The quirks of handwriting…

A few years ago, I got into a discussion on Livejournal about this topic. I thought it would be fun to bring it up as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, since I’ve been busy writing letters by hand again.

The different handwriting styles that are taught (and that people self-develop) around the world fascinate me. As the world becomes more digital, I wonder how many of us still have some of the traits of handwriting that we were taught as children. I’ve come to realize that unless I teach him, my son will likely not learn cursive handwriting at all in school. And yes, I do plan on teaching him, if for no other reason than to be able to read it in historical documents.

Handwriting is a form of art when one actually sits and takes the time to enjoy it. Regardless of how careful we are, each letter is completely unique… a little more pressure on that downstroke, a bit more of a loop on that o. It takes patience and skill to develop the muscles to write clearly. Without practice, those muscles disappear. Try it… write a page of a book down in cursive, if you’re not used to doing it anymore. By the end, your arm may be cramping. Or you might not even remember how to form some of those cursive words.

When I first learned my letters and numbers, I had very messy handwriting. I was one of the kids who always got the “needs improvement” grades on report cards. It wasn’t until junior high, when I was no longer graded on how perfectly formed my letters were, that I started to find a groove and wrote more comfortably. I stopped with some of the cursive letters that gave me particular trouble and started writing more in a linked italic-print.

But one quirk in my handwriting that seems to be a bit unusual is that I cross both my Z’s and my 7’s. I crossed my Z’s because I was told to – they looked too similar to my 2’s when I was young. I think I may have started crossing my 7’s because one of my parents did, but I honestly can’t recall who does.

Here’s a sample of my handwriting, from a Thursday Thirteen post I did a couple months ago:


So I’m curious about those who are reading this – do you have a similar quirk? Or if you have others, let me know in the comments! πŸ™‚

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Facebook Comments


  1. Brenda- Social Media Strategist Houston says:

    Hi Melissa,

    I think it is a real tragedy that our kids are no longer taught cursive or handwriting. It is very interesting to take my teens to get a driver’s license, or to open a bank account because their own signature is literally taught on site! When I scrap-booked, I had to force myself to write in them because I knew that handwriting is a part of history. I love your project..hopefully it will catch on!

  2. Jewel Williams says:

    I cross my “7” when writing in a document that contains several numbers (especially, if there is a number one present), and I also do so when writing a number down from voicemail. This has helped when re-reading my work. So…you have one person who does this practice.

  3. tiathyme says:

    I’m one of the ones who has no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to crossing Zs and 7s.

    I was terrible at cursive writing at school too. I never earned my ‘pen licence’ because my writing was always too messy. It’s still messy, but I have a legible style. One quirk I’ve picked up is that I write in cursive but use running writing forms for F and Z.

    I still write a lot. I have penpals, and send letters and postcards frequently. πŸ™‚

  4. Katie says:

    I only wrote cursive when it was required in school. As soon as it was a choice I went back to print. I think it’s too hard to read….most people. I can read yours but most people I have no idea what they are saying.

  5. Holly Jahangiri says:

    Crossing your Z’s and 7’s is not a “quirk,” but rather a very common practice in Europe, and it does help to distinguish the letters and numbers. I think it’s out of favor in some areas simply because it looks “European,” but I’m all for anything that helps clarify communication without turning it into a bland, boring mess.

    The “quirky” thing about my handwriting is that I spent years – my rebellious, early teen years – trying to make it look anything but like my mother’s handwriting. I slanted it backwards; I refused to slant it at all; I drew circles over my i’s, rounded my a’s, used slashes instead of horizontal lines to close my e’s – and when I just write normally, it still looks exactly like my mother’s, to the point where we were literally able to forge checks for one another without even trying to fool anyone (we also had the same name). I finally just gave up rebelling and went with it. To this day, I get lots of compliments on my handwriting (thanks, Mom!) and I believe it is largely genetic, given how hard I worked at not writing like that.

    Good for you, writing more hand-written letters! What a lovely, quaint thing to do. I have a fountain pen, and I know that my very thought processes are different when I use it, versus when I’m typing at the PC. More deliberative, perhaps, given that mistakes are more costly?

  6. Carol says:

    My handwriting sucks — and it sucks worse after all those years in grad school taking notes!

    Like you, I have some letters I will not write in cursive, and like you said, if I try to write for any length of time, my handwriting degenerates even more.

