PRT206 – Ligature

This week we’re talking about improving our handwriting!

The Panelists

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  • On the American Crafts taking over thing – reminded me of Star Trek The Next Generation Borg episodes “Resistance Is Futile.” / “You Must Become Assimilated.” Ok, that’s all.

  • Gwynn Asbury

    Had to pop in and say that the 10,000 Layouts flooding Instagram is still going on – Ms. Stacy has been really encouraging of continuing to post!

  • Great episode, as always……Just wanted share something regarding the boy/girl and ethnic or genetic connection to “good” and “bad” handwriting. My mom is part Filipino and because of where I grew up, I had many Filipino friends and classmates. I like my writing and as an adult scrapbooker I am very aware of what my writing looks like and I love styles of handwriting like Ali Edwards’ and Heidi Swapp. I remember even in elementary school looking and comparing my writing to other peopole’s. I wondered some of the same things that were mentioned about other people’s handwriting, is good writing genetic? can you teach yourself to write differently? do girls have better writng than boys? I asked my mother once why all of our cousins’ and aunts’ and uncles’ handwriting looked so similar (not to mention it looked very much like my classmates’ and friends’ handwriting). The explanation I was given was that in the Phillipines school kids use to learn their lessons using very small chalkboards (I assume this had to do with cost of paper and other supplies). Each student had a small chalkboard to complete their lessons and the teacher would check the work and it would get erased and they would start the next lesson. There was great emphasis placed on students’ writing being legible, straight, and consistant because of the size of the chalkboards that they had to write on everyday. I think that may explain Noelle’s experience with boys with nice handwriting. I don’t know how that translates into near-perfect handwriting for genterations of family members that were born here in the States, but I can tell you that my mother made me and my sister practice our printing and handwriting ALL THE TIME until it looked like the sample letters in the practice workbooks she bought us. So maybe it’s a mixture of genetics and culture in some cases.

  • Leslie McLaughlin

    Really enjoyed this episode but it got me thinking about future generations and will they be able to read what we have written! I never thought about that until recently when young parents told me that their kids are not being taught to write in cursive. Maybe we need to be doing more typed journaling or printed journaling. It’s very sad to me that they are not being taught to read or write in cursive. But life goes on and maybe we need to think about that.

  • Beth McLaughlin Quiroz

    On handwriting looking better/worse depending on the pen used – if I followed that advice to a T, I’d be using Expo White Board markers on all my layouts – my handwriting looks AMAZING with those! Of course, then all my layouts would be done on a white board! LOL :)

    I have to agree with the Sharpie pens though – I just tried them and I really like the way they write.

  • Pepper

    I’m soooo excited to see handwriting as the topic when I saw Wilna’s instagram (the doodle is so awesome!) I requested it sometime ago and really thank you for making this the topic! You guys are great!

    I was listening I thought it would be great see Amy’s handwriting improvement! I love Wilna’s tips on practising to write like an Architect. I guess my problem is that I’m lazy and i don’t practise enough. Ever since I graduated, I write lesser and lesser, most of the writing work is replaced by typing. I wasn’t putting in conscious effort to improve my handwriting, I guess it’s like every other thing, you got to try until you get it.

    One thing I thought you ladies didn’t mention is the way you hold your pen. I know that it affects how you write too, I have seen really absurd (to me) way of holding pens from my colleagues and friends. Even my sister holds it weird! Is there a best way to do so? It will be fun to see a photo of how the panellist hold their pen and their handwriting :) Will be great to include Izzy’s !

    Thank you for all the great tips, I’m off to check out “learn to write like an Architect” video :D

    Non Schmo

  • Pepper

    Another sudden thought on handwriting, I know I definitely have improved my handwriting over the years (ever since i start writing ) , it will be fun to do a layout of the evolution of you child’s handwriting, or your handwriting. Sadly neither my mum nor I kept those writings of mine, and I can only vaguely remember them in my mine.

  • LOL! Your layouts wouldn’t last long if they were white board and dry erase!

