How to Write Neatly
Although most people receive some kind of training in proper handwriting technique as small children, we often let go of those lessons as we grow up. Especially in an age when communication and note-taking have moved increasingly to computers and cell phones, many people find themselves in a situation where their handwriting is completely illegible. Even if your writing is clear enough to understand, there's always room for improvement.
Preparing to Write
Gather the best materials.All you need is a piece of paper and either a pen or a pencil — it seems simple enough, right? However, poor quality materials can make a significant impact on the legibility of your writing.
- The page should be smooth — not rough enough to catch the tip of your pen and create snags in the line of your letters, and not so smooth that the tip of your pen goes sliding about without your control.
- Use lined paper sized appropriately for your comfort level — wide-ruled if you write large letters, college-ruled if you write small letters.
- Note that in many professional contexts, adults are expected to write within the limits of college-ruled paper, but feel free to use wide-ruled if you are still young and in school.
- Experiment with different types of pens to see which one works best for you. There are several styles, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
- Fountain pens use liquid ink and have a flexible writing tip that allows for stylized handwriting. While it delivers a beautiful line, a good fountain pen can be pricey, and it takes a good deal of practice to perfect fountain pen technique.
- Ballpoint pens use a paste ink which some find unappealing compared to liquid ink; however, they can be extremely inexpensive. Note that you’ll get what you pay for with ballpoint pens — a cheap pen will deliver poor handwriting, so it may be worth it to spend a little extra money.
- Rollerball pens have a “ball” delivery system much like a ballpoint pen, but many people prefer them because they use the higher quality liquid rather than paste ink. However, they don’t last as long as ballpoint pens do.
- The gel ink used in gel ink pens is thicker than liquid ink and results in a smooth feel and line that many people enjoy. Gel ink pens come in a wide variety of colors but can dry out quickly.
- Fiber tip pens use a felt tip to deliver ink, and many writers enjoy their distinctive feel when drawn against a page — smooth, but with a little friction or resistance. Because the ink dries quickly, these pens are a good option for left-handed writers whose hands smudge their words from left to right.
Find a good writing table.The first step to developing good posture while writing is actually to use a good writing surface. If the table is too low, people have a tendency to slump down and round their spines, which can result in chronic pain and injury. If it’s too high, people carry their shoulders higher than is comfortable, resulting in neck and shoulder pain. Sit at a table that allows you to bend your elbows at approximately a 90-degree angle when writing.
Develop good writing posture.Once you’ve found a table that will discourage you from slumping or hitching your shoulders up, you need to hold your body in a way that prevents the back, neck, and shoulder pain that can accompany improper posture.
- Sit in your chair with both feet flat on the ground.
- Sit up straight, keeping your back and neck as straight as possible. You can take breaks from time to time if the posture is difficult, but over time, the muscles will develop and allow you to maintain good posture for extended periods.
- Instead of dipping your head down to look at the page while you’re writing, keep your head as straight as possible while casting your eyes down. This will still result in a slight dip of the head, but it should not be hanging down toward the page.
Position the page at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees.Sit flush with the edge of the desk, then turn the page you’re writing on until it sits at an angle somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees to your body. If you are left-handed, the top edge of the page should point to your right; if you are right-handed, it should point to your left.
- As you practice writing, make small adjustments to find the angle that feels most comfortable to you and allows you to write most legibly.
Stretch your hands before writing.The rise of computers and cell phones for written communication has had a significant negative impact on handwriting — one study revealed that 33% of people have trouble reading their own writing.Another symptom of this decline is the infrequency with which people write by hand these days; if you don’t stretch your hands to prepare them for a sudden increase in activity, you’ll find yourself cramping up sooner than you’d like.
- Clench your writing hand into a gentle fist and hold the position for thirty seconds. Then spread your fingers wide and stretch them for thirty seconds. Repeat four to five times.
- Bend your fingers down so the tip of each one touches the base of each finger joint where it meets the palm. Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat four to five times.
