Welcome to the new Writing Q&A site! This is the place for anybody interested in the craft of professional writing, editing, and publishing. We welcome questions about all types of writing: fiction, poetry, technical documentation, journalism, scriptwriting, non-fiction, essays, and more. Got questions? Click the "ask" button! Able to offer answers? Try the search button, click on any tag, or just browse. And please vote on content that stands out.
If you have an account on Writing Stack Exchange, you can claim your questions and answers with your account here.
We're currently running on temporary software while waiting for Codidact to be ready. The URL is on codidact.com now, and the software will be updated to match later. Regardless of the software, you can help us expand our library of questions and answers right now -- please join us.
Currently I am 22 years old. I have a very bad handwriting. Also, I kinda feel I write slow when compared to other students of my age.
Back in 10th grade, I was so slow that I was unable to finish my exam within the stipulated time despite knowing the answers. I was able to complete writing only for around 90% of the total marks in some exams. I ended up getting bad grades not because I didn't study but because I was unable to complete all the questions due to lack of time.
My writing speed increased however the legibility remained the same. Also, when I try to write fast in exams, I get pain in my arms and sometimes fingers too after an hour or two which in turn reduces my speed.
1st image corresponds to my fastest writing. I wrote 288 characters in 2 minutes, which means the speed of my fastest writing is 144 characters per minute.
2nd image corresponds to my neatest writing. I wrote 112 characters in 2 minutes, which means the speed of my neatest writing is 56 characters per minute.
I have a few questions:
Is my handwriting speed slower than normal?
If it is slow, is there a way to improve the legibility of my fastest handwriting so that I can write faster?
I sat for nearly ten minutes trying to decide whether to answer or not, because yes, this question is off-topic. On the other hand, how we physically write can influence what we write (keeping in mind people who flow better when hand-writing vs typing). What tipped the scales, though, was the "I was unable to finish my exam within the stipulated time despite knowing the answers" part. As a teacher, I feel the need to tell you what my teacher told me many years ago: letters have a 'right way' of being written, whether it's typeface or cursive, and the tools have a 'right way' of being held. If you know those two and practice them, you'll be able to write both swiftly and legibly.
So, before you think about dysgraphia (which I am in no way belittling), look at the way you hold your pencil/pen. Is your wrist rigid or flexible? Do you hold the pencil/pen with the thumb and the index finger, the middle finger maneuvring it? I have young students who learned to write three and four years ago and yet were not taught how to hold the pencil correctly. They have little dexterity and have trouble making precise shapes. Once they are taught how to hold the pencil correctly, they complain it is harder and painful. Why? because the muscles of the fingers were not exercised when there was little to write, and now they're faced with writing a lot of things when they don't have their hands exercised and fit for the task.
From the examples given, I can only say that the first image suggests that the hand is rigid and, when forced to write fast, proceeds in jumps and hiccups. Do notice I said suggests, based on similarly shaped letters as I see on my students and on how they write them.
When I went to University, my handwriting became terrible. I used tonnes of abbreviations, turned m and n into differently sized dashes, and invented symbols for common groups of letters. There were times I couldn't read my own notes. When I finished my course, I bought calligraphy lined paper and re-taught myself the correct way of writing the letters. First I traced the letters like first graders, then I started writing on the lined paper. For one year, I wrote every day on such paper. Sometimes it was a couple of lines, sometimes it was pages long. I started out slowly and imperfectly. Nowadays, I can write intelligibly at a fairly good speed, but I do notice that the less I write by hand, the more slowly I do so, and the less perfectly, too, as if my muscles have forgotten how to make the pen flow across the page. The old saying stands true: practice makes perfect.
First, find out if you are using the right pen-holding technique. If you have a poor grip and rigid muscles, you'll always tire yourself out. On the other hand, a proper grip will give you fluidity with relatively low effort (in due time).
Secondly, start your practice slowly and be persistent. You wouldn't start practicing for the marathon by running for two hours, would you? So start by writing slowly but fluidly and effortless (see the technique point above). When you get to that point, you can improve your speed little by little. In fact, you won't even have to do anything, as you'll find yourself writing more quickly of your own accord.
Is your handwriting slow?
This article claims the average speed for adult handwriting is;
68 letters per minute (approximately 13 wpm), with the range from a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 113 letters per minute (approximately 5 to 20 wpm)
Based on your experiments a writing speed of 56 words per minute is well within the typical range, though slightly below average. However the data from the research above seems to be gathered from extended writing sessions over a long period of time.
Your tests measure the maximum speed you can achieve within a two minute burst, I highly doubt this is a speed you can maintain for any significant period. Once your account for rests and periods where you are writing below your maximum spend I would imagine that your actual average speed falls closer to the bottom end of the range. To test this, repeat your experiment but over an hour instead of two minutes. You should also write something less repetitive to better represent a true passage of writing.
