If you love to write, but your penmanship is poor, this article is for you.
Handwriting practice may sound like something children do in school, but as an adult, you can also practice and improve your handwriting.
Below we’ll explore how to improve handwriting skills with simple yet effective techniques.
Before we explore the techniques, let’s explore why your penmanship is not as refined as it should be.
Why is my handwriting so bad?
If your penmanship is poor, don’t worry.
Many people today struggle to write neatly with pen and paper. Using these writing utensils to craft beautiful letters and notes is a fading practice. Hand lettering has become a lost art form.
Living in the digital age means we rely less on traditional handwriting and opt for the more convenient typed word documents, emails, or text messages.
Lack of necessity
Given that we don’t need to handwrite as often as we used to, it makes sense that many of us lack a great handwriting style.
Neat handwriting is becoming less and less a necessity.
Lack of practice
If your penmanship is already poor, you may feel embarrassed when the time comes to put pen to paper, and that embarrassment or sense of inadequacy may stop you from practicing.
Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are the small movements the muscles in your hands and other small body parts can make.
Good handwriting is easy to learn when one’s fine motor skills are well developed.
Handwriting is more challenging for those with lesser or poorly developed fine motor skills.
Still, you’re far from a lost hope if your fine motor skills are poor.
Handwriting is a skill, and just like any other skill, it can be learned and developed – it may just take more practice.
How to improve your handwriting
First things first, write something by hand.
It helps to have an example of your own handwriting in front of you to analyze, audit, and explore. Give yourself plenty of material to work with rather than a mere line or two.
Write two paragraphs about anything at all. Write about the day you’ve had so far, your plans for the coming year, or something plain and simple like ‘My name is… I come from…’
Aim for two to three paragraphs; stop and take a look. Consider this your first draft, but you’re analyzing the lettering, not the story.
You can use the same text as you write your second and third drafts.
Take an audit of where you’re at by considering the following:
Are the lowercase letters the same height? Or do their heights vary? Is the top of ‘h’ as high as the top of ‘t’?
Could you draw a straight line under the letters without cutting them off? (Excluding letters that run below, such as p, j, y, g)
Do all letters slant the same way? Or do slants vary?
Is there consistent spacing between letters/words?
Have you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s?
Take a look at your text and ask yourself the above questions. This will show which aspects of your handwriting to work on.
Handwriting practice for adults
Once you’ve got some handwritten material ready and analyzed, try the following techniques for handwriting improvement.
1. Use lined paper
Practice makes perfect. Use lined paper to write the first draft. You may already be using paper with lines, such as a copybook.
You can find paper with extra lines for lowercase height matching. These are often found in classrooms for children to practice early writing but can be used by anyone who wants to improve their writing style.
You can also find adult practice sheets online or in print.
2. Try different writing instruments
One reason your handwriting may be poor and slightly related to motor skills is the feel of a pen or pencil in your hand.
Explore different writing utensils to get a feel of every medium available. There are many types of pens with different weights, intensities, and textures in contact with the paper. Try ballpoint pens, gel pens, and fountain pens.
The type and quality of the paper can also make a difference.
Some paper isn’t pleasant to write on, while others are smooth and welcoming of the pen.
The type and quality of the writing utensil matter for many people, especially those of us with heightened sensitivity to textures.
3. Repeat letters and words
You don’t have to write in a particular style to have good handwriting.
More important than the style is consistency in whatever you choose to write.
If you like to write with slanted letters, that’s fine, but slant all your letters. Likewise, if you want vertical letters, stay vertical.
To improve your consistency, repeat letters and short words on the page. Repetition is a fantastic learning tool.
The more repetitive, the less you need to focus on the word itself, and the more you can tune into how it feels to write. You’re free to notice the sensations of all the letters, lines, swirls, etc.
4. Practice traditional calligraphy
Perhaps the best way to improve your handwriting is to go to the source and learn traditional calligraphy.
This might seem daunting if you already lack confidence in your writing style, but practicing as a beginner can be a fun way to learn a new skill while improving your overall handwriting.
You can also try hand-lettering, the art of drawing letters in a particular style but freely, not structured or traditional (still consistent).
5. Write in another language
If you’re already learning another language, try handwriting what you know.
You will take extra caution with each word because your brain will need time to process the language (if you’re a beginner or intermediate speaker).
Challenging the brain to write neatly while also thinking about the language will activate brain areas that improve learning.
6. Try different handwriting styles
Experiment with different styles of writing. Try different degrees of slant, or play with print versus cursive writing.
Your handwriting struggles may stem from discomfort with a particular style. The more you write, the more you’ll develop your handwriting style.
Handwriting does not need to be a particular style. As mentioned earlier, consistency is most important.
Feel free to enjoy the pleasure of swirling a ‘y’ or dotting your i’s with a heart (best kept for informal circumstances!)
7. Mimic handwriting that you like
If you’ve seen a style of handwriting that makes you think, ‘wow, that’s so pretty and neat,’ copy it.
Practice writing different types of text in this style.
Over time and with consistent practice, you’ll start to feel that you naturally write in the style of your handwriting inspiration.
8. Write daily
The best way to improve your handwriting is to write as much as possible. There are many opportunities to write throughout your day, such as:
- Journaling, intention-setting
- Keeping a bullet journal for tasks and goals
- Handwritten notes for your loved ones
- Grocery lists
- Interesting thoughts and ideas that come to mind
- Thank you notes
- Reference notes in books
- Letters to friends or strangers (you don’t have to send them!)
- Write personal craft books or resources, such as family recipe books or instructions for household tools and machines
Consistency is key when it comes to improving any skill. Take all the opportunities you can in your day to write and practice.
The benefits of writing by hand
The following are just some of the many benefits of handwriting:
Handwriting has a positive effect on the brain
We teach children handwriting skills in school – from how to hold a pencil properly to writing within the appropriate lines. But why is it necessary to instill this skill at such a young age?
According to research, handwriting does improve brain health and development.
Similarly, one may wonder about mathematics when we don’t seem to use Pythagoras’ theorem or equations daily. Still, mathematics and handwriting activate the brain in ways that improve its function and are critical in learning environments.
From MRI research on scans of children during handwriting, Dr. Karin James and colleagues found that handwriting activates and engages areas of the brain associated with working memory, learning, reading, and language processing.
As adults, we still benefit from frequent and functional use of these brain regions.
Handwriting boosts creativity
Engaging in the physical act of writing by hand gives your body a definite, repetitive task to do, which frees your mind to wander and explore.
We tend to type fast, but a hand’s slow, rhythmic writing helps us focus and organize our thought processes in a way that allows us to see through them. Then there is space for creativity, inspiration, realization, and play.
Handwriting can be a mindful practice
You may notice this naturally the more you practice, but hand lettering can offer a profoundly soothing, mindful experience.
The rhythm and flow, the texture of the pen on paper, your breathing, and the sensations that come with the activity are all noticeable as you enter your flow. Handwriting can help you feel grounded in the present moment, even if you’re writing about something from the past.
Having such a mindful experience while journaling lends to even deeper self-awareness, inner calm, and objectivity about whatever it was you wrote down.
Given the benefits of handwriting and the fact it is entirely possible to improve upon, why not practice? Add to the list of benefits above the confidence that comes from learning a new skill, especially something so personal!
When learning to improve your handwriting feels like a chore, don’t let that stop you. Learn at your own pace and write in a way that makes you enjoy writing. Maximize the writing utensils available in the market.
Get creative with funny stories or personal reflections and, most importantly, enjoy the experience.