For many, the tradition of crafting a letter with pen and paper has become a rare event. You might scribble a handwritten note in a birthday or thank you card or sign your name on a document, but beyond that, most school assignments and office work are digital. Typing has all but taken the place of writing.
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That said, we stand firmly by the belief that nothing can replace the individual personality and emotion expressed in sentiments penned by a friend. There’s just something about a handwritten letter.
But if you were to write a letter today, would anyone be able to read it? If not, perhaps you need to examine the way you are writing and the tool you are using. Believe it or not, some pens make it easier to write neatly and legibly.
What is good handwriting?
Beautiful penmanship is a combination of visual features that make each letter and word consistently easy to recognize.
Correct letter shape
First and foremost, the letters need to be formed correctly. It is satisfying to develop your own unique writing style, but irregularly forming letters makes them more challenging to decipher. Make sure that your…er…creativity isn’t interfering with legibility. The loops and lines that make up each letter are specific to that letter. Remembering to close the loops in letters fully can make the difference between seeing an "a" or a "u."
Once you have mastered letter formation, consistency is the next hurdle. Consistency in each letter's size, the thickness of the lines, and the spacing between letters all make words easier to read. When we learn to read, we use visual cues such as the height of a letter and the spacing between letters to determine where words and sentences begin and end.
In an effort to make cursive writing appear fancy, it is possible to add too much style and personality. Extra curves, loops, and excess slant can be confusing to a reader. Taken to the extreme, these elements can distort letters or even give the illusion of extra letters that aren't really there.
What causes poor penmanship?
There are a few reasons for poor handwriting. You may be holding the pen with an awkward grip or at a weird angle. Your posture may be less than ideal. All of these elements contribute to the ability to write legibly.
However, in some cases, handwriting can be difficult to read simply because the writer used a cheap writing implement. Sometimes you don't have a choice in what pen you use. We have all grabbed one out of the jar at the dentist's office to sign a receipt only to find it is nearly out of ink or drops great globs of ink on the paper. These poor-quality pens are frustrating to use, and the words they write, impossible to read.
Other common ballpoint pens require pressure to get the ink to the paper. The more force needed to write, the harder one must grip the pen. This tight grip on the pen leads to tension and fatigue in the small muscles of the hand. When these muscles are tired, it is difficult to write well.
Holding the pen improperly can also lead to poor penmanship. You should never feel like you have to squeeze the pen to get it to write. Try to maintain a loose grip between your thumb and forefinger roughly one inch from the pen's tip and rest it on your middle finger near the fingernail. The pen's shaft should rest near the knuckle of the index finger and not on the thumb. This grip should allow you to engage larger arm muscles for writing instead of the small muscles in your fingers and hand that grow tired quickly.
What type of pen will help me write better?
No one type of pen will fix your handwriting. Every person is different, and the pen that they find most comfortable and useful will vary from individual to individual. However, there are types of pens that tend to be easier to use, especially if you find your hand is easily fatigued.
While these pens may sound old fashioned, expensive, or too hoity-toity, there are entry-level options that you might try. Most newer models take cartridges or bottled ink, making them more convenient than older pens.
Pens like a Kaweco or Aurora fountain pen are an excellent first choice for a few different reasons. Because they don't release ink as quickly as a ballpoint pen, they force you to slow down your writing speed. Writing more slowly can help you concentrate on forming each letter deliberately, giving you more control over letter shape.
Fountain pens also require less pressure to write. In fact, the weight of the pen itself is often adequate. With less force required, you are free to loosen your grip on the pen and relax your hand. Some fountain pens feature a wider body and an ergonomic grip designed to improve your writing technique.
Situated between a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen, you may find that a rollerball works well for you. These pens feature a ball mechanism that transfers ink to the nib of the pen. However, rollerball pen ink is thinner than regular ballpoint ink. Thus, these pens also require less pressure to operate. The thinner ink also allows the pen closer contact with the writing surface, giving you more control of your strokes. Rollerball pen tips vary in size. The smaller the tip, the thinner the lines it produces. Fine tip pens are especially desirable if your handwriting is small or contains fine details.
Improving your handwriting can be a daunting task to undertake. Any improvement will take time and practice. However, you may find that your penmanship improves in less time than you thought possible with the right pen.