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Handwriting analysis

A person's handwriting gives clues to their personality. The methods of graphology are tried and tested and provide consistent results. They are often used both by the police to assess the personality of criminals and suspects, and by corporations to assess the potential of candidates for employment.

There are nineteen pointers to examine in a person's handwriting. This is a comprehensive listing of the various characteristics which will give you a good working idea of who you are dealing with. However, don't expect to become an expert graphologist overnight. The real skill is in understanding how these nineteen factors interact with each other. This requires a lot of experience. Interestingly, you can't tell a person's sex from their handwriting; the sexes do not write in different ways.

Once you have a basic understanding of graphology you will probably find, as I do, that you are reading two sets of information: what someone has to say and how they have written it.

Obviously in a word-processing age, there is rather less opportunity to view handwriting than was the case in earlier times. However, a lot of communication is still handwritten. Holiday postcards, birthday and Christmas cards for instance, although to get a reasonable assessment you need at least a handwritten page. Personal letters are more often than not handwritten; people feel that a typed personal letter is a bit too formal.

The nineteen pointers are:

  1. Connotative and Indexical Meanings
  2. Zones
  3. Pressure
  4. Emphasis
  5. Page Layout
  6. Word and Paragraph layout
  7. Size
  8. Line Slope
  9. Letter Slant
  10. Evenness and Appearance of the Letters
  11. Letter Connectivity
  12. Width of the Letters
  13. Initial Letters of Words
  14. Final Letters of Words
  15. Capital Letters
  16. The Letters I, i, T and t
  17. Upper Loops
  18. Lower Loops
  19. Signature

Next, we need to look at each of these factors in detail to see what to look for and what character traits these factors indicate.

Connotative and Indexical Meanings

The dictionary definition of a word is the denotative meaning. However, words also have connotative and indexical meanings. The indexical meaning and to a lesser extent the connotative meaning, offer clues to the personality.

A good illustration of the relationship between connotative and denotative meaning is in the name of Moscow's Red Square. The Russian word "Crazny" denotatively refers to the same part of the spectrum as the English word "Red". However, the associations which Russian people make with this word - its connotative meaning - are the same associations which western people make with the colour Gold. Hence, in a connotative sense, its name is "Golden Square".

Similarly, the denotative meaning of "Father" is "Male Parent". However, everyone associates a connotative meaning with the word "father" based on their own experience of their own father. A careful analysis of how an individual uses particular words may offer insights into their life experience.

The indexical meaning relates to the particular words a person chooses when there are alternatives, and offers clues to their peer group, social position, career choice and life experience. You would expect very different vocabularies from an accountant, athlete, teenager or doctor, for instance.

One useful aspect of the interpretation of connotative and indexical meanings is that these meanings can be gleaned from a typed document or an email as much as from a handwritten letter. Most of the other factors are lost in a printed document.

The Zones

There are three zones, the upper zone where the "ascenders" are located, the middle zone which houses the body of the letter, and the lower zone where the "descenders" appear.

The characters b, d, h, k, l, and t have ascenders but no descenders. The characters g, j, p, y and z have descenders but no ascenders. Only the character f has an ascender and descender when handwritten. all the other letters appear in the middle zone only.

We need to see which zone dominates in a person's handwriting. If the top zone is dominant, i.e. proportionately larger than the others, the person is likely to have high moral and spiritual values and is probably something of an idealist. However, if this zone is disproportionately high it indicates that the individual is proably something of a dreamer or rather impractical. Dominance in The middle zone indicates practicality. If the middle zone is disproportionately large the individual is likely to be purely interested in what is happening in the immediate moment. Dominance in the lower zone indicates a down to earth person or an "earthy", pyhsical type, possible in the sensual sense or possible an athlete.


Pressure had more significance when people were generally using fountain pens; most people these days use ball-point pens and it is not so easy to detect whether heavy or light pressure has been used. It is however, possible to detect excessive pressure if there is an impression on the back of the paper. Also with felt tip pens, heavy pressure will result in closed loops while light pressure results in open loops.

The choice of pen is also significant. People who use fountain pens tend to be individualists, those wh use felt tip pens tend to be artistic.

Light pressure indicates a quiet personality and a dislike of violence, and possibly shyness. Heavy pressure indicates a more forceful (but not necessarily violent) personality if the loops are well formed; heavy pressure combined with less well formed loops indicates nervous tension.


Most people don't use emphasis much in their letters, except maybe a single underlined word to draw attention to it. However, beware of people who make excessive use of underlining, especially double or multiple underlining. They tend to be foreceful, blinkered and only interested in "having their say" rather than listening to anyone else. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I used up to fourteen underlines under a single word.

Page Layout

A page with even margins left and right and also top and bottom and with the contents of the letter evenly balanced, indicates a tidy and well-organised person who is not easily flustered. They can cope with situations, size people up and are probably shrewd business people.

