Art of Penmanship
How to Become a Handsome Writer.
The subject of the importance of good writing is as broad as
its use. Reaching out in every direction, and pervading every
corner of civilized society, from the humblest up to the
highest employments, it is a servant of man, second only in
importance to that of speech itself. In the world of business
its value is seen, from the simplest record or memorandum, up
to the parchment which conveys a kingdom. Without it, the
wheels of commerce could not move a single hour. At night it
has recorded the transactions of the Bank of England during the
day; of London; of the whole world.
Through the art of writing, the deeds of men live after
them, and we may surround ourselves with the companionship of
philosophers, scientists, historians, discoverers and poets;
and their discoveries, and reasonings and imaginings become
ours. In the amenities of social life, through the medium of
the pen, heart speaks to heart, though ocean rolls between.
Thoughts of tenderness and affection live when we are gone, and
words and deeds of kindness are not preserved by monuments
alone. What fountains of grief or joy have been opened in the
hearts of those who have read the records of the pen! The pen
has recorded the rapturous emotions of love reciprocated. The
pen has written the message of sadness which has covered life's
pilgrimage with gloom. The pen has traced the record of noble
and useful lives, spent in humanity's cause. The songs of the
poet, the beautiful tints of his imagination, the flights of
the orator in the realms of fancy, and the facts of history,
would all perish as the dew of morning, without this noble art
As a means of livelihood, there is perhaps no other
department of education which affords such universal and
profitable employment, as writing. From the mere copyist, up to
the practical accountant, and onward into that department of
penmanship designated as a fine art, the remuneration is always
very ample, considering the time and effort required in its
Teachers, editors, farmers, doctors and all persons should
possess a practical and substantial knowledge of writing, and
should be ready with the pen. Business men must of course be
ready writers, and hence, in a treatise on business, designed
for the education and advancement of the youth of the country,
it seems eminently fitting to first make the way clear to a
plain, practical handwriting. Neatness and accuracy should
characterize the handwriting of every one. Botch-work and
bungling are inexcusable, as well in writing as in the
transaction of business. No person has a right to cause a tinge
of shame to their correspondent, by sending a letter addressed
in a stupid and awkward manner, nor to consume the time of
another in deciphering the illegible hooks and scrawls of a
message. Every one should have the ambition to write
respectably as well as to appear respectable on any
MATERIALS USED IN WRITING.
Having a suitable desk or table, arranged with reference to
light, in order to learn to write, it is necessary to be
provided with proper materials. Writing materials
are so abundant and so cheap in
these times that no excuse is afforded for using an inferior
or worthless quality. The materials consist of Pens,
Ink and Paper.
Steel pens are considered the best. Gold pens have the
advantage of always producing the same quality of writing,
while steel pens, new or old, produce finer or courser lines.
Notwithstanding this advantage in favor of the gold pen, steel
pens adhere to the paper, and produce a better line. The pen
should be adapted to the hand of the writer. Some persons
require a coarse pen, and some fine. Elastic pens in the hand
of one writer may produce the best results, while a less
flexible pen may suit the hand of others best. Pens are
manufactured of almost an infinite grade and quality, in order
to suit the requirements of all. About the only rule that can
be given in selecting pens, is to write a few lines, or a page,
with each of the pens on trial, and then compare the writing.
If it be shaded too heavily, select a less flexible pen, if the
hair lines are too delicate, select a coarser pen.
Black ink is always preferable. That which is free from
sediment and flows well, should be selected. Use an inkstand
with broad base as being less liable to upset. With persons in
learning to write it is perhaps best to have a quality of ink
which is perfectly black when put on the paper, in order that
they may see the results of their labor at once. Business men
and accountants prefer a fluid ink, however, which, although
not black at first, continues to grow black, and becomes a very
bright and durable black, notwithstanding the action of light
and heat. Avoid the use of fancy colored inks, especially the
more gaudy, such as blue, red or green, in writing all
documents which you desire to command attention and
There are almost as many grades of paper to be found in the
stationery stores, as there are of pens. For practicing
penmanship, nothing is more suitable than foolscap, which may
be easily sewed into book-form, with cover of some different
color, and thus serves every requirement. The paper should have
a medium surface, neither rough and coarse, or too fine and
glazed. Have a few extra sheets beside the writing book, for
the purpose of practicing the movement exercises and testing
the pens. Be provided at all times with a large-sized blotter,
and when writing, keep this under the hand. Do not attempt to
write with a single sheet of paper on a bare table or desk;
there should be many sheets of paper underneath, in order to
make an elastic surface.
STUDY WITH PRACTICE.