- Place your hand palm-down on the table. Lift and stretch each finger up one at a time, then lower it. Repeat eight to ten times.
Writing Neatly in Print
Hold your pen/pencil properly.Many people grip the pen too hard in an effort to gain control over their strokes, but that often results in sore hands which lead to sloppy writing. The pen should lie lightly in your hand.
- Place your index finger on the top of the pen, about one inch away from the writing point.
- Place your thumb on the side of the pen.
- Support the bottom of the pen against the side of your middle finger.
- Let your ring and pinky fingers hang comfortably and naturally.
Engage your whole arm when writing.Much bad handwriting results from a person’s inclination to “draw” their letters using their fingers alone. Proper writing technique engages muscles all the way from the fingers up to the shoulder and results in a smooth movement of the pen across the page rather than the start-and-stop motion often found with “drawing” writers. Your fingers should act more as guides than as the force behind your writing. Focus on the following:
- Don’t write using your fingers alone; you should engage the forearm and shoulders as well.
- Don’t pick up your hand to move it every few words; you should be using your whole arm to move your hand smoothly across the page as you write.
- Keep your wrist as stable as possible. Your forearms should move, your fingers should guide the pen into different shapes, but your wrist should not flex very much.
Practice with simple lines and circles.Using the proper hand position and writing motion, write a row of lines all the way across a lined sheet of paper. The lines should slant slightly to the right. On the next line of the page, write a row of circles, trying to keep them as even and round as possible. Practice proper technique on your lines and circles for 5-10 minutes every day until you see in your pen control.
- Focus on keeping your lines the same length and at the same angle. Circles should have uniform roundness across the board, be the same size, and should close cleanly.
- At first, your lines and circles may seem sloppy. Your lines may be of varying lengths, they may not all be drawn at the same angle, etc. Some of your circles may be perfectly round, while others more oblong. Some may close neatly, while others may have an overlapping hang-off where the pen mark ends.
- Even though this activity seems simple, don’t be discouraged if your lines and circles are sloppy at first. Keep working at it for short periods of time on a regular basis, and you will see a distinct improvement with practice.
- This increased control over lines and curves will help you shape clearer letters.
Move on to writing individual letters.Once you’ve gotten comfortable using the proper posture, hand grip, and writing motion with your lines and circles, you should turn your attention to actual letters. But don’t jump ahead to practicing with full sentences just yet — instead, practice writings rows of each letter, just like you did when you were first learning to write as a child.
- Write each letter at least 10 times in capital and ten in lower-case across a lined page.
- Go through the alphabet at least three times each day.
- Work toward uniformity across the board: each individual “a” should look the same as all the other “a”s, and the angle of the letter “t” should be the same as that of the letter “l.”
- The bottom of each letter should rest along the line on the page.
Practice writing out entire paragraphs.You can copy a paragraph out of a book, write a paragraph of your own, or simply copy a paragraph out of this article. However, you’ll cover all your bases if practice writing with pangrams, or sentences that include every letter of the alphabet.You can have fun trying to come up with your own pangrams, look them up on the internet, or use these examples:
- The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.
- Jim quickly realized that the beautiful gowns are expensive.
- Few quips galvanized the mock jury box.
- Pack my red box with five dozen quality jugs.
Take it slow.Don’t expect your handwriting to miraculous improve overnight — it might take a long time to erase the improper muscle memory developed over years of writing poorly. However, with time and patience, you’ll see a marked improvement in your handwriting.
- Don’t rush your words. Although in some contexts — for example, if you’re taking notes for a class or business meeting — you may have to write quickly, whenever possible slow down your writing process and focus on creating uniformity throughout your letters.
- Over time, as your hand and arm grow more accustomed to this new writing motion, you can speed up your writing while trying to maintain the same legibility as your slower practice-writing.
Write by hand whenever possible.If you’re serious about improving your handwriting, you have to make a commitment to it. Although it may be tempting to simply take notes on a laptop or tablet rather than a pen and paper, your handwriting will begin to slip back into sloppiness if you don’t keep training your writing hand and arm.
