Three Tips to Help Improve Your Penmanship
Do you love pens, but hate writing because your handwriting looks like the illegible scrawl of a third grader? Have you always wanted to write using a fountain pen or a dip pen, but inevitably find your arms coated in ink and your paper covered in ink blotches? Here are a few tips to help you improve your handwriting to develop the aesthetically pleasing hand of your grandparents (my grandparents anyway, I don’t know about yours…).
Don’t Use Your Fingers
It’s called handwriting for a reason. Your fingers grasp the pen and hold it in position, but your forearm and shoulder are going to be required to actually write smoothly. Simply pick up your hand off of the paper and you’ll automatically find yourself writing very differently, that’s what you want to learn. At first it’ll look like an awful scrawl because you’re not used to it. Once you’re accustomed to having your entire arm moving while you write instead of just your fingers you can write with your hand resting on the paper again, just be sure that your arm is still engaged in the writing process.
The muscles you want to use are mainly in your shoulder and back. If you’ve ever watched an old kung fu movie you’ll almost certainly have seen a scene where the young Chinese warrior is required to learn to write. If you were paying attention you’d notice that they hold their brush vertically with a stiff wrist and their arms lifted off the paper (they’re using a brush, so it’s a bit different, but bear with me). If you were ever to learn to write Chinese using traditional techniques you’d find that you’d be using exactly the same muscle groups as you would be when handwriting with a pen.
Get the Right Angle
As we just mentioned, we’re not writing Chinese; ideally you’d hold your pen at a 45 degree angle to your writing surface. This isn’t because it’s better for your muscle control, but rather because it helps to keep the flow of ink from your pen running smoothly if you’re using any kind of pen with a proper nib. Holding the pen vertically means that increased pressure won’t bend the tines of the nib properly, possibly damaging it or your paper. You don’t need to hold it at exactly 45 degrees, it’s more important to hold the pen comfortably than it is to get the angle perfect, because if your hand is cramped you’ll run into a whole new set of problems. The important thing to remember is that holding the pen at a shallower angle will give you better control over the tension on your nib and with it more control over the thickness of your lines.
How to Practice
My favorite practice phrase is the old classic “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” because it contains all the letters of the alphabet, so you get to practice everything at once. Sit down and write it ten times (or a hundred if you feel like it), and then come back tomorrow and do it again (etc…). Don’t overdo it at first, because you’ll notice very quickly that you’re training new muscles by just how sore your shoulder and arm will get. Good luck!
Alice Jenkins is a writer, graphic designer and marketer. When Alice isn't nitpicking her own logo designs, she writes about social media, business branding and design. Alice writes for PensXpress, a business that specializes in personalized, imprinted pens. She can be contacted via her Google+ page.