  • Elise Thomasset

    I really wanted to jump into this discussion! I hope you won’t think I am being preachy, but handwriting is my area of expertise! As an occupational therapist I have worked for years with children to teach them the skills needed to learn to write. Handwriting is a complex visual-motor process, and while the hand has 35 muscles and 29 bones, the process begins in the brain, not in the hand! Developmentally girls’ fine motor skills develop earlier than boys. Boys’ gross motor skills develop earlier, which is why you are more likely to see little girls coloring, and little boys climbing. They can’t help themselves. The comment about little chalkboards for Pilipino children is fascinating! This is a technique I have used for teaching because of the tactile feedback of chalk moving in a small space. Loved reading about that!
    There were many great ideas from all the panelists:
    1. Practice! It’s true, those muscles need exercise and repetition to create motor memory, just like playing the piano or doing ballet.
    2. Go slow and write big.
    3. Learn in this order: Trace, then copy. then produce. It is much easier to focus on letter formation when you are not thinking about what you want to write.
    4. The diameter of your pen/pencil will make a difference. Whenever you change, the muscles need to adjust to a new position. Consider a cushion or molded grip, available in office supply stores, to add to a straight pen.
    …and one more idea
    5. Try writing on a slanted surface. If you turn a 3-ring binder sideways, the cover makes a nice angle for the wrist. It may help with hand fatigue, especially if you push too hard.

    I have a few favorite apps for practice, and if anyone is interested, feel free to ask me anything about the mechanics of handwriting. I will do my best to answer.
    Thanks so much for an always entertaining discussion at the Roundtable!

  • Excellent episode, PRT!

    I have an explanation for the cultural differences between male and female handwriting in the United States and the Philippines for you, Noell! In the felid of education, there’s a theory called the Pygmalion Effect, which shows that students’ actual performance meet teacher expectations. Teacher expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This broadens to expectations and stereotypes within a culture as well.

    For instance, the stereotype that girls are better at reading comprehension and boys are better at math actually change performances and increase the gap in achievement by sex when the stereotype is present in a country:

    To bring it back to handwriting, then, the likelihood is that “good” handwriting is not in anyway connected to sex genetically, but is reinforced through cultural stereotypes. Much of this episode focused on improving handwriting through practice: if even subtly one sex is encouraged to practice more than the other, then that sex will, as a group, have better handwriting.

    I know my husband, who likes practicing calligraphy and has MUCH nicer handwriting than mine, gets a lot of subtle goading because of his “girly” handwriting. It makes sense to me that a lot of young boys interested in improving handwriting in the US wouldn’t pursue that interest because of worrying about looking too feminine. (Which is sad.)

  • Jen

    This is totally OT, but your mention of the “after show” reminded me to ask… Noell did you ever get to see Schweddy balls?

    Also, really interesting episode. Super glad I’m digi because my handwriting is terrible. It would definitely hinder my scrapbooking if I had to write out all my journaling. I have been trying off and on to practice my handwriting using a tablet so I can make digital doodles and words for my pages. Maybe practicing on a tablet will give me some of the benefits that practicing on a chalkboard apparently does for some people. :)

  • Lynne

    Great show! Ali, that Steller app looks awesome! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Blupixy

    Noelle, I am like you. I can’t find a scrapbooking journaling pen that I love to use. I have found that I can hold a ball point pen at a more relaxed angle than I can with the journaling pens, which need to be held more up and down to write properly. Totally affects my handwriting.

  • PjP

    Noell, if you’re looking for a beautifully smooth cardstock to journal on, I highly recommend Stampin’ Up’s Whisper White or Very Vanilla (depending on your taste in background or journaling spot colour). I’m not saying that the Whisper White is the whitest on the market but it’s definitely the smoothest. As Kerri Bradford would say “It’s like buttah.”

  • Gwynn Asbury

    I had to say that I really enjoyed this episode. I am someone that is not a fan of my handwritting, however, after running across a hastily written note from my father to my mom, I saw the value in leaving a written legacy. I think that written notes will become like photographs wen first discovered – laborious to create, cherished forever.

