Graphology and the Art of Chicken Scratch, What Your Handwriting Says About You

Graphology has always been a debatable science, but according to a recent study by the National Pen Company your handwriting can reveal over 500 distinct personality traits, and can even indicate potential health problems like schizophrenia, and high blood pressure. Here we look at all the ways your pen is a mirror to your heart.

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Next time you sit down to write a grocery list (or hell, the rough draft of a fictional masterpiece), take a second look at your paper. The way you dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” may give you a deeper insight into who you are. This kind of analysis is called graphology, a “science” of sorts that focuses on penmanship and seeks to draw information about personality, behavior, and health from it. Although many question the reliability of these kind of studies, a healthy curiosity about something that is so natural to us never hurt anyone. BIC pens and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils may need to rebrand themselves as instruments of self-discovery.

When I was in high school, I dated a guy who had managed to perfect the art of a compelling love letter. Putting sentiments aside, I looked forward to these carefully constructed manuscripts randomly left on my doorstep (bouquet included) because of his ridiculously beautiful handwriting. It was a nice break for my eyes after being exposed to the hectic chicken scratch I’m infamous for all day. And that’s just cursive- my print is almost illegible, which is precisely why don’t use it. Contrary to the consoling words of my teachers, having terrible handwriting did not promise a future of med school and writing out the illegible prescriptions doctors are so notorious for.


Whenever I asked him why his penmanship made mine look like I was virtually inept at holding a pen, he would tell me about the word “refrigerator.” If memory serves me right, his punishment for a blundered spelling test as a kid was writing that over and over again; something that would come to birth his so easily identifiable scrawlings. People would ask me if he considered selling his writing as a font and me if mine was a collection of scribbles done by my 8-year-old sister. There has to be someone out there who wants their typeface to be a little more cryptic than artistic. Right??


Graphologists believe that your handwriting is a clear reflection of you, a unique mechanism that is a little bit different in all of us. The way we jot down letters on a page is our own interpretation of symbols that make up a language. Analysis focuses on some important “S’s”- slant, spacing, size, stroke, and speed. Because some of these can be measured, graphology is a science. However, a unique aspect of it is that it also relies on interpreting the aesthetic style (which, of course, we love). And, amazingly enough, analysis isn’t subjective to language someone writes in- it works across the board.


Because of this intersection between art and science, the validity of graphology has been controversial for centuries. The first book known about it was published in 1622 by an Italian doctor by the name of Camillo Baldi, even though the technical term wasn’t coined until the 1870’s. Now, graphology studies are frequently conducted among corporations in Europe and the United States. Computer technology is aiding advancement in this field, which has proven to help give a more accurate determination of things like demeanor, honesty, and emotional stability. It can also give insight to the onset of serious health conditions like high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.


There’s a reason why I’ll always be able to recognize the clean, masculine lines of my ex-boyfriend’s writing, the bubbly, heart-decorated penmanship of my middle school best friend, and the lovely, romantic swoops of my mother’s cursive. The mountains of Hallmark cards I have acquired in a lifetime from family and friends are all testaments to how we learn to recognize someone through their script, their everyday art. Even if it’s not the subject of analysis, how we write is an important depiction of who we are as humans and how we choose to communicate. Some prefer Times New Roman, some Arial, but the best font will always be our own.


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For a great book on graphology, check out Sex, Lies and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, and Handwriting Psychology by Helmut Ploog.

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