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How to Have Neat Handwriting

Improve your penmanship with these simple tips from a handwriting expert and professional calligrapher.

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The power of the pen

When the entire world is communicating via texting, email, or social media, it’s easy to forget about the value of good penmanship. Handwriting is still an important skill for many reasons; including that writing by hand contributes to reading fluency and helps with memory recall, not to mention that a handwritten note instantly feels more heartfelt than an electronic one. Writing down notes or messages is only half the battle—neat handwriting doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Good penmanship takes time and practice. Calligrapher and handwriting expert Lindsey Bugbee of The Postman’s Knock shares her practical tips for improving your handwriting. Here’s how writing by hand makes you smarter.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Treat yourself to a nice pen

A quality pen not only makes the process of writing more pleasant as it will glide across the paper, but the right pen will also help you have neat handwriting. “The foundation of a positive writing experience is nice materials,” says Bugbee. If you don’t already own a pen you love, treat yourself to a new one. Gel pens are great for beginners because they write smoothly and one with a fine tip will help your writing look neater. Bugbee recommends a Pentel Energel or Pilot G2.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Pick the perfect paper

The type of paper you use will affect the appearance of your letters. “The more tooth your paper has, the more difficult it will be to write on,” says Bugbee. She recommends using smooth, fairly thick paper, whenever possible; her favorite paper stocks are from Rhodia, Clairefontaine, and Tomoe River or the budget-friendly HP Premium 32# Laserjet paper.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Relax your grip

While it’s natural to think that a close, tight grip on your pen will lead to more controlled, neat handwriting, Bugbee says it’s the opposite that’s true. “That tightness will backfire—leading to shaky strokes and angular letters,” she warns. So relax your grip. “You’ll notice that your letters have a more fluid, easy look to them,” she says.

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how to have neat handwritingvia

Experiment with a pen grip

If you have a hard time relaxing your grip, a pen grip that you slip your pen of choice into can help you have neat handwriting “A pen grip forces your fingers to write in a position that should be comfortable and effective,” Bugbee explains. Pen grips are inexpensive and will fit not only most pens, but also pencils, crayons, markers, or paintbrushes. These are the times etiquette dictates you send a handwritten thank-you note.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Practice, practice, practice

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. “If you’re really serious about improving your handwriting, do some drills to address problem strokes,” suggest Bugbee. Copy quotes or passages from books to get more handwriting practice or try the free cursive worksheet Bugbee offers on her website. If you’re really serious, you can sign up for Bugbee’s handwriting course.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Pace yourself

Don’t write too slow or fast—find a happy middle. “If you write too quickly, you’ll sacrifice neatness. Write too slowly, and you’ll notice shaky strokes,” cautions Bugbee. A nice, medium speed is the sweet spot.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Experiment with paper positions and rotations

A common mistake many people make it keeping their paper straight up and down in front of them. “This actually facilitates an additional obstacle to good handwriting, as it’s difficult to achieve a position that gives you an optimal writing angle,” Bugbee says. Instead, she suggests that right-handed people rotate their paper counter-clockwise and left-handed people rotate their paper clockwise.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Write as much as possible

“Like with any other skill, the more you use your handwriting, the more you’ll be able to refine your technique,” says Bugbee. Some ways to sneak in practice is to write a letter instead of an email or write out your grocery list or to-do list instead of tracking them electronically. “Any practice is quality practice,” she says. Cursive is one of 9 subjects that you took in school that your kids won’t have to.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Write on lined paper or use a template

Students use lined paper for a reason; lined paper helps you maintain a consistent baseline and maintain margins, which will immediately make your handwriting look neat and tidy. If you want your handwriting to look great without writing on lined paper, Bugbee suggests using a template. “You can put a piece of notebook paper under printer paper or stationery,” she explains, “More than likely, you’ll be able to see the notebook paper lines through the paper, and you can use those lines as guidelines for even writing.”

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Use padding paper

Having extra cushion underneath your writing paper is another trick to making your writing feel and look smoother. “Regardless of your pen and paper combination, a piece of padding paper under the paper you’re working on is key,” says Bugbee. You can use any piece of paper as padding paper. Try this one-minute trick that will instantly improve your handwriting.

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how to have neat handwritingCourtesy Lindsey Bugbee

Search for handwriting examples online

“Your handwriting will always be an ever-evolving quilt that incorporates your personality with letters that you’ve seen, liked, and decided to use,” says Bugbee. She suggests actively searching for handwriting examples that inspire you, then trying to write in a similar style for practice. Lindsey looks to “Penmanship Porn” on Reddit to discover different styles of attractive penmanship. Next, read on to discover what your handwriting reveals about you.

Debbie Wolfe
Debbie Wolfe is an author and freelance writer specializing in home, garden, DIY, and lifestyle topics. She covers lifestyle, culture, and craft content for Reader's Digest and contributes regularly to HGTV, The Home Depot, Walmart, Family Handyman, Realtor, Bob Vila, and more. Her book, Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts (Skyhorse Publishing), features a variety of practical DIY projects to beautify your garden and home. Debbie holds a degree in Creative Writing and Earth Science from Northland College.