Ask LH: How Can I Learn To Write More Neatly?

Ask LH: How Can I Learn To Write More Neatly?

Hi Lifehacker, Do you have any suggestions for learning how to write more neatly? As an adult it seems difficult to find tutors or classes that specialise in neatness for handwriting — there are plenty for children though. Is it just a matter of getting a blank exercise book and writing every day? Thanks, Mr Scribble

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Dear Mr Scribble,

I’m probably the last person you should be asking about this — my penmanship has always been rubbish. In high school, I was actually granted extra time to complete the H.S.C examinations due to my glacially slow handwriting. I now do the majority of my written communication via computer, which has probably made things even worse.

The first question you need to ask yourself is: does the legibility of my handwriting really matter? The move to email and text messaging has rendered handwriting far less important than it used to be. Unless your job involves lots of note sharing, there are arguably better skills you could be honing in your spare time.

With that said, studies have shown that practicing your handwriting can improve cognitive abilities. Physically writing out letters requires a little more work from your brain than typing, and that extra work is supposed to keep your mind sharp:

Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age. There’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small.

If you’re determined to improve the neatness of your writing, one option is to look into calligraphy classes. This is a text-based form of art relating to expressive, harmonious, and skillful writing. As such, it’s better suited to formal letters than general note-taking but it will give your writing a boost in elegance (and legibility) when required.

A quick Google search should pull up some courses in your area and there are also several online tutorials available. A good place to start is the Australian Society of Calligraphers website which includes a workshop calendar.

For improvements to everyday handwriting, have you tried writing with your shoulders? According to PaperPenalia founder Dyas A. Lawson, the key to better penmanship has nothing to do with finger control but is instead related to the placement of your shoulders:

People who inevitably have trouble with handwriting and calligraphy write with their fingers. They “draw” the letters. A finger-writer puts the full weight of his/her hand on the paper, his fingers form the letters, and he picks his hand up repeatedly to move it across the paper as he writes. People for whom writing comes more easily may rest their hands fairly heavily on the paper, but their forearms and shoulders move as they write. Their writing has a cadence that shows they’re using at least some of the right muscle groups. They don’t draw the letters with their fingers; the fingers serve more as guides.

You can find additional handwriting tips in PaperPenalia’s in-depth guide. Another site worth checking out is Lifehacker favourite Udemy, which provides a selection of handwriting courses among its many offerings. For example, the Improve your Handwriting – Improve your Life course includes 54 online lectures suitable for students at the business and academic level.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I once wrote a note to my sons school and they were convinced my son had written it. My wife had to tell them that Yes, her husband does write and spell like a 7 year old. I’m not too fussed….thats why people invented Email and spell checker…..

    • Messy handwriting is one thing, but if you spell like a 7 year old, maybe you should be sitting in on some of your son’s classes.

  • Write at every opportunity that you can.
    My handwriting is rubbish but I went to uni for a few years and hand wrote pages of notes from lectures and during exam study instead of using a laptop. I found my writing improved massive amounts.

    It has been years since uni now and I’m pretty sure that my writing is back to being rubbish again.

    • I found my handwriting got worse at uni. I was always in a rush when I had to write something out – it was usually notes in a lecture/tutorial which usually ran very quickly. Tutorial assignments etc were usually solving maths/engineering problems, so the art of handwriting was usually lost there and reports were typed up in word…

  • I wanted to improve my hand writing skills too. So I bought myself a cheap but nice fountain pen. A couple of nice inks, and just started writing things down more. I’ve been doing basic italic practice, however I’m developing my own style of flourishes that I can use to make my words look nicer.
    If you really want to see improvements in your writing. I suggest you go for an Italic nib pen.
    It’s much easier to spot improvements, also I’ve found that use using a 1.1mm italic for everyday writing, it makes it looks 100% better than a Medium or Fine Nib.
    The pen that use is a Lamy Safari AL and it has a converter.
    Fountain pens are cheap to get into, however I’m finding that it quickly becomes expensive you start to find all the cool coloured inks there are, and nice looking pens.
    Don’t even get started on flex, semi-flex or soft nibs…. >_>

  • As a left hander my hand writing left much to be desired but when I went to teachers college we learnt linked script (the latest thing at the time) and my hand writing improved out of sight.

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