How to deal with a slow writing speed
So we have established that, yes it is likely that your handwriting speed is on the slower end. What can we do about it? Sara Costa has some good advice on the technical aspects of handwriting and since I'm not an expert I won't comment much on them, other than to say that practice can only help. What I can do is provide some advice on dealing with a slow writing speed.
I'm a leftie (fast writing smears across the page) and a computer nerd with a typing speed well above 100 words per minute. As such I severely dislike handwriting and never got very good at it. I have never tested my speed like you have but based on experience I am sure I fall well below the average.
Like you, things like exam which required long periods of sustained handwriting cause my hand to cramp just thinking about them. However I learned to compensate for it and use the words that I could write more effectively. Here are some the techniques I use:
- Plan for breaks. I knew I was going to need a break to rest my hand during exams as such I planned out my exam methodology to take these into account. Which part of the exam I would do in which order helped even out the amount of writing I had to do between breaks. I also planned to always have something to be thinking about while my hand was resting.
- Plan for less time. I was taking breaks and writing slower than others, I needed to take this into account. When planning my response to questions and my essays I try to do as much as I could with as few words as possible. Conciseness is your friend.
- Practice your plan. When taking practice exams or preparing for the exam I took the above two steps into account. Take your practice exams the same way with the same time constraints. It helps you get a feel for the pace you need to write to complete your exams.
- Find ways to write less. Are you someone who writes out a detailed plan ahead of time? Turn it into bullet points, drop the filler words, get your ideas down not your grammar. Save your writing for the final product.
All of the above tips are for how to get the most out of your writing within a given time limit. I used them to great effect throughout my education and graduated with excellent grades despite a slow handwriting speed.
If you aren't in a timed environment or preparing for one however, don't do this. Instead use that time to practice and improve your handwriting. If there is no time pressure why does your writing speed matter? Even five words per minute is likely to outpace your rate of creativity in many writing contexts. In time you will improve. Or do what I did and switch to typing full time, handwriting wasn't helping me anyway.
Finding tips on writing fast
You can find much information on the internet about increasing your handwriting speed, but when searching for such information you should be careful about potential downsides that might not be properly explained. Writing unnaturally does not only feel bad while writing, but it can be damaging to your hand in the long run. If it just doesn't feel right it's better to write slow in a pace that won't hurt you rather than forcing yourself to do something that might be harmful. Be especially careful when reading guides with the typical "X things that will make you more productive immediately" - attention grabbing titles are often a bad sign. Not always, but often.
Here are some of the tips from How to Easily Improve Your Handwriting Speed at effectiviology.comthat might be useful to you. They are pretty generic, but it can be a good idea to go through them to see if there is something you can easily improve:
- Good handwriting technique involves using your fingers as guides, and moving the pen using your forearm and shoulder muscles. This allows you to write quickly, without tiring out or getting cramps.
- Bad handwriting technique involves drawing the letters using your fingers, moving your wrist constantly, and repeatedly picking up your hand from the paper in order to move it across as you write. These issues slow down your writing, and cause your hand to tire out and cramp.
Maintain good posture
Hold the pen whichever way feels comfortable
Avoid gripping the pen too hard
Practice regularly and slowly
I also think you can find nice tips for regular practice in the article How to Improve Your Handwriting on bulletjournal.com:
quotes: start a collection in your bullet journal of favourite or interesting quotes
Crosswords: see if you can use the tips above to make your morning crossword the neatest it's ever been
Snail mail: include a small handwritten snippet such as a quote or even your entire letter, where you focus on writing with consistency. A short and sweet thank you note can be a nice starter
They even mention what you have tried, though not as a speed run, but instead as a slow and mindful practice:
Pangrams: you might be familiar with "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A pangram is basically a sentence that uses up all the letters of the alphabet. This one is my personal favourite: "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs"
Choose a starting point and practice writing like a hobby. It's a good tool, but if you focus too much on being fast you might end up hurting yourself and learning a bad style that is harder to read.
Don't obsess over speed - think about what you write, too
At the same time you shouldn't obsess over your writing speed. Sure, faster writing means you can produce more content in a short amount of time. But in the end you have to remind yourself that quality is often far more important than quantity. Being able to explain your ideas in a concise way is incredibly important and if you are struggling with writing fast anyway and your writing becomes hardly legible if you are writing too fast you should just take a stept back and think twice about what you write. Your thinking speed is very likely a lot faster than your writing speed after all, which means that taking your time to lay out what the most concise way to write something will be a big timesaver. It's a timesaver for everyone, but especially for people in your position.