Self-proclaimed handwriting repair woman Kate Gladstone, 50, from New York, decided to improve her illegible handwriting after struggling with it for many years.
She spent much of her spare time researching different techniques to find a style that suited her.
“I would go to libraries all over New York City and look up handwriting textbooks. I picked up whatever there was, started working with it, took the approaches that worked and threw out the rest. Along the way I found out that italic handwriting was what worked for me.”
After mastering italic handwriting, Kate decided to teach others how to improve their handwriting by establishing Handwriting Repair / Handwriting That Works.
“It is an enterprise I began 26 years ago, shortly after I had been self-remediating my own, then, very poor and dysfunctional handwriting. By dysfunctional I mean that I could barely read my own writing.
“I was my own first student. My father before he passed on was my second student, and professed himself very well satisfied. I have taught a lot of adult students, physicians and people from every walk of life, including children.”
Handwriting has a Rhythm
Many adults struggle with handwriting because as children, much of the learning process is focused on copying rather than mastering the rhythm needed to reproduce each letter.
“Pretty much every day as a small child I would see my mother writing a letter. Though this did not make my handwriting proficient, it gave me some clues about how the pen moves in a sequence. It was obvious that letters started at a given point and followed a sequence in a direction of pen motion.
“Today the average child starting school has never seen letters in the process of being made. There is no notion of how to get from beginning to end.”
Kate’s initial lessons are spent identifying letters that her student can already write well and building on these skills to produce a more legible and consistent script.
“I look at the way someone writes and find if there’s even one part of a letter they can write well, and we build on that.”
We Write to be Read
For Kate, legibility of handwriting is increasingly important – especially if your career depends on its readability. For example, she has helped doctors improve their handwriting.
Legible handwriting is an essential part of communicating with others.
“Why speak and not speak understandably? Why write and not write understandably? We should use writing in a useful way otherwise we are no different from than a child who takes a crayon, scribbles and tells you what he or she is writing. The point of writing is to be read.
“We need to teach people to write more simply, in an error-resistant, legible and rapid manner.”
Handwriting is an Extension of the Self
Many of Kate’s students raise concerns that handwriting lessons will cause their writing to lose its individuality.
Kate explains that lessons can transform your existing handwriting into a better version of itself, without losing its uniqueness.
“Our personality, who we are as human beings, and how we are physically, mentally and emotionally is a large part of our handwriting. Your personality will always come singing through, whether your handwriting is competent or not.
“Common errors are prevalent across many handwriting styles. If you practise bringing your handwriting to its best state, what is yourself will come out.”
Kate feels that an individual’s handwriting will always remain unique, just as we all have a distinctive walk.
“We all learn to walk when we are young in much the same way. But although we all walk in the same way – left, right, left right – you can always tell your friends yards away from you in the distance by their walk.”
World Handwriting Contest
As well as teaching others to improve their handwriting, Kate runs the World Handwriting Contest. Established in 2001, the contest is open to people who wish to show off the legibility, fluency and competency of their handwriting.
“On any given year we have between 200 to 400 entrants. We’ve had entries from every continent with the exception of Antarctica, and we’ve had entrants from more countries than I ever imagined would be interested. Anyone of any age, writing any style of handwriting is encouraged to enter.”
I Match my Fountain Pen to my Outfit
In Kate’s experience, the type of writing instrument you choose influences how you write.
“These days I go around with a variety of writing instruments and encourage my students to try them out and make their choices. I will often suggest a pen shopping trip after the first few sessions.”
Fountain pens are Kate’s preferred writing instrument because they are kind to the environment and come in a variety of styles and colours.
“Fountain pens are much more environmentally friendly than using a ballpoint because I can reuse it by refilling it with ink. I like that I have so much choice that I can coordinate with my outfits and match them to my clothing or my handbag.
“Even when I’m writing on my iPad I wish I was writing with a pen. I set my Write By Hand options in the app Notes Plus so that I can write with my finger and get a calligraphy pen line. That’s how much I like fountain pens – I even want my finger to be a fountain pen.”
All images used with permission - Copyright Kate Gladstone, 2014