A narrow left and wide right margin, often accompanied by backward sloping letters, indicates a leftward tendency in the writing. These people tend to be withdrawn and introverted and to have difficulty meeting and interacting with people. They do, however, tend to be very practical

A wide left and narrow right margin indicates virtually the opposite of the previous type. They are outgoing, want to get on with life, enjoy meeting people and take a keen interest in current affairs.

If the margins slope, this indicates a progress through time from one type to the other. In other words, if the left margin gets wider towards the bottom of the document and the right margin gets narrower, The person has initial difficulty with first contact but gradually "warms up". If the slope is the opposite of this, the person meets people easily but gradually becomes withdrawn, loses confidence or loses interest.

People who write with small or no margins at all are often generous and want to make use of all of the page and by implication, make use of all of a situation and every minute of life. They are often impulsive and restless.

People who make additional notes in all of the margins and cram words in anywhere they will go tend to be impractical and unable to organise. Often it is also a sign of loneliness.

Word and Paragraph layout

Even spacing, like even margin setting, indicates a tidy and well-organised person who can cope with situations, size people up and are probably shrewd in business. Jumbled-up words which run into each other indicate a similarly jumbled and illogical mind. If the jumbling is also associated with words which are inconsistent in size, this may indicate mental instability. Alternatively, if this is not the person's normal writing it could indicate extreme agitation in the immediate situation. However, some extremely creative people exhibit this characteristic because they can't get their ideas down on paper and move on fast enough. Which of these is the correct interpretation depends on the association with other factors.


Average-sized writing has no particular significance but particularly large or small writing has. There are two possible interpretations of very small writing. Either the person is very introverted or is something of a genius. To establish which, you need to look at the size in conjunction with other factors.

Brilliant people often have extremely small writing but under a magnifying glass the letters are perfectly formed; often the margins are very small in order to make use of all of the space on the page. The letters are well connected and the "I" is carefully dotted exactly over the letter. There are very few or no mistakes. It is often said that Mozart wrote music first time with no mistakes. I've seen the originals of letters to his family in Salzburg and the same can be said of the letters; there are no mistakes anywhere. Mozart's writing was tiny but every letter was perfectly formed.

If on the other hand the small writing is an expression of introversion, the writing is likely to slope backwards, the final letters of words may be hooked back and falling loops tend to swing backwards.

Mentally unstable people write excessively large scripts but more often large writing indicates an extrovert, probably a natural showman. These people stand out in a crowd and tend to have loud voices. They are confident, may be vivaceous or otherwise may be self-aggrandising. Interestingly, large writing is not an indication of physical strength: athletes' writing is generally of a similar size to everyone else's.

Line Slope

There is no special sigificance in writing which has a normal, horizontal orientation. Upwardly sloping wiriting shows a positive, confident and outgoing personality. Optimistic and full of drive they take the rough with the smooth and are not easily discouraged. The interpretation of downwardly sloping writing is more complex. It may indicate lack of confidence or depression but alternatively may indicate extreme tiredness or illness in a person who would not normally be so down. Which it is depends on interpreting the slope in conjunction with other factors but also the nature of the slope.

A slight droop at the end of the line indicates a person struggling against tiredness or, usually if the letter and word formation is shaky, illness. They pull themselves up in time to start the next line but again, the effort is becoming too much by the end of the line. If each word droops the tiredness is extreme; if the line itself is straight but the words individually still droop it indicates a dogged determination to carry on. An overall downward slope to the line is an indicator of depression or pessimism but don't jump to conclusions; the writer may have received bad news or just generally had a bad day. At other times his or her writing may not exhibit this trait. Also, be careful if you are interpreting the writing of someone using a flip chart or whiteboard. This may be badly placed and the slope of the lines simply due to the right side of the board being out of easy reach.

Letter Slant

Handwriting can be forward sloping, vertical or backward sloping. Handwriting is considered to be vertical if it is within about ten degrees of the vertical. About fifty percent of people write vertically; the rest are about equally split between left and right sloping.

Left sloping writing indicates anything from reticence to extreme introversion, depending on the amount of slope. They are generally not good mixers, either because of shyness or simply because they prefer their own company.

People with vertical handwriting are generally calm and relaxed and are unlikely to make impetuous decisions but may tend to be slightly cold and analytical. They may be slightly aloof but are good judges of character. It is generally considered that a slight forward slope indicates a more optimistic attitude than a slight backward slope.

If the writing exhibits a forward slope of more than ten degrees, the writer is likely to be full of enthusiasm, energy and ambition and to be a good mixer with a positive outlook. However if the forward slope is approaching 45 degrees or greater, a reckless and gullible nature is indicated.

Evenness and Appearance of the Letters

Average shaping has no special significance. There are four kinds of shaping to look out for: Angular, garland, arcade and thread.