    And I cross both z and 7 because of a statistics class in grad school taught by an Aussie. His way of writing was contagious! LOL

  7. Irene says:

    I don’t cross either my 7s or zs, but I have another quirk. I do backwards loops on gs, ys, etc. By that I mean that I do the top part of the letter, come straight down below the line and then, instead of continuing around to do a clockwise loop I stop and go back up to do an anticlockwise one. I saw someone do that in my first year at university and liked it so much I adopted the practice.

  8. Robin in Virginia says:

    Sometimes, I cross the letter Z and sometimes, I cross the number 7. I use a mix of print and cursive in my personal life. During the years I worked with students with severe disabilities, I used print in my classroom as well as in my notes that were sent home (for some of my parents who never learned to read cursive handwriting). I do think it is a shame that cursive handwriting isn’t taught in many of the school systems.

  9. Andrea says:

    I love handwriting as well. I have that “quirk” where I cross my z’s only. Not sure where that came from but I’ve always done it. I have large “bubbly” handwriting and I have another odd quirk. I write my 5’s upside down… meaning I start at the bottom half circle of the 5 add the line up and then the top line across if that makes sense. All without lifting my pen. I have had many people watch me write something down and say… “what did you just do?!?” LOL Not sure how I learned it that way….

  10. Heron says:

    My mother taught us cursive before we started school, by rote practice; in turn I made my children practice till they were good at it. Now they badger their friends to learn. My handwriting is very idiosyncratic now, but apparently quite legible, as it has been framed by many years as a calligrapher. My children say learning calligraphy helped them a lot, especially italic, uncial and half-uncial, and engineer’s script.

  11. Amanda says:

    I randomly cross my z’s and 7’s. Especially if I think it’s unclear what it’s supposed to be (cos I’ve been a bit messy or something lol). The z (that is zed, not zee :D) is less often crossed as I more often write it in the looped method sort of like a sideways m, but if I’m writing it in printed form then I’ll often cross it.

    We were taught cursive in school, and I still had to make up a signature when opening a bank account. My handwriting seems to change daily so finding something I can be at least semi-consistent with is/was hard.

    My kids are now learning cursive in school – interestingly they seem to be learning most of the same letters I did despite the generation and country gaps.

  12. Silverlotus says:

    I hope my little guy is taught cursive in school. As far as I know it is still on the curriculum here, and he is only a couple of years away from being in the right grade.

    I was always told my handwriting was too small. And, it really is. But I like it that way. I save paper. πŸ˜‰ It has gotten a bit worse since I finished university all those years ago, but I still write things out by hand regularly.

  13. Joanne P says:

    I was told that crossing 7 is a French habit because their 1s have large flicks on the top!

    By cursive you mean “joined-up” handwriting? Is that really not taught in the US? Every child here learns joined-up writing once they have mastered the basics of forming letters. In our school the children write in pencil until they have mastered neat joined-up writing and then they “Get their Pen”, this is a really big event in school life!! My son Got his Pen in Year 4 (aged 9) and was one of the first ones. This was due in a large part to his Year 3 teacher who gave out extra handwriting sheets for those who needed the extra help.

    I myself was taught italic handwriting with a real ink pen in the 1970s. My handwriting is still very neat, very spiky and clearly influenced by my early teaching.

    • Sara - Xeihua says:

      I love the cursive handwrite, my mum is a Primary teacher and she has the most gorgeous handwrite I’ve ever seen, so since I was young I tried to copy it, and although I’ve lost practice because I changed to the type format letter to be faster in college I’m still able to write in cursive and I do practice it from time to time πŸ™‚

  14. caitlin says:

    Gorgeous handwriting mine is never the same from one line to another. I just don’t have a style. I don’t cross anything because I got into trouble when I tried to cross my sevens

  15. Lisa (in NZ) says:

    I cross my 7’s, I started when I was taught to do that in French class, I still do it because with numbers I would like it to be as clear as possible to anyone else reading my handwriting.

    For some reason I hold the pen in my hand strangely. It was never corrected as a child and I can’t change it now! I’m sure it effects my writing style. A few years back at work I was writing at my desk and we just happened to have an expert respected primary teacher in the office talking to someone else. She spotted me writing, walked up looked at my writing quizzically and said really astonished “you don’t hold your pen correctly.” I just looked at her and was like “ok…. and??”

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