What Are the Characteristics of Handwriting?

What is handwriting?

Before we jump straight into the features of good handwriting, what is writing?

It might sound a bit self-explanatory, but handwriting means the ability to write using a writing instrument, which could be a pen or pencil.

Children may or may not be taught a specific handwriting style, such as cursive, where the letters are all joined together. In many cases, though, children will develop their unique handwriting style as they write more and more. So, while there isn’t a specific right or wrong form of handwriting, a child’s writing should be legible and easy to read.

What are the 12 Characteristics Of Handwriting?

So, what are the 12 major characteristics of handwriting? Several factors make up handwriting. By reading through these, you and your pupils will be able to recognize the features of good writing:

  • Letter spacing: Some people space their letters out while others write letters close together. There should be equal spacing between letters in the word, with a finger space between individual words.
  • Pen lifts: This refers to letter separation and joins when writing by raising the cell of the page or keeping a continuous flow. Children must know when to lift the pen off the pen and when to join letters as part of cursive handwriting practice.
  • Pen pressure: This is the amount of weight the pupil puts on the paper. Some learners can have very light pen pressure, resulting in shaky or faint writing. On the other hand, some learners can struggle with putting too much pressure on the page when concentrating on paper, which can damage the page and cause extra strain on their wrists.
  • Line quality: Line quality refers to the thickness, consistency, flow, and strength of the pen line creating letters. Similarly to pen pressure, learners will differ in how they draw lines. Line quality can also indicate the speed children are writing.
  • Diacritic placement refers to the order of the finishing touches to letters. For example, where are the crosses on t’s and dots on i’s? Are the t’s crossed? Is the cross on the t at the top, middle, or bottom of the letter? Are the appropriate letters dotted and crossed? If so, are they spotted to the left, the center, or the right of the ‘I’?
  • The size, width, and height of letters are all key features of good handwriting. Lowercase letters should be equally sized, but uppercase letters are typically taller. Wider letters may indicate lower concentration and faster writing, while cramped and small letters might indicate slower writing.
  • Extra embellishments: Do your pupils add any embellishments to their letters? These are all those pretty swooshes and swirls you see added to various parts of letters or words, and they can indicate that a pupil has more of a creative personality.
  • Line adherence: Line adherence refers to if your pupil’s writing remains on the line, floats above the line or sinks below the baseline. In the classroom, children should be taught to begin all of their writing on the baseline of the page.
  • Letter joins: Letter joins are the small marks and pen strokes that connect the individual letters into words. Children should learn how and when to associate letters with letter joins.
  • Letter slant/ italics: This can be called writing in italics, which refers to how letters lean. Some say you can tell something about a person’s personality or writing style by whether their letters slant backward or forwards or if they write letters without a slant.
  • Letter formation: One of the key features of good handwriting is whether children can form complete letters. Fully-formed, recognizable letters will be easier to read than partially-formed ones!
  • Handwriting style or font: Typically, the child is writing in printed, pre-cursive or cursive handwriting styles. Check out our printing and cursive handwriting wikis to learn more about these styles.

What can affect these 12 characteristics of handwriting?

Now that we’ve broken down 12 features of good handwriting, a few factors can affect writing. Knowing them will help you support your child’s handwriting development. These include:

Dominant hand: Left-handed Pupils may struggle to form clear handwriting and master features of good handwriting for many reasons. Research has shown that around 10% of the population is left-handed, which means you’re sure to have some children in your classroom who write with their left hand. They may struggle in this mostly right-handed world.

For example, it’s common for their writing to be unclear because their hand smears the ink or pencil as the child writes across the page. The indicator also gets in the way of reading directions and examples in the left-handed margin.

Writing tools: Children can’t master these important features of good handwriting if they struggle to use the right tools. For example, most children prefer to learn handwriting skills using a pencil, which can support lighter pressure and can be easily erased when they make mistakes.

The size of their writing tools can also affect their handwriting in the classroom. If your child struggles with a regular pencil, try a smaller or shorter, kid-sized one. Also, ensure their pencil has a good

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