Angular writing indicates a decisive and sharp-witted character. They are strong willed and strong minded. Often found in architects and engineers, the angular style indicates a practical nature, however this type may be somewhat ruthless in pushing though their ideas. Often these people work in sales or advertising.

The nature of the garland type is almost directly the opposite. Garland writing consists of well rounded downward loops - uuuuuu. Gentle and easy-going, they have a dislike of confrontation and are often taken advantage of. These writers are sensitive, spiritual and artistic and are often composers or poets.

The arcade style is visually almost the exact opposite of garland with well rounded loops written in the opposite direction: nnnnnnn. Arcade writers also have great creativity but in a practical sense - for instance, as architects and designers. Frequently they are loners. They have an excellent sense of form and perspective.

Thread like writing which is almost indecipherable may indicate that the writer has something to hide - use caution. On the other hand it may be that they don't really give a damn and are not really interested in communication. Make sure that you are looking at the normal style of handwriting - if for instance you are inebriated you will find your handwriting becoming threadlike.

Letter Connectivity

If the letters are well connected together within words it indicates a continuous, logical flow of thought on the part of the writer. If the connectivity continues between word so that individual words are connected together there is a fast flow of thought and creativity. Frequent breaks in the connection of letters within words indicates a person full of nervous energy who acts intuitively.

Width of the Letters

The width of the letters is only significant if they are particularly narrow or wide. If the letters are narrow but rounded, the writer is cautious and finds it difficult to communicate. If the letters are narrow and angular, the writer has sharp, creative ideas which they push forward regardless of conflicting opinion. Very narrow letters indicate a ruthless and self-centred nature.

Often generous and extravagant, people who write with wide letters are convivial and outgoing. Check this characteristic against the formation of final letters - see below.

Initial Letters of Words

Look for the flourishes on initial letters. They indicate how much the writer deliberates before committing thoughts to paper. A flourish on the initial word of the sentence indicates that the writer thinks carefully before starting the sentence; however, a flourish on the first letter of each word indicates a plodding, slow thinker. No flourishes on the initial letters indicates a quick thinker who likes to get his or her thoughts down on paper quickly.

Final Letters of Words

The final stroke of the last letter of a word is a "parting shot" and indicates the relationship of the writer to other people. Long, slightly upward, open strokes indicate a generous and courteous nature, while long horizontal straight flourishes indicate a strong minded and possibly suspicious nature. Flourishes curving back over the top of words indicate a protective nature. Long vertical strokes reminiscent of table-thumping indicate dogmatism and strongly-held opinions.

Capital Letters

Capital letters drawn with a flourish can indicate a natural showman an artistic nature or a desire to "brighten things up". However, not too much emphasis should be placed on capitals in themselves; what is more important is the shape of the letters whether capitals or smalls.

The Letters I, i, T and t

People subconsciously take the letter "I" literally as referring to "myself". it is therefore a good indicator of self confidence, self esteem and self interest. A capital "I" written as a simple vertical stroke indicates modesty and an unassuming nature. If written with strong serifs (horizontal lines at the top and bottom) a businesslike, practical nature is indicated. Formed with a flourish, it indicates a confident and artistic nature. Small and tightly looped it indicates self interest and lack of confidence.

The indicator for a small i is the placing and shape of the dot. A dot placed directly over the letter indicates orderliness; if it is vertically close to the letter it shows precision and accuracy possibly bordering on finickiness. The occasional or frequent absence of a dot indicates carelessness. A dot placed well behind the letter indicates reticence while one placed well ahead of the letter indicates an enquiring mind.

Most people use a small dot; a short dash rather than an dot shows enthusiasm; a small circle indicates a desire to draw attention to oneself while an upward chevron (like a French circumflex accent) show a quick-witted, humourous nature.

The horizontal line of the small letter "t" indicates the horizon; If it is high the writer is forward-looking and ambitious; placed low, the writer is possibly downcast, or at least only interested in short-term goals. The strength of the cross, whether in the small or capital letter "T", indicates the energy, enthusiasm and strength of the individual.

Upper Loops

Large upper loops indicate a spiritual, idealistic nature. If these loops are inclined forward more than the handwriting in general, it indicates self-effacement or a humble nature.

Lower Loops

Wide lower loops indicate strength. Very wide lower loops indicate unusual or strong sexual interest. Filled in loops indicate sensuality and artistic tendencies. Very angular loops indicate coldness or a sharp temper. Short, cut off descenders with no loops indicate timidity or lack of physical strength. Full-length descenders which do not have loops indicate a down to earth or possibly suspicious nature.


Signatures on their own say nothing about a person. However, in general the business type signature, used by people who sign a lot of letters, are often in a style which disguises the name in order to make forgery difficult. Very elaborate signatures are often used by celebrities and artistic people.

Once you understand how these nineteen factors work you can start putting the knowledge to use. However, as mentioned before, the real skill is in seeing how they interact in the complex way that we call a person's personality.

Copyright Ken James 2008

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