I’ve been teaching calligraphy for 5 years now (it’s currently March 2021). And if you know anything about calligraphy, you know calligraphy and handwriting are two very different things. In fact, I have a full video about how calligraphy and handwriting are totally different skills. If you’re interested in understanding that a bit more, you can view that here.
Calligraphy and handwriting are super different. However…
Over the years, every once in a while I have someone approach me saying they don’t want to learn calligraphy, but they do want to learn how to improve their crappy handwriting. And although I don’t TEACH how to improve your handwriting (I’m a calligraphy teacher after all), I do have some tips for you if you’re looking to improve your handwriting.
If you do decide you want to learn calligraphy or hand lettering (which again – are different from handwriting), I’d love to connect. You can join my email list for updates or subscribe to my YouTube Channel. I put out two new videos and blog posts every single week!
But let’s get into how to improve your handwriting… I have a 3 step “formula” for you.
Rather watch than read? No problem! If you prefer to watch my handwriting tips, click the video to watch. ??
First Things First…
The links below may be affiliate links where appropriate. This means that your purchase through these links may result in a few cents in payment to me, to support creating further resources like this one! That being said, I will never suggest supplies that I do not personally use and fully recommend.
- Monoline Pen/Pencil – I used a Paper Mate Flair, but any pen or pencil will do. You don’t need anything fancy.
- Tracing Paper
- Printed Sheet of Letters and Sentences
Back to the 3 step formula… Step One: NOTICE
This might feel like a sorta wishy washy woowoo not super actionable step, but it’s really important.
If you want to make an effort to change your writing you actually have to notice:
a) what you don’t like about your own handwriting and what you want to change about it AND
b) what you like about other people’s handwriting that you can implement into your own handwriting
It sounds a bit odd, but I’ve literally been doing this my whole life. When I see someone’s writing that I like, I snap a picture of it and I assess what it is about it that I would like to incorporate into my own.
True story: I remember one time back when I worked in interior design, I got some floor plans with several handwritten markups on them from a designer I worked with. And I LOVED the way she wrote her capital M. I loved it so much that I sent her an email specifically to tell her. (She never replied because, let’s be real, she probably thought I was a weirdo, but I ended up copying her capital M and using it myself. It’s literally a part of my own writing now. ?)
Long story short – take pictures or screenshots whenever you notice something you like in someone else’s writing and really NOTICE it. What exactly is it you like? Is it one letter? A bunch of letters? How can you incorporate it into your own?
Step Two: PRACTICE
Step 2 is practice. I know it sounds like another not super helpful tip, but this is how you’re going to change your handwriting – by practicing!
Go onto your computer and find some basic “sans serif” fonts. Here are a few I like: Arial, Source Sans Pro, Helvetica Neue. These ones are really basic, but you could choose whatever style you like. And this may be controversial, but you could even use Comic Sans if you want something that’s a little less rigid.
Type out the alphabet with whichever font you choose, and print it off. You could also print some random words or sentences; it doesn’t have to be just the alphabet.
Put some tracing paper overtop, and purposefully trace and learn the letters.
I know I know. It probably feels silly and elementary. That’s because it’s exactly what we did in elementary school… but it’s super helpful! Also, this doesn’t mean you have to make all your letters look JUST like the font ones. These are just really good examples. I wouldn’t write certain letters this way, like my a. But it’s a good exercise for slowing down and paying attention, and for getting some basic structure back into your messy letters.
Practice this part as much as you can. Focus on slowing down. Paying attention to each letter. And taking note of exactly how the letters are built up to add some structure back into your handwriting.
Step Three: IMPLEMENT
And step number three is just to implement the things you’ve just learned. By now, you’ve practiced some really basic alphabets, and you’ve also banked up some screenshots and images of other people’s handwriting to find styles you like. At this point, it’s really just a matter of starting to force yourself to implement these exact things in your own handwriting.
Anytime you’re writing something, you really need to:
1) Slow yourself down
2) Remember all of the things you liked about the other alphabets and all of the structure you practiced
3) Force yourself to implement them into your handwriting
You can totally do this slowly over time. You can change just one thing at a time, like how you write your letter “a”. Just change your letter “a” for a while before you add in another change. Adding in these little things over time will eventually really change the look of your writing.
Long story short…
The answer to improving your handwriting is really just to notice, slow down, and be intentional about practicing it a bit neater. We all know how to write – we’ve all learned it. It’s just that some of us got messy over time and need to go back to the basics and relearn to slow down.
There’s actually no magic formula, but the first step to improving your handwriting is to admit you have messy handwriting…. And if you’re reading this, then you’re probably already there. 🙂
Good news is that now you’re on your way to better handwriting. 🙂
And that’s a wrap!
Not sure what supplies to use? Check out my free 50+ page supplies guide at thehappyevercrafter.com/supplies!
Handwriting dad joke for you…
I bought a pen that can write underwater…
It can write other words too!
My daughter and I were talking about how I wrote a note for her at lunch, with a monster of course, and all her friends were like you write in code with your dad? That’s so cool! No, she replied, that’s English, its how he writes.
So, here I am recovering from rotator cuff surgery (left one, not my right, I mean writing arm…) and being on various pain meds, I thought to myself, self, you should improve your handwriting and you could, because it’s about all you can do right now. I had a basic idea about how to go about this, but your 3 step method, (I went over it several times to get it down) fit the method I had in mind.
I’m going to find a font that I want to write like and then practice that font until I have it down and then (best idea ever!) supplement that with other people’s letters I like until I have a unique, yet attractive expression of writing. What could be a cooler way to express yourself than with your own unique yet structured implemented handwriting?!
I’m stoked. And I am grateful to you for laying it out so simply, and for the idea of grabbing a pic of other people’s unique letters and then incorporating them into your style. Very cool.
However, as an old Graphics Arts teacher, I’m sure you know friends don’t let friends use comic sans, but you know what, as the basis for a handwriting style, who knows?! I’m not saying I’m going anywhere near comic sans, but it may be appropriate for something, someday, somewhere, on a planet far far away…
So Mahalo Becca for your insights and I think I’ll check out what else you’ve got going on on your sight.
All the best,