It seems like we are either born with an inclination towards neat, or messy penmanship, much like we are born with brown or blue eyes. However, having neat, legible handwriting is not only possible for almost everyone, but it’s also possible to change and improve even as an adult.
Why It’s Worth it to Improve your Everyday Penmanship
Writing by hand has fallen out of practice as the world has become more digital, but neat, legible handwriting is still incredibly useful. I still hand-write to-do and grocery lists, in birthday cards, and in my weekly planner and calendar.
My handwriting allows me to be efficient in my use of space, and is both uniform and easy to read. People know and recognize my handwriting. It stands out in the professional world and always was often complimented and acknowledged in school.
Improving your handwriting comes down to rewiring your reflexes and committing to transforming the writing style into a better outward representation of who you are and what is important to you.
How Change Your Messy Handwriting: 5 Step Process
It takes both motivation and self-discipline to change a physical reflex like your penmanship. You’ve been practicing the same movements for years, and it will take time and patience to re-learn certain letters and change messy or lazy handwriting habits.
I would love to say that I was gifted with beautiful writing habits, but I wasn’t. I would also love to say that I hold my pen the “right” way, but I don’t. At some point in high school I became determined to take control of my handwriting. I’ll go through the process I followed below.
1. Gather Inspiration
Look at examples of neat handwriting that you like. Look for specific letters or details of the script examples that stand out. Your handwriting probably won’t ever be exactly like someone else’s, but you can learn to imitate specific features.
I love the look of neat handwriting and I wanted to specifically emulate a couple details I noticed in one of my classmate’s writing: all of the lowercase letters were similar in height, giving the writing a very uniform look, and it always seemed to flow in a straight line across the page, even when there were no lines provided.
2. Start Small
Most messy handwriting has a few neat letters hidden inside. Everyone will have letters that are a struggle, and you’ll want to start by picking out one or two of those letters to start working on.
For me, it was the lowercase letter “a” and the uppercase letter “G.” I remember seeing how other people wrote the letter “a” and wanting mine to be more like that. I chose the letter “G” because mine lacked structure, and was (in my opinion) very plain and unattractive.
Starting out, I regularly practiced writing the letter the way I wanted it to look over and over on a sheet of paper. I also started to be intentional about stopping to write the letter in the “new” way whenever I went to use it throughout the day.
3. Find Creative Ways to Practice
Once I was more comfortable with using my “new” letters, I’d find creative ways to practice using them. Sometimes it meant writing a note to a friend, or writing more often in a journal/planner.
The key was that every time I forgot to use my “new” letter, I’d go back and erase or cross out the word with the “old” letter in it and rewrite it. This helped my brain to latch onto both the look of the new letter, and it was a physical way of saying “I don’t do that anymore.”
4. Start to Spread the Change
As I was focusing on changing the “a” and the “G,” it seemed that some of my less troublesome letters started to change a bit on their own. My “t” was straighter, my “r” was more defined, even my “b’s” and “d’s” started to look a lot neater.
I started focusing not only on using my “new” letters, but writing all my words with more intention. It does slow you down a bit, but I promise it is worth the effort! You’ll get your speed back as your new reflexes and habits sink in.
5. Continue to Challenge Yourself
Once I was using the updated “a” and the “G” without thinking about it, I moved on to other letters that I wanted to improve. For me, this meant adapting all the letters in my name until I was happy with the way they looked (we do write our name more often than most words!).
Then, taking a look at how I wrote certain numbers (my math assignments soon looked more organized and were much easier to read!).
Print vs Cursive vs Calligraphy & Decorative Lettering
Did I mention that I ALWAYS write in print? I chose in high school to improve and embrace my printed handwriting. However, I completely understand that many of you may be looking to improve your cursive. This is a whole battle on its own and one that I have only just begun to work on.
Printed handwriting will always be my go-to, as it is what I have branded myself with from all those years ago, but I have also developed a love for decorative lettering and calligraphy