The Science Behind Handwriting Comparison And Verification

Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology or handwriting expertise, has a long history as a forensic science tool for analyzing personality and verifying authorship. The systematic study of handwriting for personality analysis dates back to the late 18th century, starting with Italian criminologist Camillo Baldi’s published work in 1622. However, handwriting analysis did not gain mainstream traction until the late 19th century when French abbot Jean-Hippolyte Michon published his findings in 1875 after founding the Société Graphologique in 1871.

Today, forensic handwriting analysis continues to be used for a variety of applications including employment screening, personality assessment, and authorship attribution in fields like law enforcement, private investigation, historical document analysis, and more. While its acceptance as scientific evidence varies across different countries and jurisdictions, handwriting analysis remains a valuable forensic technique to provide clues about an individual based on unique characteristics found in their handwriting.


How Handwriting Analysis Works

Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology, examines the physical characteristics and patterns of a person’s handwriting to gain insight into their personality, thinking style, and emotional state. Trained graphologists look at aspects like slant, spacing, size, and pressure to make interpretations about the writer (source).

Some key traits analyzed include:

  • Slant – Angular/vertical slants may indicate an introverted personality, while rightward slants suggest an extroverted nature.
  • Letter Size – Larger letters often correlate to outgoing, attention-seeking individuals. Smaller letters may be a sign of shyness.
  • Word Spacing – Wide spacing between words can symbolize an appreciation for freedom. Narrow spacing may imply a logical, analytical thinker.
  • Line Spacing – Large line spacing is sometimes linked to creativity. Tight line spacing could mean a rational, orderly nature.
  • Pen Pressure – Heavy pressure may reflect high energy or enthusiasm. Light pressure is thought to represent sensitivity.

By examining combinations of these traits, graphologists aim to build a personality profile of the writer. However, while intriguing, the validity of these interpretations remains controversial (source).

Applications of Handwriting Analysis

One of the most common applications of handwriting analysis is in identifying forged or falsified documents by comparing questioned writings to known handwriting samples. Handwriting analysis experts can detect subtle differences in letter slant, spacing, pen pressure and other characteristics to determine if a signature or document was written by the same person who provided a verified sample. This can be used to expose forged wills, contracts, checks and other important documents (FCIS LLC).

Handwriting analysis is also often used to compare anonymous writings, such as ransom notes, to samples from suspects or persons of interest. The handwriting in the questioned document can then either be matched to or eliminated from consideration based on the unique traits and patterns of a known writer. This provides key forensic evidence and investigative leads in criminal cases (CIO Views).

In addition, handwriting analysis supports criminal profiling by revealing personality traits and other clues about an offender based on their writing style and characteristics. Factors like slant, baseline, spacing, stroke forms and pressure can indicate aggression, secrecy, arrogance and other traits that provide insight on an unknown suspect’s personality and background.

Limitations and Criticisms

While handwriting analysis has been practiced for centuries, some limitations and criticisms have emerged regarding its use, especially for making psychological assessments. One of the main concerns is the lack of robust empirical evidence to support making broad conclusions about personality based solely on handwriting [1]. Handwriting analysis relies heavily on an examiner’s subjective interpretation, which could potentially lead to bias, particularly when comparing ambiguous samples [2]. Additionally, an individual’s handwriting can vary considerably over time due to age, injuries, medications, and other factors. So a sample may not provide an accurate representation of their baseline handwriting [3]. While handwriting analysis can offer useful insights when applied carefully, practitioners need to be aware of its limitations, especially regarding making psychological assessments based on limited samples.

Handwriting Analysis in Court

Handwriting analysis has been used as evidence in court cases for over a century, but its admissibility and weight as legal evidence has long been debated. Courts must determine whether handwriting analysis constitutes scientifically valid and reliable evidence before allowing handwriting experts to testify.

In the 1923 case Frye v. United States, the court established the “general acceptance” test, requiring that the methods used must be generally accepted by the relevant scientific community before being admitted as evidence. This test made it difficult for handwriting analysis to be admitted, as the techniques were considered more of an art than a science at the time.

However, in 1993, the Daubert standard replaced Frye, stating that judges must determine if the reasoning or methodology behind the evidence is scientifically valid. This gave judges more discretion and led to greater admissibility of handwriting analysis when properly executed by a trained expert. Still, validity and reliability concerns remain. A National Research Council report in 2009 found only limited scientific support for handwriting comparison.

Notable court cases involving handwriting analysis include United States v. Prime in 2002, where handwriting analysis linked defendants to ransom notes in a kidnapping case, resulting in a conviction. However, in United States v. Lewis in 2004, the court rejected handwriting analysis due to flaws in methodology. And in United States v. Brewer in 2002, the court cautioned against overstating the reliability of handwriting identification.

