Handwriting styles

Handwriting Styles: what makes them special?

Writing guides 0 Comments

Everyone has a unique way of drawing letters and connecting them into words. It is often said that certain traits of a person’s character can be understood through careful analysis of their writing style. At the same time there are several general styles that have their special names and are to be used on different occasions. 

Back then when calligraphy was the only (or at least prevalent) proper way to work with documents, send messages and leave notes, mastering these styles was highly important. They have formed through decades and centuries. And they still exist nowadays, even with so many digital tools to replace pen and paper.

In modern English calligraphy there are 3 major handwriting styles: 

  1. Cursive,
  2. Print,
  3. D’Nealian.

Cursive Handwriting

This type has been well familiar to most of us, beginning from high school and onwards. Also known as ‘scripting’ or ‘longhand’, this style requires you to write without lifting your pen, or at least with a minimum of lifts. Each letter in a word is connected to both preceding and subsequent one. The general purpose of using this style is to make writing fast while keeping it neat and readable.

Cursive has been widely popular throughout all major languages since the ancient times, and by Late Middle Ages and Renaissance era a number of its subtypes have emerged, traditionally used in different situations:

  • Loop Cursive
  • Italic Cursive
  • Connected cursive

Loop Cursive style requires you to use rounded forms in your handwriting. Many letters, such as “b”, “f”, “k”, “q” and “z”, have notable “loops” either at their top or at their bottom. This is where this style took its name from. There are also explicit joins between neighboring letters, which are even kept at the beginning and at the end of each word – the so-called “lead-in stroke” and “exit stroke”.

Italic style originated in early Renaissance Italy, which is why this name was adopted for it. Originally this was a return to simpler, quite readable handwriting to make a text more understandable for an average reader. Italic handwriting requires less joins. Another its specific trait is making letters slant backward. Not to be confused with the Italic font on PC where the letters are slant forward.

Variations of Cursive style

A number of cursive styles were once widely popular throughout Europe and can be found in ancient books. Here are a few of them:

  • Textura, or Gothic Book Hand. Letters are upright and drawn separately though often they are placed too close to each other and resemble some cursive style a bit.
  • Anglicana, an actual cursive form developed in 13th century England from Textura. Unlike its predecessor, it has some flourishes and there are many letters extending far above or below the general line.
  • Court Hands. A number of Medieval styles used specifically by officials or high society representatives. “Chancery hand” and “Exchequer hand” are among the examples. These styles are neat and precise, with many spiky forms. Eventually some of these handwriting manners have evolved into very specific forms which are quite hard to decipher for a modern reader.

If you want to find out more about handwriting fonts and how they are based on classic handwriting – feel free to explore!

Print Handwriting

This style is the easiest one to grasp and that is why preschool and elementary school students start from it. The letters are just carefully drawn after their printed forms and kept within proper lines when forming words and phrases. There are no joins between them at all. For an adult person already used to cursive, it might be a bit difficult to follow the print style while writing quickly, but for a starter it is much easier to copy the proper letter forms from a textbook.

Print handwriting is often used when filling out official papers and questionnaires. Text areas in such documents are often divided into boxes, so it is much easier to fit separate block letters into these boxes. Besides, big print-styled letters can sometimes be used at the beginning of paragraphs in hand-written texts in order to highlight the opening phrase.

Print handwriting is more or less widespread in many Latin-based languages, though most French- and German-speaking countries teach children to write in cursive beginning from the elementary classes. Such styles as Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri (well known for any Microsoft Office user) exist in print handwriting as well.

D’Nealian Penmanship

This style is specific for English language. It has been developed in the US to facilitate learning proper handwriting for starters. D’Nealian has inherited some traits of older cursive standards and the print type.

By the end of the 19th century a number of problems with handwriting emerged. First, the ever-growing volume of documentation government workers, clerks, accountants and others had to handle has demonstrated inefficiency of traditional cursive style, because it took much time to decipher it and, on the other hand, a lot of skills to write it properly. Second, the prevailing cursive styles used at schools were widely regarded as too difficult for children to master. Standard practices of teaching handwriting appeared to be not very efficient because the advised finger movements were too hard for the majority of elementary students.

A new approach to handwriting was proposed by a prominent American researcher and analyst of that era, Austin Palmer. He introduced an innovative method to teach children writing, with focusing on all muscles of an arm moving during writing, not just fingers. Palmer also suggested simplifying the Spencerian script, which was prevalent in the US at that time: remove extra loops and other decorative elements. The new script was encouraging rhythmic hand and arm movements which allowed writing fast and neat.

D’Nealian handwriting style was first introduced by Donald Thurber in 1978 as an extension of Palmer’s method. Currently it is the most popular handwriting styles in America and other English-speaking countries. D’Nealian style has proved its convenience for children, helping them with faster transition from print to cursive writing.

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