Beginner’S Guide To Handwriting Styles

Handwriting styles refer to the specific ways letters are formed on paper There are many different handwriting styles that have developed over history, each with their own unique characteristics. The main styles used today include print handwriting, cursive, D’Nealian, Zaner-Bloser, Getty-Dubay, and Palmer.

Handwriting styles emerged as a way to standardize and teach penmanship, helping people communicate through the written word. As we rely more on digital communication, studying handwriting styles allows us to preserve an artform that reveals insights into history, culture, and the human mind.

Analyzing handwriting can uncover aspects of someone’s personality, state of mind, background, and health. Learning different styles expands our capabilities and allows us to consciously shape how we present ourselves on paper. Exploring the nuances of letterforms remains a rewarding way to practice focus, flourish creativity, and connect with the past.

Print Handwriting

Print handwriting, also known as manuscript or ball and stick handwriting, is a form of writing where each letter is distinct and not connected to other letters. Some key characteristics of print handwriting include:

  • Letters are separate and unconnected.
  • Easy to learn for beginners.
  • Has a basic alphabetic shape.
  • Easier to read than cursive writing.

Print writing emerged as a style in the United States in the early 20th century as a simplified form of handwriting to help younger children learn to write more easily. educators like Marjorie Wise began advocating for a move from cursive to print writing as the primary style taught in schools. This print style became widely adopted in American schools by the mid-20th century.

Some advantages of print handwriting are that it’s simpler to learn and has greater legibility than cursive styles. It’s especially useful for young children first learning to write. Print remains common for informal or casual handwriting by people of all ages. Its simplicity and readability make print popular for many everyday uses. However, some argue print offers less fluidity in writing speed compared to cursive styles.

Cursive Handwriting

Cursive handwriting, also known as script or longhand, has flowing strokes that connect letters together. The smooth flow allows for faster writing. Cursive emerged in the 16th century as a less interrupted writing style compared to the slow, separated letters of print writing. It’s thought that cursive handwriting may have originated from Roman script, which connected letters for a faster writing method.

Characteristics of cursive writing include:

  • Letters are connected together in a flowing line
  • Letters may have looped or curved strokes
  • Words blend together
  • Some letters look different from print letters, like a cursive lowercase s

The flowing style of cursive allows for speed and efficiency. However, cursive can be difficult to read, especially for those unfamiliar with it. While cursive was once widely taught in schools, its prevalence has decreased with the rise of digital communication.

D’Nealian Handwriting

D’Nealian Handwriting was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Donald Thurber, an elementary school teacher in Portland, Oregon. Thurber believed that the traditional handwriting styles being taught at the time were too difficult and inefficient for students to master. He worked to develop a simplified, cursive-like style that would be easier for children to learn and help improve their handwriting skills.

The purpose behind the D’Nealian Method was to create a handwriting program that used continuous strokes to form letters, eliminating unnecessary pencil lifts. This resulted in a more fluid and natural handwriting style. According to the D’Nealian Handwriting website, the distinguishing features of this style include slanted manuscript letters, joins between letters, and a basic cursive appearance.D’Nealian Handwriting

Some key principles of D’Nealian Handwriting are:

  • Letters are written using continuous strokes without unnecessary pencil lifts.
  • Letters sit on the base line rather than floating above it.
  • Letters slant slightly right to aid in the transition to cursive.
  • Letter shapes progress from simple to complex.

The D’Nealian Method aims to make handwriting instruction easier and more effective for both teachers and students. It builds a foundation for eventual cursive writing by using continuous strokes and introducing joins between letters early on.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting

Zaner-Bloser handwriting originated from the Zanerian College of Penmanship in Columbus, Ohio founded by Charles Paxton Zaner in 1888. It was designed to be a simple, consistent system for teaching efficient handwriting to school children. The Zaner-Bloser Company was formed in 1934 when Zanerian College merged with the Bloser Company founded by Elmer Ward Bloser [1].

The purpose of the Zaner-Bloser method is to teach legible, fluent handwriting skills. It utilizes a specific set of letter formations and connections designed to promote consistency, rhythm, and flow. Some key features include:

  • Distinctive letter shapes such as the oval “o”
  • Unique joins between letters
  • Emphasis on consistent slant and size
  • Multi-sensory techniques incorporating sight, sound, and movement

Zaner-Bloser provides a developmental sequence of instruction starting with basic strokes in kindergarten up through cursive handwriting in third grade. It aims to make writing automatic and free flowing for students at an early age. Today, Zaner-Bloser handwriting and language arts materials are used by millions of students across the United States [2].