    On a completely different note… Noelle, Izzy I need your help! I have been working on compiling and creating layouts for all the photos my husband has of his military years. I have been very open with sharing and after nearly 6 years of my scrapbooking – he has started to ask permission to join me in the scrapbook room, creating his own memories. He has expressed feeling overwhelmed looking at my pages and not sure how to create like I do, or where to begin on his own. As you can imagine I am VERY VERY VERY excited about this – well the wanting to scrapbook part, I have been inviting him for years to share his own perspective and memories. However, I don’t know where to start in showing him the “ropes.” I know Izzy does his own version of PL – I would LOVE to hear an episode about how to involve and support family members in beginning their own memory keeping, it would be a bonus if it were geared toward the manly men. I think Izzy would be a GREAT guest for this episode!

  • Bookworm9798

    I’ve noticed the same thing as Ali — kids who aren’t taught to write in cursive have difficulty learning to read cursive. I think it’s a travesty and not simply because I want my daughter to be able to read all our scrapbook pages (although that’s important to me.) What about the handwritten documents over the centuries that tell the history of our country and the more personal history of our families? Unless all that is transcribed, it will be lost just as if it was written in a dead language. I’m sure e-signature technology will become commonplace, but how sad that our kids will only be able to print their names instead of write them. I’ve read that handwriting is beneficial to children’s cognitive development and I know, personally, that if I’ve written something down, I’m much more capable of remembering it. Computers are amazing tools, but let’s not go backward in our literacy skills by kicking a beautiful and useful skill like handwriting completely to the curb. ~ Laura

  • Jessica

    I used to love my penmanship. In grade school and high school my friends and I would spend lots of time writing letters to each other. We would doodle, decorate the envelopes, and sides of the paper. It was not Okay to give a plain boring letter, LOL. As an young adult, I would get complimented on my penmanship, even when I filled out a form, all the time. Now that I type for work 95% of the time my handwriting has gotten horrible. I try hard make my journaling look like it did in high school, but I can’t. I just don’t write enough and I find my hand gets tired very easily, which of course results in even poorer efforts.

  • Hi Noell: I wanted to do a LISTENER REQUEST for an episode about trend spotting at the recent (happening now) National Stationary Show in NYC. Check out Instagram #nss2014 for the images from the show. There are several scrapbooking manufacturers there – American Crafts, Fancy Pants, My Minds Eye, and Teresa Collins. I’d love to hear from people from those companies and/or good trend spotters like Wendy Smedley or Debbie Hodge. Thanks! :) Katie.

  • Laura Vancura

    When I first started digi scrapping last year, I had my handwriting made into a font. I do all my journaling in my own font so my handwriting is still part of my page (which is important to me).

  • Wendy A. Otto

    Loved this episode. I have dealt with poor handwriting most of my life. I was told growing up that my handwriting would never be good, because of one fundamental reason, my grip. I hold my writing utensil improperly. That being said, I always found it uncomfortable to hold it correctly. My improper grip makes my hand a bit heavy when writing. I have found that the right pen has helped to improve my handwriting. meaning that I no longer get the large ink spots on my paper. I have also been practicing from this book
    It details the anatomy of a font, and talks about shape, space, size and slant, as well as what types of pens to use for certain effects. While my handwriting is still a bit sloppy,
    The pens that I use on my scrapbooks are Sharpies Pen – fine point.

  • No, we forgot about it!

  • I hadn’t thought about the angle required to write with the journaling pens. Yes, I bet that’s affecting me too!

  • This sounds like a great episode idea. I’ll get working on it!

  • Tyler’s Grandma

    I’ve just finished listening to episode 107 of The Pen Addict podcast (no affiliation, just a longtime listener). The discussion this week was the pros and cons of different types of pens. Personally, the choice of pen does have an impact on my handwriting. These guys help navigate through the choices. It might be helpful to anyone wanting to expand their options.

