How to Tell People's Personalities by Their Handwriting

By Richard A. Brown
pen, top, handwritten note
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According to graphologists, your handwriting can say quite a lot about you. Graphology is the process of analyzing handwriting to draw conclusions about the personality or life of the individual. Graphology is not the same as forensic document analysis, or graphanalysis, the scientific examination of handwriting to determine its origin or authenticity. Its critics call graphology a pseudoscience and discount its claims to detect personality traits in handwriting.

The History of Handwriting Analysis

According to the British Institute of Graphologists and the International Handwriting Analysis Society, graphology traces its roots back to writings by Italian doctor Camillo Baldi in 1622 entitled, "How to Recognise from a Letter the Nature and Quality of a Writer." Today, graphology is sometimes used to assess the work ethic and personality of job applicants. Some graphologists also examine the writings of political figures, criminals, or famous writers to learn more about their mental processes, personalities, or other characteristics. According to many graphologists, these traits are visible in handwriting because writing is mostly automatic. This allows the subconscious to change a person's writing according to personality, mood, and other factors.

Analyzing a Sample of Handwriting

It can take a long time to become an expert graphologist, but the basics are simple to learn. To start analyzing handwriting, you'll first need a writing sample of at least one or two full sentences, ideally on plain, unlined paper. Many graphologists prefer to have the sample signed and dated by the writer as well. Once you have a sample, look for different "indicators"; hundreds of indicators exist, but some of the most visible include:

Letter size (small, medium, large, varied) Letter and word spacing (close, far, conjoined) Slant (right, left, vertical, varied) Writing baseline (ascending, level, descending, varied or "wavy")

Make note of the different indicators you find in the writing, such as leftward slant or close spacing. No single indicator defines a person -- you must consider them all together to get a full picture of the writer's personality.

Interpreting a Sample of Handwriting

Once you find indicators, analyze them for meaning. Consider indicators together to understand someone's personality. Wide spaces between words and letters demonstrate a desire to be free from constraint, while narrow, cramped writing instead indicates a desire to always be with other people and a tendency to crowd others or invade personal space. Letters without any slant demonstrate a logical, practical lifestyle. A leftward slant can indicate a tendency to keep to yourself, while a rightward slant shows openness to new experiences and a desire to meet new people. Graphologists also analyze signatures to draw personality inferences. A signature that is bunched up or illegible indicates a private person who is hard to understand. Graphologists contend that writers with neat and legible signatures are often confident people with high self-worth.

Criticisms of Graphology

While graphologists claim that their techniques are grounded in real science, critics call graphology a pseudoscience that is not supported by scientific evidence. Researchers who published the results of their experimental studies in the journal Individual Differences Research, for example, concluded that "there appears to be no robust relationship between graphology and personality."

About the Author

Richard A. Brown has been a writer and editor for print and web content since 2007, and has written for numerous blogs and publications around the web. He holds a bachelor's degree in writing and political science from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pa.