- Bring the techniques from your practice sessions into the real world: carry a good pen and pad of good paper with you; look for writing surfaces at an appropriate height; maintain good writing posture; hold the pen properly, with the page at a comfortable angle; and let your fingers guide the pen while your arms do the work of moving it across the page.
Writing Neatly in Cursive
Use the same quality materials and posture as you did with print.The only difference between writing in print and in cursive is the shape of the letters. Keep all of the advice from the first two sections of this article in mind as you practice cursive: have good quality materials, a writing desk of appropriate height, good posture, and proper hand positioning around the pen.
Jog your memory on the cursive alphabet.You were probably taught how to write all the letters in both lower and uppercase as a child. However, if you, like many adults, have gone many years without practicing your cursive script, you may find that you don’t recall how all of the letters are formed. Though many of the letters are fairly close to their print counterparts, some — the “f” in both lower and upper cases, for example — are not.
- Purchase a cursive handwriting book from the “school” aisle at the store, or go to a teaching supply store if you cannot find it there. If neither of those options pans out for you, buy one online.
- You can also find the letters easily online for free.
Practice each letter in upper and lowercase.Just as you did with print writing, you should practice each cursive letter discretely, like you did as a new student of cursive. Make sure that you are following the correct stroke pattern for each letter.
- At first, leave each letter isolated. Write a row of ten capital A-s, a row of ten lowercase a-s, a row of capital B-s, etc., making sure that each iteration of the letter stands alone.
- But remember that in cursive, letters connect to one another. After you’ve grown comfortable practicing the letters in isolation, repeat the previous step, but connect each letter to the next.
- Note that there is no convention in cursive for uppercase letters being connected in a row; therefore, you would write a single uppercase A and connect it to a string of nine lowercase a-s.
Perfect the connections between different letters.The biggest difference between cursive and print, other than the shape of the letters, is obviously that the letters in a word are all connected by the pen stroke in cursive. As such, it’s important that you be able to connect any two letters together naturally without having to think too hard about what it should look like. To practice this, follow staggered patterns through the alphabet, rotating through day-to-day to both keep you from getting bored and to help you cover all the various connections over time.
- Front to back, working to middle: a-z-b-y-c-x-d-w-e-v-f-u-g-t-h-s-i-r-j-q-k-p-l-o-m-n
- Back to front, working to middle: z-a-y-b-x-c-w-d-v-e-u-f-t-g-s-h-r-i-q-j-p-k-o-l-n-m
- Front to back skipping one letter: a-c-e-g-i-k-m-o-q-s-u-w-y; b-d-f-h-j-l-n-p-r-t-v-x-z
- Back to front skipping two letters, and always ending with : z-w-t-q-m-k-h-e-b; y-v-s-p-m-j-g-d-a; x-u-r-o-l-i-f-c
- And so on. Create as many different patterns as you’d like — the goal is simply to focus thoughtfully on creating the connections between different letters.
- The added benefit of this exercise is that since the letters do not create actual words, you cannot speed through the writing. By forcing yourself to slow down, you will practice writing the letters and connecting them in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.
Write out sentences and paragraphs.Just as you did in the previous section, you should move on to actual words, sentences, and paragraphs once you have grown comfortable with the individual letters. Use the same pangrams you practiced on with your print handwriting.
Move your pen slowly but surely.With print handwriting, you lift the pen after every letter or couple of letters, depending on your personal style. However, with cursive, you will have to write many letters before you can lift your pen. This can cause problems in terms of fluidity of penmanship.
- You may be tempted to rest your hand after every letter or two. Not only does this interrupt the flow of the word, it can also result in ink blots if you are using a fountain or other liquid ink pen.
- Write as slowly and deliberately as necessary to make sure you don’t have to rest your pen in the middle of a word. The cursive script should progress through a word at an even, smooth pace.
