Thursday, September 15, 2011

Handwriting Theories

Handwriting. It's an issue that constantly comes up in school. If it's deemed poor, you are constantly chided for it and told to write neater for both rational and irrational reasons.

Whenever people rag on me about my handwriting, it's mostly people who write neatly. I've been told that it looks like I'm lazy when I write like I do and that it sends the wrong impression. I've been told that girls should have neat handwriting. I've been told that it's chickenscratch and utterly terrible (which is, I admit, deserved most of the time) and that I should practice writing better even when I've written the best I can and when I'm writing a story/poem that I don't have to hand in.

Okay so a few teachers told me in my life that my handwriting made me look bad, spewing some crap about "attention to detail" and how it makes me look less intelligent. Over the years and after persistent nagging from my seventh grade reading teacher (who was awesome but nuts about organization, which I also suck at), my handwriting has improved and when I write schoolwork I do my best to write slowly, which has helped me in more ways than the handwriting issue.

I'll address that theory first, because it's the one that I most frequently stumble upon. Many of the teachers who have said this to me have been teaching for quite a while, meaning they've come across quite a bit of students. I'm surprised that they haven't been enlightened already on the topic already. Yes, most of the slacker boys do have terrible handwriting. Yet on the other end of the spectrum, I've found that most very intelligent people in history and that I've come across do too. Look at Leonardo da Vinci, Sylvia Plath (some copies of her pre-revision poems written in her hand are included in my edition of Ariel in the second portion of the book), Albert Einstein. Their handwriting sucked. I've looked back on my old stuff and it makes mine look like flowing script.

Drawing conclusions from handwriting is ridiculous and teachers really should know better. You could draw multiple conclusions from a person's handwriting but it is hardly an indicator of their intelligence level.

There's a certain type of people who write neatly (and who, to some, "pay attention to detail') who really bother me and who I feel really should be called on what they're doing too For them if you look beyond their beautiful handwriting, you'll find that their papers lack content and that they wrote extra neatly because they were trying to buy time to think of an answer. That they focus more on the cutesy stuff than the important things. I'm sure that some of them do this purposely to make up for that fact so the teachers give them more points than they deserve. The reason that many intelligent people have terrible handwriting is that they are trying to get their hand to make the pace of their thoughts. With the type of people I mentioned here, they tend to think more slowly therefore able to write neater.

I actually kind of used that tactic once. In my seventh grade science class, my teacher called me up to his desk. I went up thinking that I forgot a problem or something. He came up to me, pointed to the essay part of the test, and gawked at it. He said, "*Winter, your handwriting is amazing. What happened?"

What happened was that it took me forever to come up with an answer. Usually I write quickly because I'm trying to get it all down while I can still remember it or while it still sounds good. That particular time the answer only dawned on me a few sentences in. He gave me a lollipop and I got the full number of points for that answer.

Another handwriting theory I have come across is teacher-specific. It's one thing when a teacher who has neat handwriting nags me but quite another when a teacher who has worse handwriting than mine nags me about my handwriting (I've only come across teachers with sucky handwriting from middle school up. I don't know why). They think that just because they are a teacher that their handwriting doesn't matter but that mines has this super-special weight. I get it that they have to grade my paper and everyone else's and that sloppy handwriting slows them down. Yet when these teachers tell me that they are exempt from this rule I almost want to roll my eyes. These are the teachers whose handwriting I have to study and scrutinize on the board (or, well, not me but the other kids in the room. I'm pretty good with handwriting). It's inconvenient for them to read sloppy handwriting but it's also inconvenient for their students to decipher their sloppy handwriting. I almost want to tell them, fix your own first before you nag me or at least show some sympathy for my predicament.

The writing and gender handwriting theory has mostly been implied in daily thinking but it was stated once from a teacher (well, actually the assistant who checked the homework) but that really irked me. It's that boys have sloppier handwriting than girls and girls have neater handwriting than girls. It's just so stereotypical and sexist, putting boys and girls into that mold.Handwriting is handwriting. I fail to understand how you could ascertain someone's gender from that alone. I know that it's minor but I'm worried that kind of thinking manifests itself into bigger ways.

One last erroneous theory that I have come across is that lousy handwriting is always a bad thing.
Leonardo da Vinci, as I mentioned above, had sucky handwriting yet he purposely made it so. On top of it being sucky and horrible, he actually wrote it backwards when he wrote notes on his inventions because he didn't want other people to be able to read it. I never have to worry about snooping family members because my poetry and my diaries are unreadable to them.

I also think that if your handwriting is sloppy, then you are more likely to be able to read other people's sloppy handwriting. Or at least that's what it seems like to me. I've come to this conclusion for various reasons but the handwriting issue has come to light recently. One was that my English teacher this year read the paper I forgot to write neatly and he said he would trash illegible homework assignments. Another was that when yesterday my Spanish partner couldn't read the test we were given (the assignment was to make up our own test and then take someone else's to prepare for the real one) and I could read it mostly without a problem.

Teachers also know exactly who I am by my handwriting. If I forget to put my name on a test, they hand it back to me. The girls with that neater type of handwriting don't have that same luck. It's very distinctive to me, almost like a fingerprint.

It also enables me to write faster, which is really important as a writer (or as a poet, because I type most of my prose out now). If I forget the wording as I originally imagined it, it doesn't sound as good.

Also, as conveyed before, I got a lollipop that one time in science because I wrote neatly previously. When people have low expectations of you in something, it really impresses them if you do a decent job at it. When you usually write sloppily and then all of the sudden write neatly, people respond much more enthusiastically than if you consistently right neatly (there's a lot of things that sound wrong with that statement).

This has been an issue I've faced in school for years. Like I said, my handwriting has improved but it will never be perfect or even good. Bottom line is that my handwriting does not make me less smart or less of a student. It says absolutely nothing about my work ethic or anything like that.

*He called most of us by our last names, except for one boy whose last name was Smith. I changed my last name for the sake of privacy.


  1. I guess now I feel like a little bit of a neat-freak. My handwriting is, I guess, pretty neat, and sometimes it's annoying. One thing I completely relate to is losing your train of thought--that's really why I prefer typing anyways. In any case, I feel slightly abashed about my own handwriting habits--yours seem a lot more realistic and actually make a lot more sense. I like the idea about your handwriting being part of your identity. Great writing.

  2. I totally agree with u somehow.. maybe its becuz I'm also a girl with bad handwriting..
    People judge n seriously it's kinda annoying
    I mean neater handwriting means u pay more concern on how well u do? Wat does tat have anything to do with anything at all?