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Can Handwriting Be "too Neat"


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25 replies to this topic

#1 Solitaire100

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Posted 11 August 2020 - 23:04

My experience today is that when required to handwrite a lot of younger people use print as opposed to cursive even if cursive was taught in school growing up.  I've never really thought about it until now but can handwriting (print or cursive) be "too neat" such that it becomes boring, unimaginative, uninspired and/or robotic? 

 

While I don't feel strongly one way or another there seems to be a sense of humanity in unique, somewhat sloppy or unconventional handwriting.  Thoughts?


Edited by Solitaire100, 11 August 2020 - 23:06.


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#2 ParramattaPaul

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Posted 11 August 2020 - 23:12

That's a good question. I'll give it some thought and get back to you.



#3 AmandaW

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 00:56

In her book "Teach yourself better handwriting" Mary Sassoon said that handwriting should become more individual and adult, that staying too close to the taught version looked childish. She showed examples. (I'm paraphrasing from memory - it was a library book that has gone back already.) It seemed to have little to do with having even spacing and slant and consistent character shapes because she was teaching that those were the things to work on for better handwriting. So it's wasn't about being too neat, but too "copybook". And to my eye, looking at her pictures, too rounded.


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#4 dms525

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 01:46

 Although some "calligraphy" these days seems to share an aesthetic with abstract impressionism, the principal criterion of "good" handwriting is legibility. To me, "messy" handwriting is synonymous with illegible. I have seen writing by calligraphers that is amazingly precise and consistent. It can be easily mistaken for mechanical (or digital) printing. If there is such a thing as "too neat" handwriting, I suppose that would be it. I hesitate to make that judgement, however.

 

Now, the best handwriting is very legible, is fast enough to be functional but also reflects the individuality of the writer. For the writer just learning a new style of writing (Palmer, Italic, English Business Hand, etc.), learning and practicing the basic letter forms and producing them consistently is the first goal. Once these basics are mastered, the handwriting can become more free and individual, but without loss of the fundamental value of legibility. I suppose, there may be a middle stage of "too neat," but I don't think that is typical.

 

Below is an exemplar of italic handwriting Alfred Fairbanks was asked to produce for The Society for Italic Handwriting in 1959. I cannot imagine writing that is either neater or more free and individual. Your judgement may be different. In any case, enjoy.

 

Fairbank SIH Exemplar.jpg

 

Happy writing!

 

David



#5 ParramattaPaul

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 02:00

In her book "Teach yourself better handwriting" Mary Sassoon said that handwriting should become more individual and adult, that staying too close to the taught version looked childish. She showed examples. (I'm paraphrasing from memory - it was a library book that has gone back already.) It seemed to have little to do with having even spacing and slant and consistent character shapes because she was teaching that those were the things to work on for better handwriting. So it's wasn't about being too neat, but too "copybook". And to my eye, looking at her pictures, too rounded.

I have that book along with her excellent work, Handwriting of the Twentieth Century.

 

You are correct that she suggests a mature person's handwriting should have Character.  She indirectly emphasises this in the latter book by including examples of the handwriting of some of the developers and advocates of writing styles (scripts), and that of some students.  These include Marion Richardson (used in UK and some Australian schools), and Dr, Maria Montessori.

 

I am left handed, and as such, stereotypically my handwriting leaves much to be desired in form, neatness, or legibility.  My lecture notes from high school and university looked like a strange type of Pitman shorthand written by a geriatric with Parkinsons.  I've worked in a field that required us to write legibly so that others would be able to read and know what had been done.  I have worked to achieve some degree of neatness, but never achieved the copy book perfection I saw from others.

 

Now, my handwriting -- print or cursive -- is more legible, but my cursive definitely has 'character'.


Edited by ParramattaPaul, 12 August 2020 - 02:03.


#6 A Smug Dill

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 07:55

I've never really thought about it until now but can handwriting (print or cursive) be "too neat" such that it becomes boring, unimaginative, uninspired and/or robotic? 

 

 

I'm of the view that an uncommonly high level of consistency is equally telling of one's character as an individual; and that is (OK, not exactly) orthogonal to whether one chooses to print with one's hand and pen in Helvetica font or his/her "uniquely" personal handwriting script. If he/she  likes neat and aspires to perfection, then I think it's fitting that he/she strives to achieve that in handwriting; and I don't see how that would be more boring or unimaginative than those who write relatively sloppily, and form the letters and shapes on the page without giving the task much thought or attempt to exercise too much discipline (and fine-grained motor control). It's not as if the 312 instances of lowercase 't' that appears on someone's handwritten page are all different because he/she imagined or considered 312 different ways of rendering it, and then executing each one with intent and precision.


