Handwriting is an oddly intimate form of communication. Just like everybody has a different voice that is special to each individual, everyone has handwriting that is unique to each person. My own handwriting is very recognizable; I write in a very wild and free-flowing cursive script that some people find illegible. Nowadays I type up almost everything, although from time to time I still write on paper in cursive. I still like seeing my own handwriting, and despite being slower and less efficient than using a keyboard sometimes I write down sentences just to see how it would look in cursive.

I can write in normal, non-cursive writing, but unless legibility is an issue I usually use cursive. Not only do I prefer its aesthetics but it’s also much easier (at least for me) to write using a series of connected curves rather than having to constantly lift my pen off the paper. Sometimes I admire people who can do neat, normal handwriting instead of the scrawls that I write. On the other hand, many people compliment me on my handwriting because they find it beautiful.

Americans tend not to value legible handwriting. I had a teacher who went to school in England, and she described how in grade school the teacher made her practice handwriting until it looks almost exactly like the letters from the templates she was given. When I went to school in China I went through a similar thing. We were made to write the same characters over and over again until they look exactly like the ones in the textbooks. I can no longer write Chinese characters, but I still find it marvelous that my parents can not only write them, but do so almost perfectly, as though they were making copies of printed text.

Chinese characters usually look neat and clean, but there is a cursive version of the characters that look like a wild mess of squiggles. Even though Chinese schools emphasize on writing legibly, Chinese cursive is often far from legible, even to natives of the language. Despite how difficult it is to read such characters, they are often admired for their aesthetic qualities. Sometimes the less legible the writing, the more highly the calligrapher is praised.

Some people think there is an association between a person’s handwriting and their personality. Handwriting that looks messy and is difficult to read may indicate a personality that favors personal expression and lack of respect for authority, while handwriting that is neat and uniform indicate a personality that favors propriety, law and order. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is a part of me that resists following rules and distrust authority. But then again, there is a part of me that favors methodical thinking and respect for laws discovered by science. Even though such ideas have not been scientifically tested, it is still fun to contemplate them.


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