  • Natalie (QSOgirl)

    LOVED this episode! I definitely, definitely practiced making certain letters certain ways (I actually would go back and erase and re-write those letters to train myself)– like lowercase “g” (I like the curlier kind). I taught myself Italic calligraphy when I was in middle school, and that definitely had an impact on how I write now. And I think this was the first time that I didn’t feel alone in the fact that depending on the pen I’m using, I seem to have different “fonts!”
    I loved the idea of having nice handwriting so much that I actually got made fun of a bit in school– by my teachers, no less! (though they weren’t trying to be mean, I don’t think!–I hope!) because I took such care with my notes. I’m glad I’m not the only one who took such pride in “perfecting”/improving my writing ;-)

  • Natalie (QSOgirl)

    Hurray for TNG!

  • Natalie (QSOgirl)

    I have found the same thing! Pretty much the only time I write with a pen is while I’m scrapbooking, or writing lists to myself in a planner. It’s so sloppy, and I really have to force myself to write slowly to get a prettier result now. When I was in school and taking notes/doing homework sets, my handwriting was amazing! A few years ago I took the plunge and threw away all of my grad school notes (no space to keep them, and it definitely wasn’t worth it)…but I did have a little lament over how tidy my work was, and how pretty it looked (at least, for physics homework, haha!)

  • As a lefty I always find pen/writing discussions interesting. As left-handers are pushing into the paper rather than pulling we have lots of issues with pens wearing out quickly. Of course there’s lots of other challenges.

    I have even found my layout designs are predicated on how I would be able to write on them once bound or filed in an album (eg space for journalling on the right so my hand doesn’t fall off the edge of the page or get caught in binder rings).

    This happens to me even when I journal first on a tag or PL card! It’s like my brain is hard wired to make writing easier!

    I like the Zig pens but have found that the plastic fine nib on mine are now radically different thicknesses as I rotate the pen. Sure the pen is 3 years old but I hate when there’s plants of ink left but I can’t use it cause the nib is destroyed :(

    Personally I made a couple of fonts of my handwriting so my digi pages have a touch of me. As a child I could read cursive well before I learnt to write it at age 8, so I suspect we may not need to worry so much about cursive! Having said that our children will be learning cursive at homeschool.

  • thisisina

    How cool to see a fellow OT posting on Paperclipping! One resource I would recommend for adults wanting to improve their handwriting would be Fix It Write by Nan Barchowsky, available on Amazon. The person has to be motivated to practice and improve though, and the workbook helps provide structure to do that and rhythmic patterns to help your handwriting flow smoothly and legibly. I like that it isn’t trying to make your handwriting exactly like the sample, but still encourages you to make your handwriting “your own”. There’s a handwritten testimonial on the back page from a doctor who did the program, saying that he was the only doctor at his hospital who had legible charts!

    Also, your discussion on how cultural expectations on handwriting in the Philippines surprised me. That’s where I’m from, and I have the opposite impression that girls handwriting is expected to be better than boys. (It’s true that girls develop their fine motor skills earlier anyway.) But we definitely did a lot of writing there, we were expected to copy entire lectures from the blackboard! (We just had notebooks to write on, not chalkboards.) I think that practice stemmed from not all students being able to afford getting the textbooks, so we would copy the whole lecture so we could take it home and study it. Even though I grew up in a more affluent area and had textbooks, that was how teachers taught and they expected us to still copy everything. So maybe the better handwriting just stems from more practice!

  • Melissa LaFavers

    Thank you for yet another great episode. On the subjects of pens, I have a recommendation. I write in a journal on a regular basis, and I struggle with chronic shoulder pain. I need pens that make writing a little bit more comfortable for me. Like Noell, I like ball point pens. My favorite has always been the Bic Round Stic because of how my writing looks when I write with it. Last year, though, I discovered a new pen that I love from Pentel called EnerGel. There are a few varieties, but the one I like best is the LiquidGel Rollerball 0.7mm in black. It writes so smoothly on all kinds of paper, and it makes all that writing I do a little more pleasant and easy. The best news for a scrapbooker? It’s archival and acid free. I’ve started using it on my scrapbook pages, too, and I’m really happy with how it looks. Amazon and office supply stores carry these, so if you’re looking for a good pen, give this one a try. I’m hoarding them! :)

  • Julie

    I think it’s awesome that your husband wishes to participate in scrapbooking! Totally cool. I have given my husband a 3×4 journal to write his perspective on Project Life. As you know it’s good to start small and he can handle a 4 or 5 sentences on the card. AND we get the added bonus of his chicken scratch…lol!

