The Value of Handwriting by Sheila Lowe

ahead2In 2013 a 500 year old love letter was found with the mummified body of a man, the timeless words of a bereaved young wife more heartbreaking because they are written in her own hand.

We can imagine her tears as the writing instrument moved across the paper, expressing her deepest sorrow. “How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me? How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you?” Somehow, the printed text is not quite as ‘real’ as the words penned on a piece of parchment. The same emotions are expressed, but the ink flowing from the pen the writer holds in her own hand makes them present in a way they are not when typed on a cold keyboard.

As a handwriting analyst, letters mean something different to me than to the average person. For me, a handwritten letter is much more than just the words on the page. The handwriting is a portrait of the writer’s personality—their social style, thought processes, ego strength; where their fears and defenses come from, their sexuality, their approach to life.

letters. girl. sheila loweBut handwriting, and its ability to speak to the reader in its unique way, is in danger. More than forty-five states have adopted the Common Core Curriculum, which removes the requirement for public schools to teach cursive handwriting. Many children these days cannot even sign their own name or read a letter from grandma. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that several states, seeing the importance of this special skill, have passed bills returning handwriting training to the curriculum. As president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, I am immensely proud of the efforts of our Campaign for Cursive team (, which is working tirelessly to fire up a grassroots movement and share the word about the many reasons why handwriting training is so important. We are partnering with companies and organizations around the world and are already planning for the first International Handwriting Day, January 23rd, 2016. Chosen by the Writing Instrument Manufacturer’s Association because January 23rd is the birthday of John Hancock, whose bold signature stands out on the Declaration of Independence, this date has been celebrated as National Handwriting Day since the early 1980s. But as the world has shrunk and it has become easier to reach out and touch people everywhere, the time has come to be more inclusive.

We can all make a difference in small ways. For example, once in a while, instead of emailing or texting, handwrite a letter to someone you love. Those letters will remain long after you and I are gone. And they will leave a legacy that contains, not just your words, but a piece of your soul.



Sheila Lowe is a court-qualified forensic handwriting analyst who has been studying handwriting for more than 45 years. She is the author of the Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting mystery series and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis. INKSLINGERS BALL – on sale now.

8 thoughts on “The Value of Handwriting by Sheila Lowe

  1. You are so right about the direction education is taking. Children can’t add or subtract without a calculator, or God forbid, do multiplication or division. As for handwriting, kid’s can’t even spell now with the advent of that shorthand spelling they use on their millions of handheld gadgets.

    But when you said they can’t even read what granny wrote… That is willfully fostering ignorance. And frankly, just learning something in school would be nice now. I have read what you have written about how handwriting improves the mind by its intricacies. I can understand that, but when I was a kid, and knowing someday I was going to be a writer, I wanted to make sure everybody could read what I wrote, so I began printing. I can print faster than most people can write longhand. I had a professor who couldn’t believe I wrote out three blue books in college during a one-hour test, but I did. And he could read every word. Got an “A” on that test.

    But kids do need the discipline of knowing how to write and as you said, know how to capture the soul with that pen in their hand. Great food for thought.

    • A young man at our church (18) could not read my very plain list of items written in cursive. And they were written neatly. I was very surprised, but he is not the only one. Also kids are not taught to read time via an analogue clock. That is a crime, in my book.

  2. I write in a mix of print and cursive, but my signature is definitely cursive. And I know that it reflects the personality of the penner, because often my handwriting reflects my mood. I learned two methods of printing and one cursive. When I am bored I print like I was taught to do when doing copy work for draftsmen for a company in Atlanta MANY years ago. I treat it like art. Sometimes I go back to grammar school and play with the print and cursive I was taught to TEACH handwriting. They all are me. I can’t paint, I can’t sketch — but I CAN write.
    Yes, we need to teach children forms of writing so that they can communicate more than JUST words. And cursive is beautiful.

  3. Wel-l-l, some people’s cursive is beautiful, Mari. My father in law’s was undecipherable! I think the problem is kids today are taught to TYPE on electronics. Messages and letters are sent digitally. Even the banks and credit card companies want you to go “paper-less” so there will be no need to even write a check one day. Not in my world!! I refuse to go paperless, and will write checks and pay postage as long as I can. 🙂

  4. I have terrible handwriting! In fact, the only “D” I got in school was in second grade, for my handwriting. Nonetheless, I believe in the importance of handwritten communication and hope our lawmakers come to their senses and reinstate the teaching of cursive handwriting. You’re so right that handwritten letters convey a sense of a person’s character or, as you put it, their soul. I once worked for a man who had even worse handwriting than mine, but somehow I was usually able to decipher it; I knew what he meant and could transcribe his squiggles into words because his soul came across on those yellow lined tablets. I keep a letter he hand-wrote to me when he retired in 1981, and it is one of my treasures. He’s long gone, but when I read the letter, I hear his voice. And I smile every time.

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