As always:  1. Implicit in everything and every instance I write on FPN is the invitation for you to judge me as a peer in the community. I think it's only due respect to take each other's written word in online discussion seriously and apply critical judgment.  2. I do not presume to judge for you what is right, correct or valid. If I make a claim, or refute a statement in a thread, and link to references and other information in support, I beseech you to review and consider those, and judge for yourself. I may be wrong. My position or say-so carries no more weight than anyone else's here, and external parties can speak for themselves with what they have published.  3. I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable. If it is something you can test for yourself and see the results, I entreat you to do so.


#7 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 10:37

...the best handwriting is very legible, is fast enough to be functional but also reflects the individuality of the writer.

 

Agreed! However, we might distinguish between ( 1 ) ‘handwriting’ as in daily notes, correspondence, etc and ( 2 ) ‘handwriting’ as in calligraphy, artistic expression, etc. There are people who combine those two, but I’m assuming that most of us mere mortals produce daily writings at work, in school, etc that would not qualify as calligraphy. I’m also assuming that the OP and dms525 are referring mostly to ( 1 ).

 

Below is an exemplar of italic handwriting Alfred Fairbanks was asked to produce for The Society for Italic Handwriting in 1959. I cannot imagine writing that is either neater or more free and individual. Your judgement may be different. In any case, enjoy.

 

attachicon.gif Fairbank SIH Exemplar.jpg

 

Thank you very much for sharing that!



#8 seaclanky

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 22:32

Hello Solitaire.

 

             When Santa delivered my new FP,I realised that it was time to sort my writing out.  After much Googlie time I found that there was no such thing as "British Standard Handwritng".. Instead the schools were to choose a "system" and just crack on.  The main drift was that the writing had to be legible and rapid.  Lets call these the first two rules.  One was expected to become proficient with the standard hand, and then at some time would be allowed to personalise your hand.  Perhaps when you were a grown- up. 

             The next few months saw me trying to be legible and fluid with a copperplate vibe.  I wanted one single  style to use whether I had FP in hand, Biro or dip pen. So that meant few pen lifts and no pressure on the upstrokes.  Anyway it took me ages and was a lot of fun.  I'm happy with my hand now but reserve the right to just go crazy when I'm in the mood.

            So this is my take on it;  you can't be too legible;  be as fast as you want to or can manage;  as for neatness, that must be a personal thing.  Your decision on your level of neatness is yours  alone.  Other folk may judge you of course, and be sure that you won't please everyone but you can please youself.  So no, your hand can never be too neat, after all it is your own hand.  And so the third rule has got to be "Remember to have fun".

 

          Peace, out.



#9 dms525

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Posted 12 August 2020 - 22:35

Some additional thoughts on the topic:

 

"Calligraphy," as most of us presumably know, means "beautiful writing." In one sense, that is an aesthetic judgement. In another sense, it is a goal or intention. So, I would say that my mother's everyday handwriting was beautiful. She wrote relatively slowly and deliberately, but not so slowly as to hinder her productivity and not so fast as to decrease legibility. I'm sure she got good grades for "penmanship" in elementary school (almost 100 years ago now). My hunch is that her intention was to write "correctly," according to the letter forms she was taught, not "beautifully." 

 

Then, there are those who practice writing as an art form, with the intention of creating something that will be regarded as "beautiful" and "creative," i.e., novel or unique. It may be created manually, but I have seen a good deal of contemporary "calligraphy" that is so "creative" it should not be regarded as handwriting any longer. It is reminiscent of letter forms like Picasso's Cubism paintings are somewhat reminiscent of human forms.  I think this is a new phenomenon. The writing masters from the Renaissance to the 20th Century, designed and taught letter forms that were pleasing to look at but, above all, were legible and practical to use for correspondence. (The "bookhands" were another kind of writing the social value and meaning of which changed after the spread of printing with movable metal type.)

 

Now, my everyday handwriting these days is cursive italic.  It is unusual enough to elicit comments from bank tellers, post office clerks and, before I retired from practice, pharmacists. The most common comment is something like "beautiful/nice handwriting/penmanship!" Occasionally, some one will call it "calligraphy" just because they regard certain handwriting styles as "calligraphy," without necessarily making an aesthetic judgement. 

 

Language is wonderful.

