

This was in response the statement:

"Actually the sex/gender of the writer was never something you could tell from handwriting with any degree of accuracy"

But it was something we could tell with up to an 80% degree of accuracy, even using samples of handwriting from other languages, cultures and alphabets.
*sigh*

In my class, which was conducted under the auspices of an accredited university, about halfway through the class we were given samples--about 10 as I recall--and among other things, we had to determine whether the writer was male or female. We were only slightly better than chance, as a class, and this was due mostly to one or two samples that had obvious "female only" characteristics.

That said, the determination of the sex/gender of the writer is hardly ever at issue. What's at issue is: Here is a sample of (say) Patsy Ramsey's handwriting and a sample of an alleged ransom note. How likely is it that Patsy Ramsey is the writer of this ransom note? (An actual exercise, which tells you how long ago this was...)

And about half of us thought there was a greater than 75% chance that it WAS Patsy Ramsey's handwriting, and the other half thought differently.

However, almost everybody in the class noted that there was an obvious attempt to disguise the handwriting in the ransom note.

This kind of analysis is now performed by computers BTW. I think it could have been done by computers then but the results were not accepted by the courts.
#43
Old 01-18-2014, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Are there invariable anatomical differences between male and female hands?
Not in children. There is a change in size and shape of hands under the influence of testosterone during and after puberty, but a pre-purbetal boy's hand is indistinguishable from a pre-pubertal girl's hand.
#44
Old 01-19-2014, 06:07 PM
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All I know is that despite having a feminine appearance, digit ratio, and hand size, I've always been told I write 'like a boy'.

I always found writing neatly and regularly extremely difficult. We were forced to learn cursive and it was painful for me to try to write with flow, I only have control over a writing implement if I press hard and/or go very slowly. I had such finger calluses from trying to write neatly that my fingers looked deformed, and my hand would hurt all the time.

My father had similar difficulties as a child. We both resorted to an irregular but legible square, all-caps kind of chicken scratch, all short hard lines. Our handwriting looks very similar.
#45
Old 01-20-2014, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by longhair75 View Post
Being a surviving victim of a Catholic school education 1958 - 1971, for a long time, my handwriting was identical to that of all my classmates. We were taught "the Palmer Method, and all departures from the accepted style were cause for points removed from any grade we received.

A couple of moths ago, I wrote a work order for a service call. The woman for whom I performed this service asked what school I had attended. She had gone to the parish school just to the south of mine at about the same time.

She had also learned the Palmer Method....
I went to Catholic school in the 50s, and yes, I also learned the Palmer Method. We had templates with all the letters so that as we wrote we could check that we were forming the letters correctly.

My grandfather had beautiful copperplate handwriting. He was born in 1892, though, so I'm not sure if kids were rewarded more for good handwriting back then or if he was just neat.
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