While handwriting expertise is generally admissible in U.S. courts today, it remains controversial. Modern techniques and standards can make handwriting analysis more scientifically valid, but limitations exist. Courts continue weighing its admissibility on a case-by-case basis.

Technological Advances

Handwriting analysis has seen significant advances with the introduction of computerized systems and digital analysis techniques.[1] These tools allow for automatic comparison of handwriting samples to detect similarities and differences. Computer programs can analyze factors like stroke order, stroke speed, pen pressure, and slant to aid examiners in verifying or eliminating writers.[2] While human expertise remains important, these technologies enable more objective, data-driven analysis. Computers can rapidly compare hundreds of samples, freeing up experts to focus on interpretation and complex cases. Overall, integrating digital tools with qualified examiners’ skills and judgement has enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of the verification process.

Certification and Training

Becoming a professional handwriting examiner requires extensive training and certification. According to the Handwriting University, students must complete a minimum of 100 hours of instruction and pass written and practical exams to earn a certificate in handwriting analysis The Handwriting University’s program covers topics like analyzing personality from handwriting, detecting lies and forgeries, deciphering difficult handwriting, and applying handwriting analysis in professions like law enforcement, medicine, and human resources.

After initial certification, continuing education is critical for handwriting examiners to stay current. The American Handwriting Analysis Foundation offers an Advanced Handwriting Analysis certification requiring at least 40 hours of additional instruction and covering specialized topics like the neuroscience of handwriting and advanced personality analysis Ongoing training allows examiners to strengthen their expertise and keep up with the latest research and techniques in the field.

Notable Experts and Organizations

Some of the most prominent figures in advancing the field of handwriting analysis include:

Bart Baggett is considered one of the top forensic handwriting experts in the country. He has appeared on numerous TV shows and published several books on handwriting analysis. His website provides information about his expertise and background.

Sheila Lowe is a renowned handwriting analyst who has worked on high-profile court cases. She is the author of Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous, which analyzes the handwriting of celebrities and criminals. More information can be found at

Key professional associations in the field include the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and the Association of Handwriting Analysts International. These organizations offer training, conferences, and networking for handwriting analysis professionals.

Handwriting Analysis in Popular Culture

Handwriting analysis has become a popular topic in literature, film, television, and amateur hobbyists. Fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes often use handwriting analysis to gain insight into the personality and motives of suspects. Handwriting analysis is frequently featured in mystery novels as a plot device.

Films like The Hoax portray real-life literary forgeries uncovered through handwriting analysis. Movies such as The Thin Man show detectives matching ransom notes to suspects based on individual letter forms. Handwriting analysis remains a common trope in detective stories and legal procedurals on television. Shows like Bones, CSI, and Law & Order all contain episodes involving handwriting analysis by forensic experts.

Public fascination with handwriting analysis has led to pop psychology books teaching amateurs how to analyze personalities from handwriting samples. Media outlets run occasional handwriting analysis stories, such as examining the signatures of celebrities and politicians. While these amateur analyses should not be considered scientifically valid, they demonstrate an ongoing cultural interest in graphology.

According to one amateur analysis, Margaret Thatcher’s figure-eight loops reveal “a very fluid thinker” ( Another pop culture handwriting examination claims Kanye West’s writing has a “striking resemblance to Lindsay Lohan’s” ( While unscientific, these examples demonstrate the popularity of handwriting analysis in culture.

The Future of Handwriting Analysis

The field of handwriting analysis is evolving and progressing with ongoing research and technological developments. Some predictions for the future of handwriting analysis include:

Increasing use of computerized handwriting analysis and artificial intelligence. Programs like C-Droid AI can already imitate handwriting styles, so handwriting examiners may need new tools to distinguish genuine from AI-generated samples.

Advancements in neuroscience and psychology to better understand the brain-hand connection and what handwriting reveals about personality, health, and behavior.

New technologies like computerized tablet capture and scanning pens to improve accuracy and aid in verifying signatures and documents.

Increased statistical and scientific rigor to strengthen handwriting analysis as a forensic science.

More advanced training and certification programs to improve expert qualifications and standardize best practices.

Continued research into quantifying individuality in handwriting and developing quantitative scoring systems.

The potential to automate parts of handwriting examination using machine learning and pattern recognition.

Collaboration with other forensic specialties like fingerprint analysis to strengthen evidence.

As seen in the case of the Lindbergh kidnapping and trial of Bruno Hauptmann, handwriting analysis has played a key role in fighting forgery and validating document authenticity for decades (OJP). With ongoing innovation in the field, handwriting examination will continue providing critical evidence and expertise in verifying disputed documents and signatures.

Similar Posts