What makes everyone look different

Handwriting: Why every font is unique

Wide or narrow, large or none, ornate or clear: our handwriting is as distinctive and unique as we are. Read why this is and how our handwriting has developed

Imagine if we hadn't written these lines with the computer, but with a ballpoint pen. Would you be able to decipher our scrawl? Wouldn't we have put it on paper too crookedly, too irregularly or too sloppily?

Perhaps we would have compared all of our handwriting beforehand to see who writes the most beautifully. After all, the computer has a decisive advantage: it always writes properly, while our handwriting is all different. But: Why does everyone have their own, unmistakable handwriting?

The signature: completely unique!

Writing psychologists, so-called graphologists, believe they have found an answer to this question. They say: Our writing expresses parts of our personality. Letters inclined to the right, for example, can indicate a warm-hearted type, while letters inclined to the left indicate that a person is closed. And because no one is like the other, our handwriting is also unique.

"You have to read a font like a puzzle," explains the psychologist Sabine Winter, who also works as a graphologist. "There is no one characteristic that is absolutely clear, but many different ones that only say something about a person when they are put together." The theory of graphologists sounds exciting, but it has not been scientifically proven.

The graphic artist Florian Hardwig did research in a different direction: He noticed that the Dutch write differently than Germans. That is why he rummaged through school primers from all over the world and compared German writing templates with English, English with French, French with German and so on.

He noticed that many of the letters that we "reproduce" in first grade differ from country to country. "For example, the French learn a capital Q, which looks very different from what we do in Germany," he says. "And this difference can later also be found in the handwriting."

How your own handwriting is created

What our font looks like right now also depends on the situation. Are we scratching the paper with our favorite pencil? Are we in a good mood or in a bad mood? Are we greasing up a shopping list, or are we going to particularly hard trouble for grandma’s birthday letter?

It also makes a difference whether we have just learned to write or whether we have been scribbling over exercise books, pads or notepads for tens of years. If we are still inexperienced, the region in the brain that consciously controls our pen movements is primarily used: the so-called primary motor cortex. This is why our font in elementary school is still very similar to the model from the schoolbook, just a little bit more scrawly.

The older we get, the less we think about what our hand is actually doing - and this is how our own writing gradually emerges. "Many young people try out their handwriting during puberty, make a squiggle as an i-dot or write a little larger than usual," explains Sabine Winter. "Your own handwriting will only really solidify in your early twenties or even later."

Typing is the new writing

From then on it goes “downhill”: For many adults, most of the paperwork can be done more quickly and easily on the computer or mobile phone. The handwriting "rusts" in this way and often does not work so smoothly. Many teachers fear that it will eventually disappear completely because many students are only learning print and no cursive and more and more tablets are being used in the classrooms.

Writing makes you smart! For example, scribbling during class helps focus. A study from the USA also showed that handwriting is remembered better and that what you have learned can be remembered longer. So it's no wonder that we decided to write at least parts of this story by hand.

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