 

David



#10 PAKMAN

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 02:28

I have come to realize that my handwriting will never be considered beautiful. I do enjoy seeing someone's writing that is beautiful and has some character. I have seen writing however, that was just too perfect too consistent too evenly spaced and oddly didn't appeal to me at all.


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#11 dms525

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 03:32

I have come to realize that my handwriting will never be considered beautiful. I do enjoy seeing someone's writing that is beautiful and has some character. I have seen writing however, that was just too perfect too consistent too evenly spaced and oddly didn't appeal to me at all.

 

Lloyd Reynolds used to talk about the "dance of the pen" - the written script, being like the track of an antelope. A skilled tracker can tell a lot about the movements and state of mind of the animal that left hoof marks in the dirt. And you can tell a lot about the dance of the pen from the writing. Thus, if the act of writing was not alive, the ink on the page would feel dead, lifeless. 

 

David



#12 ParramattaPaul

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 04:59

'...  After much Googlie time I found that there was no such thing as "British Standard Handwritng".. Instead the schools were to choose a "system" and just crack on.  The main drift was that the writing had to be legible and rapid. ...'

 

Marion Richardson's script was one of the styles selected for many British schools in the 1930s and later.  Eton, Harrow and many other public schools taught italics, and probably still do.  Rosemary Sassoon's book, Handwriting of the Twentieth Century offers some explanation about how and why things (teaching handwriting) were done in the UK during the last century.  

 

 

e973ca740d7200b12bef8ee5f08c4c71.jpg

Marion Richardson's Script.

 

ADDED NOTE:  Apparently, Marion Richardson considered pen lifts as essential to rest and reposition the writing hand.   From what I've read by Rosemary Sassoon, she also advocates pen lifts.


Edited by ParramattaPaul, 13 August 2020 - 05:04.


#13 ParramattaPaul

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 05:08

Here is an example of Marion Richardson's own handwriting.  As you can see, it in not as neat and orderly as what she taught fo school children, but the general character of her scriopt is visible.

 

marion+richardson+handwriting18.jpg



#14 SenZen

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 03:03

As someone who's worked hard at achieving legibility, and also originally found the medium too slow to express ideas in my head, I appreciate writing that gets out of the way so I can concentrate on the meaning and intention of words; in that sense boring is good, even though I can appreciate clear handwriting which also achieves some elegance, still free from embellishments, including shading.


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#15 Estycollector

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 10:26

Observing the original copy of the Gettysburg address, my thought is that the content is more important than the handwriting. 


"Respect science, respect nature, respect all people (s),"


#16 Herrjaeger

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 17:27

Observing the original copy of the Gettysburg address, my thought is that the content is more important than the handwriting. 

Just so, recalling that the rhetorical craft it required took Lincoln a lifetime to develop, just as the the practice a masterful hand writer or calligrapher would require to be skilled at their craft.



#17 Tas

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 19:20

Interesting.
I like both. Super neat and super messy.
Oh, and everything in between. I just love peoples handwriting.

I dont really like calligraphy though. Something too contrived about it for my liking. 🤭

#18 ParramattaPaul

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 19:42

I agree that content is more important than the handwriting.  However, we are often judged by our handwriting just as we are judged by how we dress and how we speak.  I'll add that many institutions still use graphology as part of their hiring process.  In my army days last century, it was required of newly posted officers to handwrite a letter of introduction to the C.O. before joining the unit specifically so he/she could be 'appraised'.



#19 proton007

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 19:12

Most handwriting manuals were developed before the computer age. Back then, consistency also had its place, since you couldn't just print stuff without expensive typesetting. The aim of training students was not only so that they learn the movement, but also to create future 'penmen/women' who could replicate the standard and use their talent as professionals.

 

At the same time, for most people, individuality did and still does, come through eventually. Anything done by the body is a unique creation, a combination of genetics and circumstances.

 

As an example, there are more than one ways of writing in Palmer hand. Just choose some random examples off the internet, for instance, letters by Rosa Parks, or even Fidel Castro. They are all neat (by that I mean legible), but also very individual. One does not have to come at the cost of the other.


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#20 Stompie

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 07:53

Yes, each person adds their character to handwriting. Even among the so-called "Old Masters" there are variations. So Spencerian then gets the Madaraz variation etc etc but even there, some of it has so many "flourishes" that the words get lost or are hard to decipher.

 

As for this Modern Calligraphy, a lot of cobblers in my opinion and a lot of it I can not even make out what they have written yet they run courses on it, print books and so on but it has no defined shape or form to it.








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