Getty-Dubay Handwriting

The Getty-Dubay style of handwriting was developed in the late 1970s by American educators Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. Its origins trace back to their shared interest in italic handwriting and desire to create an efficient, legible, and aesthetically pleasing handwriting style to teach children (

The purpose of the Getty-Dubay method is to teach a form of italic handwriting that is easy for children to learn and can improve handwriting speed and legibility. A key feature is the specific letter slant of 56 degrees that distinguishes it from other italic styles. Other distinguishing features include:

  • Letters are written from left to right, pushing the pen instead of pulling it.
  • The oval shapes of letters are emphasized.
  • Letters sit on the base line with ascenders and descenders extending above and below.
  • Spacing between letters, words, and lines is consistent.

By teaching children an efficient yet elegant handwriting style, Getty and Dubay aimed to make the process of handwriting easier and more enjoyable for generations of students.

Palmer Handwriting

The Palmer Method of penmanship was developed in the late 19th century by Austin Norman Palmer, an educator and penmanship instructor. It aimed to improve American handwriting through a systematic method of teaching and practice.

According to Wikipedia, Palmer believed that the “arm movement” style of writing was superior to the “finger movement” style. The Palmer Method emphasizes teaching students whole arm movement and promoting a uniform system of “pure muscular movement” ( This involves using the muscles of the arm and shoulder to create the forms of letters, rather than relying only on the fingers.

Key features of Palmer handwriting include:

  • Slanted vertical style
  • Emphasis on arm and hand movement
  • Clear rhythmic patterns
  • Flowing, connected letters

The Palmer Method was widely used in American schools in the early 20th century and had a significant influence on handwriting instruction. While not as prevalent today, it established principles of movement and rhythm that remain relevant in modern handwriting styles.

Handwriting Styles Around the World

Handwriting styles vary greatly around the world, often shaped by each region’s culture, language, and traditions. Here is an overview of major handwriting styles used internationally:

In Europe, common styles include:

  • The D’Nealian style used in the UK and Ireland.
  • The Zaner-Bloser style prevalent in France and Spain.
  • The Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift style used in Germany and other German-speaking countries.

In Asia, major styles include:

  • Japanese uses unique hiragana, katakana, and kanji writing systems.
  • Chinese writing utilizes logographic hanzi characters.
  • The Arabic alphabet is used for writing across North Africa and the Middle East.

Handwriting styles are deeply ingrained in each culture. Students around the world learn handwriting methods unique to their region. Understanding international handwriting provides insight into different cultures.

Handwriting Analysis

Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology, is the study and analysis of handwriting characteristics and how they may relate to a person’s personality traits, aptitudes, and psychological state. The basic theory behind handwriting analysis is that how you form letters and words on paper provides clues to your inner self.

There are many aspects of handwriting that can offer insight when analyzed properly. Some key things you can learn from someone’s handwriting include:

  • Personality traits – Sloppy writing may indicate a disorganized personality, while overly neat writing could suggest perfectionism or obsessiveness.
  • Mental health – Signs of depression, mania, or other conditions may show up in shaky writing, heavy pressure, or dramatic size changes.
  • Aptitudes – Small, cramped writing is linked to strong focus and attention to detail. Large, expansive writing reflects creativity and imagination.
  • Emotional state – Writing that slants upward expresses optimism and enthusiasm. Downward slants suggest pessimism or even mild depression.
  • Self-esteem – The size of writing can indicate confidence and self-esteem. Larger writing tends to correlate with higher self-esteem.
  • Maturity – Mature, responsible people often have clear, legible handwriting. Teens tend to write less neatly.

While handwriting analysis has its skeptics, many employers, counselors, and others believe it can provide useful insights into a person when done carefully by a trained expert. As with any personality assessment tool, it’s best used in combination with other methods to obtain a well-rounded view.

Teaching Handwriting Styles

There are various methods for teaching children different handwriting styles in schools. According to Twinkl, it’s important to start with print or manuscript writing, as this is the easiest style for young children to grasp. Teachers should model correct letter formation and encourage students to practice tracing and copying letters. As students progress, cursive and joined-up writing can be introduced, starting with basic joins and leading to full cursive handwriting. Resources like letter formation charts, tracing sheets, and modeled examples are useful teaching aids. Scaffolded activities, like tracing to copying to writing independently, allow children to master handwriting skills. Teachers may follow a specific handwriting program, like Zaner-Bloser or D’Nealian, which provides structured lessons, workbooks, and materials. According to a discussion on Fountain Pen Network, handwriting instruction varies globally, but focusing on posture, pencil grip, and sufficient practice helps children develop legible, fluent handwriting.

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