  • Oh, thank you!!!! I’ll order it!

  • Gwynn Asbury

    So, his chicken scratch appears in my PL already – the deal is that if I include photos from his phone he has taken, he has to do the journaling. This has worked at really well – however, he has verbally expressed an interest in actually keeping his own memories and beginning scrapbooking and also feeling overwhelmed by all the choices in my craft room, and worry about doing it wrong. He is a rather manly man, and I don’t wanna scare him away! lol

  • Elise Thomasset

    Hello! I am glad to see another OT here. We are a fun & creative bunch, right?! I want to check into the book you referenced Fix It Write. I have worked in schools with children, but I know adults who are motivated can make improvements as well. Thanks for the reference!

    Also, very interesting about your background from the Philippines.
    Have a great weekend,
    Elise in Lenexa, Kansas

  • JulieFrog

    I was also coming on here to recommend the Pentel pens. Their packaging states whether the pens are acid free (most of them are) and they write really easily!

  • Susan Bivona

    Hi All, I just wanted to share an article I’m reading in the latest edition of FLOW Magazine? Have you seen FLOW? It’s a beautiful magazine e published in the Netherlands, but I can get if here in the US (in NJ) at my local Barnes and Nobel. The article is called, “The Rise if Hand Lettering”. Check it out, Page 119!!!

  • Aja

    I have been trying to search the one that Wilna and Ali talked about…what’s the name of it?

  • Michelle T.

    Does anyone know a good place to get my handwriting turned into a font? I am a digital scrapbooker and would love to get my handwriting onto my pages. The problem I have always found when I have looked into it is that the fonts don’t allow for letters to connect. I write in manuscript, but connect letters whenever possible. For example, the cross on my t will always be the beginning of the adjacent letter.

  • Michelle T.

    Where did you get this done?

  • Melissa LaFavers

    Aja, was it Staedtler? Try this link. I saw some of this brand at Target in a package with a bunch of different colors.

  • Laura Vancura

    Kristen at did it as part of a Project Life class I took there early last year.

  • I’ve been a bit behind on my PRT episodes but I just had to comment on this episode.

    I also had trouble with my handwriting a few years back and decided to Google some ways to improve it. One of the most helpful tip I’ve found that hadn’t been mentioned in the show was what muscles you used to write with.

    Both Izzy and some of the guests have mentioned getting tired hands after writing for an extended period of time. I used to have this issue too, along with having very cramped and inconsistent handwriting.

    I found that it was because I was writing with my fingers instead of with my arm muscles. This link explains it much better than me ( but essentially the writer recommends using our fingers to hold the pen whilst using our arm muscles to form the letters.

    Art teachers used to say, draw with your arms not with your fingers, and it’s the same concept.

    But if you’re not used to this, it can mean practicing writing large flowy letters before making them smaller. I would recommend looking at the link for exercise examples.

  • soapHOUSEmama

    Hi there! I am catching up on episodes, so I apologize if this has already been mentioned… but the NY Times had an article recently regarding handwriting and it’s connection with learning and brain function. It’s super interesting :)

    Awesome episode as always! Makes me want to practice handwriting along with my kiddos when we are doing homeschool :)

  • Amy – yes!! Sarasas are the best! And they are acid free. Favorite pens ever.

  • Gabrielle McCann

    Love that idea!

  • Gabrielle McCann


  • Jamie Leija

    Completely behind on these episodes but I know people still go back and refer to them. I thought I’d share this resource from Kristina Werner. It’s a worksheet to help you with developing your handwriting. Found here: