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When I was a child I was initially taught to write my letters separately as block letters, which in those days was known as “printing” since most people would never use an electronic printer or typewriter. When I was older I progressed on to “joined-up writing”. Many of the joined letters were different shapes to what I had learnt. For years I had been taught to make my letters and numbers from top to bottom but most of these letters were formed by an upstroke first. When I got to secondary school I had an English teacher with his own ideas on what joined-up letters should look like so we spent numerous lessons where he tried to adapt our writing to his preferences. How many hours, days, weeks or months of my life have I spent learning and practicing handwriting? I was reflecting on this the other day and marvelling at the irony that learning to input letters into my Cykey keyboard had only taken about 20 mins! Recently I had to write something and after ten minutes or so my hand began to twinge at the unaccustomed use of certain muscles. This brought home to me just how rare it was these days for me to use a pen rather than a keyboard. The modern school curriculum has many important subjects that were not considered when I was a child and understandably time allocated to learning handwriting has been reduced. Handwriting still remains an important skill and the reduced time available just emphasises the need for a handwriting system that is legible while being easy to learn in the available time. There are a number of handwriting systems currently in use. Many of us were taught one system for our printed letters and were later taught the cursive Palmer system. Palmer handwriting apparently emphasises the upstroke, whilst when you are first taught to write (before you learn “joined-up”) you are constantly told to start at the top. Italic and other visually pleasing handwritten styles tend to work on the downstroke. I have looked at several alternate systems and found the Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting system had some thought-provoking features. One interesting idea is that the characters of the block script and the continuous form are very similar, making transition easier and less time consuming. Another interesting feature is that all the letters within a word do not need to be connected in the cursive form. In many cursive writing systems the letter “r” connects to the bottom of the next letter, resulting in a not particularly well differentiated character that resembles an “n”. “s” is another letter that often gets mangled attempting to connect it. Adopting a semi-cursive style where certain letters are not connected greatly increases legibility yet has a negligible effect on writing speed. This practice actually encourages more letters to be formed by a downstroke. Some freshly started letters will overlap the tails of previous letters, creating the illusion of a continuous hand. Inspired by this I have formulized a number of suggestions that can be used to make your handwriting more legible. While this is not really a system, we will for convenience call this collection of ideas “NuScript”. The main rule of NuScript is to use downstrokes whenever possible. This also has the advantage that it reduces the excessive number of loops common to many people’s handwriting. Loops often make your handwriting appear cluttered. Avoid loops on characters that do not need them. Handwriting in the modern world is seldom used for long or rapid transcriptions so slow down a shade so that you can focus on your letter formation. Spaces between words should be the width of a lowercase “o” and spaces between letters half this.
In cursive writing most letters join to the next one from the bottom of the character, the character finishing near the line on which it is written. Some characters finish near the top of the character and can be joined to the next character near its top. Most characters can be joined to by the previous at either the top or the bottom. In NuScript there are some characters that are an exception to this. Some characters never connect to the next character. Some do not connect to the previous character or only connect to certain characters. The following are not so much rules as suggestions that may help your handwriting become clearer and more attractive. You will doubtless add your own quirks, flourishes and preferences to form your own individual style. There is no wrong or right form, although some variations may be better and clearer than others. Letters are either normal sized, tall or tailed. a, c, m, n, i are standard-sized letters. b and k are tall letters and g, p, q and y are tailed. Letters like t and f don’t quite fit into these classes but more of them later. Letters connect to the previous letter at either the top or the bottom. Some connect to the next letter only from their bottom, some only from the top. As in other handwriting systems this results in certain letters having several alternate shapes depending on the letters around them. For brevity I have only shown one form of each. Informal handwriting will always have an element of impressionism to it. The trick is to not stray into the abstract or surreal!
a, c, d, i, m, n, t, u : All of these letters can connect to the previous letter either high or low and connect to the next letter from low down. The first three are curved on their left side, the others begin straight. Try to form the straight part without a loop if you begin it from low down. “t” can be started with a fresh downstroke, like other tall letters or can connect at its base or centre. Pausing to dot an “i” or cross a “t” adds opportunities to introduce a downstoked character and halt a runaway scrawl.
e : e connects to the previous character by its middle rather than its top or bottom. The first stroke is best made on the oblique to keep the letter looking consistent. “e” connects to the next letter from low down.
o, r : These letters can be started low or high like the letters above but finish high. Such letters only connect to following letters that can be started high. “r” is also not connected if doing so makes the character less clear. “ri” is clearer written as distinct letters. Be wary of letting your r resemble a “v”.
v, w : These letters only connect high to the next letter. There is a good case to be made for only connecting them to the previous letter if it finishes high. Concentrate on giving the “w” its distinctive double bottom.
h, k, l : These are all tall letters that end low down. Tall letters are best begun by taking the pen off the paper and making them with a new downstroke rather than a loop upwards. Upper stroke of the “k” can be looped or straight, whichever you prefer.
b : b is a tall letter that connects to the next high up. Like the other tall letters it is best begun by taking the pen off the paper and starting it with a new downstroke rather than a loop upwards. As a high ending letter it connects high to the next letter. Make sure it is distinct from an “l”.
g, j, p, q, y, s : These letters can be started low or high but do not connect to the following letter. The tails of some of these can be used as connections but the letters are clearer and more decorative if this is not done. I tend to loop the shaft of the “p” so may have to learn to make this letter in two strokes. “s” finishes on the left so no attempt is made to clutter things by trying to connect it to the next letter.
z : z never connects to a succeeding letter unless it can connect low. If it does connect to a preceding letter it only does so if that letter finishes high. A case can be made for never connecting z to other characters.
x : x connects low to a preceding letter if it finished low, high if it is high. Likewise it can connect to either the top or bottom of the following letter, whichever is clearer. “x” is usually made as a “ↄ” and a “c” touching, which helps distinguish it from multiplication signs. “x” can be formed with the first stroke upwards rather than downwards, depending on if the previous letter finished low or high. The straight form is acceptable if it is within a word.
f : f can be started on a fresh downstroke like a tall letter but can also be started high or low form the previous letter. The tail can either be used to connect high or finished as a non-connecting character like a tailed letter.
ɘ : I am interested in the SaypYu project so I have included the character “shwaa”. The handwritten form of shwaa is formed as a “ↄ” and then a horizontal bar added. Sometimes the handwritten form will probably end looking like an “э”. Shwaa does not connect to the previous letter but the bar can be used to connect to a high-starting successive letter, or the character can be left unconnected for clarity. The handwritten capital of shwaa would resemble “Э”. Structurally, letters divide into several groups. The “c group” letters all use an oval or part oval. They start on the right, go to the left and then down and back to the right. These letters are “a ”, “c ”, “d ”, “g ”, “o ” and “q ”. Getting the oval part neat, distinct and consistent will go a long way to improving your handwriting. The “i-group” letters all begin with a straight vertical. These are “b ”, “h ”, “i ”, “j ”, “k ”, “l ”, “m”, “n”, “p”, “r” and “t”. Start these with a downward stroke whenever possible and try to avoid looping. The “cup-group” letters are “u”, “y” and the round-bottomed form of “⍵”. These start vertical then use a half oval for the bottom part. Sloppy formation can make “u” and “y” look like “a” and “g” or vice versa. “v” and the straight forms of “w” and “x” start with an oblique straight stroke. “e”, “f ”, “э”, “s”, curved “x” and “z” do not fit into any groups. My handwriting is not going to win me any awards but at least it is clearer now.
Phil West. December 2013 Author of “Attack, Avoid, Survive : Essential Principles of Self Defence” “Survival Weapons : Optimizing Your Arsenal”
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