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Handwriting refers to a person's unique style of writing characters created with a writing utensil such as a pen or pencil. Handwriting is separate from calligraphy or typeface. Because each person's handwriting is unique, it can be used to verify a document's writer. The deterioration of a person's handwriting is also a symptom or result of certain diseases.
Uniqueness of handwriting
Characteristics of handwriting include:
- specific shape of letters, e.g. their roundness or sharpness
- regular or irregular spacing between letters
- the slope of the letters
- the rhythmic repetition of the elements or arrhythmia
- the pressure to the paper
- the average size of letters
Uses of handwriting samples
Because handwriting is relatively stable, a change in the handwriting can be indicative of the nervousness or intoxication of the writer.
A sample of a person's writing can be compared to that of a written document to determine and authenticate the written document's writer; if the writing styles match, it is likely that one person wrote both documents.
Graphology is the pseudoscientific study and analysis of handwriting in relation to human psychology. Graphology has been used in the medical field as an aid in diagnosis and tracking of diseases of the brain and nervous system, though such use is very highly controversial.
Handwriting that is hard to read or unreadable due to the deformity, or illegibility of characters is commonly called worst.
A common stereotype is that doctors have bad handwriting. According to Time, doctors' sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually. However, D. Berwick and D. Winickoff showed that "the handwriting of doctors was no less legible than that of non-doctors" and that "significantly lower legibility than average was associated with being an executive and being male".
Bad handwriting can also be a symptom or result of a disease. For example, those with dopamine-responsive dystonia sometimes exhibit a deterioration of handwriting legibility, beginning in childhood and gradually worsening with time.
- Sargur Srihari, Chen Huang and Harish Srinivasan. On the Discriminability of the Handwriting of Twins. J Forensic Sci. 2008 Mar;53(2):430-46. http://www.cedar.buffalo.edu/~srihari/papers/TR-04-07.pdf
- "Barry Beyerstein Q&A". Ask the Scientists. Scientific American Frontiers. Retrieved 2008-02-22. "they simply interpret the way we form these various features on the page in much the same way ancient oracles interpreted the entrails of oxen or smoke in the air. I.e., it's a kind of magical divination or fortune telling where 'like begets like.'"
- James, Barry (3 August 1993). "Graphology Is Serious Business in France : You Are What You Write?". New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
- Caplan, Jeremy (2007-01-15). "Cause of Death: Sloppy Doctors". TIME. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
- Donald M Berwick, David E Winickoff. The truth about doctors' handwriting: a prospective study. BMJ 313 : 1657 (Published 21 December 1996) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2359141/pdf/bmj00573-0093.pdf
- Racine, MB.; Majnemer, A.; Shevell, M.; Snider, L. (Apr 2008). "Handwriting performance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).". J Child Neurol 23 (4): 399–406. doi:10.1177/0883073807309244. PMID 18401033.