December 21, 2014

The Evolution of Handwriting: Tools

From Twigs to Keyboards

There is a current discussion in the genealogy circles, as well as in general circles, about the demise of cursive writing. Forgive me if I don’t have my mind completely wrapped around this, but I think it’s interesting to discuss and mull over the evolution of handwriting in general. I take a personal interest in this topic because I am able to analyze cursive handwriting.

No doubt someone has done a paper on this, but I don’t want to get all scientific and deep about it. Here’s the gist of my thinking on the subject. Handwriting is brain writing. That said, does it follow that the human mind has evolved along with the tools we have available to us? From the most simple of communication using writing I’m guessing it would be cuneiform which would be more printing than any kind of cursive. Using cuneiform would have been fairly uniform with little or no attempt to personalize it with much success.

Moving forward then, let’s consider penmanship as we know if from the last few hundred years. During the Victorian and Edwardian ages cursive was much more flamboyant, which if you consider that time, humans had more spare time and the availability of better clothing, etc. Naturally this era of spreading one’s wings intellectually would have brought about the loops and curls of handwriting that would have indicated the person was well-educated and worldly with a certain style and flair.

Jumping ahead again, during the 1900’s handwriting evolved again, going from the flamboyant to the more “conformative” methods such as Spenserian and the Palmer type. Most likely, this was because it was being used in the business world and would have given businesses an advantage in that any communication they conveyed was universally readable and understood.

If handwriting was brain writing then how were these changes affecting the human mind. Even if you don’t understand handwriting analysis, the change in handwriting still has some effect. As English writing humans progressed it shows the coming out of the era of upper and lower classes. Lower classes had no time or opportunity to even learn to read and write.

We went from an agrarian society and into the industrial age. The upper classes might have held on to their writing for a while, but change was in the air for everyone and expediency became the driving force of society. Faster was the key to making more money and prosperity. No time for fancy writing, we needed to get our points across and so, little by little even our lower grade school children who were taught cursive writing all through the 20th century slowly were weaned off cursive and “graduated” more and more to typewriter keyboards, and even now to computer and personal devices.

Do We Still Need Cursive Writing?

In my opinion, we will always need to have a form of communication that only depends on our mind and some way to share our thoughts. We can’t put all of our communication gifts all in one basket if, for no other reason than we have no idea what the future might bring. What if electronic devices suddenly went away? How would we communicate?

Brain Writing

Before I began my courses in handwriting analysis I had some incorrect assumptions about my fellow humans and what their handwriting might be telling me/us. What you might think is ‘sloppy’ handwriting could very well include indicators of a sharp and incisive mind (V like lines), with the ability to concentrate (uniform writing size and depth), and various indicators of the ability to speak intelligently to share those ideas (how they make their rounded letters and if they are open or closed).

Conversely, the people who have retained their somewhat flamboyant writing with big rounded letters and looping curves might just be unable to concentrate, superficial and even selfish.

For now, at least, the electronic age is here to stay. If we are no longer writing in cursive, how are our minds working if we are still brain writing? It does involve the brain even if we type on keyboards as I am doing right now. I think we are using more of both side of our brains for one thing. Our creativity might extend to more “coded” thinking as more and more of us learn to write computer code. Will we be able to analyze the person just by keystrokes and words used in the text?

We won’t be able to analyze handwriting though if too many people lose that skill entirely. Do you think we should still teach cursive writing to all school children? What’s your opinion?

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #29 – Handwriting

With the holidays upon us….the article below might be handy as you visit with family.

How To Do A Genealogical Interview

 

 

 

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #29 – Handwriting

An open notebook with an uncapped pen

Handwriting Traits In Your Ancestor’s Penmanship

After eighteen months of training, I became a Certified Handwriting Analyst through the International Graphoanalysis Society in 1987.  I had always been fascinated by the quirks I could see in other people’s handwriting, and as always, I wanted to know what it all meant.  Loops, curls, dots and cross bars.  Why did my handwriting look different than everyone else’s.

It was my mother’s penmanship I was exposed to early on and in great quantity. She signed the report cards, wrote letters to everyone in the family, and always in a beautiful script probably drilled into her in her formative years in grade school and high school.  I believe her form of handwriting might have been called the Palmer method which was developed as a uniform way of writing for business.  

The thing to remember about handwriting is that it is actually brain writing.   Your hand doesn’t do the thinking of course, it’s your mind that controls the way your hand (or any cursive writing method) transfers the information to the paper.

Crossing those T’s and dotting those I’s

Look at how you cross your T’s (lower case or capitals) to see where you put the crossbar.  Is it low, in the middle, high on the stem of the letter, or way above the stem, just kind of ‘floating’ up there?  To a graphoanalyst,  all of those locations mean something: goals.  As you can imagine, the low crossbar denotes low goals; in the middle denotes reasonable ones, high shows the person sets high goals. The one’s floating above…perhaps those are very high and not so reasonable or attainable.

You may not usually pay much attention to how you dot your lower case i, or j, but there are several traits we look for.  A “tick” or almost a check mark look could mean that the person could be quick to anger. The harder the person writes on the paper shows the depth and length of time the person might hold that anger. It could be a small irritation they will get over quickly, or along with several other traits we evaluate, it could mean you need to watch out for someone who could fly off the handle. Do you make a little circle above your dotted letters?  That could mean you have an idiosyncrasy of some sort. Big circles = big idiosyncrasies, with the converse being the opposite trait.  

Writing that looks flowing and with lots of extra loops and curls could mean the person had grown up in an era when life was more flowery (like the Victorian era) and “gilded” where it was all part of the person‘s personae to show good breeding with even their handwriting.

What We Don’t Know or Can’t Tell

The really intriguing thing about handwriting is what you can’t determine from just looking at it. You cannot determine the writer’s gender.  You may be able to tell what their health is like if it’s somewhat ‘squiggly’ if the writers handwriting was once more firm and controlled.  Additionally, you are not able to determine someone’s  age by looking at their writing. Of course, there’s exceptions to that rule, for instance if what you see is just scribbling it could be a very small child, but at the same time it could also be someone who has limited mental capacity.

One of the most scary handwriting is by persons who are serial murderers or other individuals who have committed violent crimes.  Their writing looks very “muddy”, and possibly very heavy or dark, depending on their writing instrument. Many times, an analyst will ask that an exemplar be done using a pencil or a ballpoint pen to get the most clear writing to examine.  Using other types of writing tools like roller ball or felt pen will not give a clear stroke to analyze.

Every single stroke of the pen tells the analyst a story they can picture in their mind and use to compose a personality report for business or even marital compatibility.  

Carol is not currently taking new clients at this time.  
© Carol Yates Wilkerson, 2010. Use of this article is not permitted without permission from the author.

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