QuestionWhat if my friends make fun of my handwriting?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust ignore them and keep practicing. With practice, you can definitely improve your handwriting!Thanks!
QuestionHow can I write in cursive neatly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWrite slowly and carefully. Don't put too much pressure on the pen or pencil. Concentrate and keep practicing.Thanks!
QuestionIf I write fast my writing is not neat and clean -- what should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPace your writing instead of writing so quickly. Then practice doing fast, neater writing often, to improve. However, respect the fact that fast writing is never going to be as neat as slower writing -- just aim to make it legible.Thanks!
QuestionI have very neat writing, but it can get sloppy. How do I prevent this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDon't write too quickly and don't put too much pressure on the pen/pencil. Use a warm-up page to get your hand going.Thanks!
QuestionMy problem is that I write well at first, but then my writing gets dirty during exams. How do I write neatly consistently?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's all about practice. If you want your handwriting to be consistent, you have to practice writing sentences and paragraphs. Try using different grips and different pens. If your handwriting gets dirty during exams, don't worry about it; there's no point wasting time on an exam because you want your writing to be neat.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I write extremely small and keep it neat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWrite as you normally would, but keep your hand closer to the paper; this usually means gripping the pen or pencil closer to the tip. Also, keep your strokes shorter while writing. Lastly, try to write with a very fine-tipped pen or well-sharpened pencil.Thanks!
QuestionHow long do I need to practice my handwriting if I don't have much time?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe important thing is to be consistent. Even 10 minutes a day will help, as long as you do it every day. Apply what you've learned about penmanship in everyday activities, and be mindful of what you write, even if it's just filling a form. Gradually, good penmanship will come naturally to you.Thanks!
QuestionWhat type of pen do you recommend?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTo start with a good handwriting, use a gel pen. Gel pens are smooth and provide a good grip. As the ink is dark in color, it gives an good precision over writing. You can use waterproof gel pens, as sometimes the gel pen ink blots or smears on the page. After learning to write neatly with a gel pen, then try ball pen and compare your writing and select which pen suits you the best.Thanks!
QuestionWhat color of ink is most suitable when writing?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBlue is considered to be standard but black is also appropriate. Other colors can be used if allowed. The neatness won't be affected by the color so much as the quality of the ink and some colored inks are less easy to handle than the well refined blues and blacks.Thanks!
QuestionCan these tips be useful for writing other languages?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. They apply to other languages as well.Thanks!
How do you write neatly
- Don't lean while you are writing. For example, don't lean to your left because when you come to read your work then you see it is on a slant, so sit upright with a sharp pencil.
- Take your time. It doesn't matter if your friend finished. Keep progressing until you have mastery.
- Focus on how your writing has improved, not how messy you think it is.
- After you write a paragraph or so, stop lean back and look at your work. If it's neat, carry on writing like that; if it's not, think about what you can do to make it better.
- If you don't feel like writing out the entire alphabet, write about random things, like your name, your favorite foods, etc.
- Begin withwide ruledpaper. Writing big and between the lines will help you keep each letter uniformly sized and you'll be able to examine the finer details of your letters. Switch to smaller rules as you progress.
- Write in the way you feel comfortable; if something looks really neat to you but your friends writing is neater, don't try to be like them. You write in your own way.
- Try to focus on the reason why you want neater handwriting. If you feel discouraged, keep thinking about the reason why you want neater handwriting.
- Clear your mind first, then start to think what words or letters do you want to write. Keep your concentration on the word and slowly write it down on the paper.
- Write out letters that you are having trouble writing neatly on a piece of paper repeatedly to build muscle memory.
- Hold your pen lightly and smoothly for better grip and start writing. You can use ballpoint pens rather than gel pens for a glide kind of motion.
- Don't stress! Usually, school children grow out of their sloppy writing.
- Your hand may hurt so make sure you're ready for it.
- If you see someoneaheadof you or they finished first, tell yourself that they might have just gotten over it and they did not take their time.
Sources and Citations
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