Improve Your Handwriting by Slowing Down the Pace

From time to time, you need to write something by hand for someone else to read: a note, a notice, a greeting card. And, if you are like a lot of people from whom we have received notes, notices or greeting cards, sometimes it comes out illegible. We’ve presented many methods to improve your handwriting, but before you try them, just try to slow it down, damn it .

Your typical cursive handwriting is optimized for speed. This is in order to jot down thoughts as quickly as possible, and it should only be readable to you, usually to decipher them. And when you’re taking notes or writing something creative or journaling, speed matters, so you sacrifice some legibility. This is the handwriting you need most of the time, so this is the default mode.

But when you write a note for someone else to read, your muscle memory kicks in and you jot down the note at top speed. You defeat the purpose of the note. You might think that you just have “bad handwriting,” but aside from a disability, you can fix it if you just slow down.

I assume this is “mindfulness”? Just, do you understand, pay attention to the purpose of your actions? It seems obvious, but it doesn’t have to be, because the most famous bad handwriting comes from doctors, people whose handwriting can literally kill someone .

Slow handwriting will obviously take longer. I rewrote an excerpt from Jorge Louis Borges’ Library of Babel at my usual writing speed, then slowed down again for legibility. The slow version is ugly, but at least I would not hesitate to write it on a greeting card.

The first transcription took 2:10, the second 2:47: an increase of 28%. Your increase in time may be more or less, but this is probably a bearable difference, in most cases you are writing by hand for someone else.

If writing slowly drives you crazy or interrupts your thought process, write a draft with your hand for notes, and then transcribe it. In most cases, communication improves with a second draft.

Before the advent of typewriters and computers, all important information had to be handwritten. Library catalog cards, for example, need to be readable to a wide audience. Thus, librarian Melville Dewey (decimal) developed a system of readable handwriting . The speed varied widely:

One cataloguer spent three and a half minutes writing by hand, and almost 12 minutes on cataloging hand. But the other took three and a half minutes in the writing hand and four and a half minutes in the catalog hand. And the time saved by librarians who used to mistake 3 for 5 was invaluable.

This is 29–243% more. So be glad you are not handwriting the library catalog, except when you are writing photographs.


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