Aimless, indifferent, or careless practice, never made a
good writer, and never will. In order to succeed in this, as in
other things, there must be will and determination to succeed,
and then persevering and studious effort. Study the models
until their forms are fixed in the mind.
No one can execute that which he does not clearly conceive.
The artist must first see the picture on the white canvas,
before he can paint it, and the sculptor must be able to see in
the rough and uninviting stone, the outlines of the beautiful
image which he is to carve. In writing, a clear idea of the
formation of the different letters, and their various
proportions, must become familiar by proper study, examination
and analysis. Study precedes practice. It is, of course, not
necessary, nor even well, to undertake the mastery of all the
forms in writing, by study, until some have been executed. It
is best that each form should, as it is taken up, be first
measured and analyzed and then practiced at once.
It is the act which crowns the thought. After study, careful
and earnest practice can hardly fail to make a good writer of
any one. Some persons secure a good style of penmanship with
less labor than others, and attain to the elegant, and
beautiful formation. But it is only fair to presume that no
greater diversity of talent exists in this direction than in
the study of other things. All do not learn arithmetic or
history with like ease, but no one will assert that all who
will, may not learn arithmetic or history. And so, all who will
put forth the proper exertion in study and practice may learn
to write a good business style, while many of the number will
attain to the elegant. The conditions of practice in writing
are, Positions of the Body, Position of the Hand an Pen, and
POSITION of the BODY.
Sitting squarely fronting the desk, with feet placed firmly
on the floor, and both arms on the desk, is, as a rule, the
best position for practice in writing, or correspondence. The
right side, may, however, be placed to the desk, with the right
arm, only, resting thereon, and some persons prefer this
position. Avoid crossing the feet, sitting on the edge of the
chair, or assuming any careless attitude. The body should be
erect, but slightly inclined forward, in order that the eye may
follow the pen closely. This position will never cause
curvature of the spine. The body should never be allowed to
settle down into a cramped and unhealthy position with the face
almost on the paper. By thus compressing the lungs and the
digestive organs they are soon injured, and if the stomach lose
its tone, the eyesight is impaired, there is such a close
sympathy between these organs of the body. The practice of
writing should be, and properly is, a healthful exercise, and
injurious effects result only from improper positions of the
body, at variance with good writing as well as good health.
When wearied by sitting and the effort at writing, lay aside
paper and pen, arise from the chair, and take exercise and rest
by walking about the room or in the open air. Then come back
refreshed, and vigorous, for the practice of writing.
In general, the light should fall on the paper from the left
side, thus enabling a writer to clearly see the ruled lines,
and render the labor of writing easier and more rapid. If one
writes left-handed, of course He will sit so as to get his
light from the right side, or over the right shoulder.
As a beautifier of the handwriting, by causing a diversity
of light and shade among the letters, shading has its value;
but in the practical handwriting for business purposes, it
should, as a rule, be classed with flourishing, and left out.
Requiring time and effort, to bring down the shades on letters,
business men, clerks and telegraph operators find a uniform and
regular style of writing, without shade, the best, even though
it may not be as artistic.
A most necessary element in all good penmanship is
uniformity. In the slope of the letters and words which form a
written page there must be no disagreement. With the letters
leaning about in various directions, writing is presented in
its most ridiculous phase. Uniformity in the size of letters,
throughout the written page; how greatly it conduces to
neatness and beauty. All letters resting on the line, and being
of uniform hight, adds another condition towards good
penmanship. This essential element of uniformity may be watched
and guarded closely and cultivated by any learner in his own
SLANT OF WRITING.
As said before, it matters not so much what angle of slant
is adopted in writing, provided it is made uniform, and all
letters are required to conform exactly to the same slant.
Writing which is nearest perpendicular is most legible, and
hence is preferable for business purposes. The printed page of
perpendicular type; how legible it is. But for ease in
execution, writing should slant. It follows then that writing
should be made as perpendicular as is consistent with ease of
execution. The slant of writing should not be less than sixty
degrees from the
POSITION of the BODY WHILE STANDING
The practical book-keeper finds it advantageous to do his
writing while standing; in fact, where large books are in use,
and entries are to be transferred from one to another, the work
of the book-keeper can hardly be performed otherwise than in a
standing position, free to move about his office. Cumbrous
books necessitate a different position at the desk, from that
of the correspondent, or the learner. Since large books must
lie squarely on the desk, the writer, in order to have the
proper position thereto, must place his left side to the desk.
The body thus has the same relative position, as if squarely
fronting the desk with the paper or book placed diagonally. In
other words, the writer, while engaged in writing in large,
heavy books, must adjust himself to the position of the books.
Should the correspondent or bill clerk perform his work while
standing, he would assume the same as the sitting
position—squarely fronting the desk.
Children, in learning to write, are apt to sacrifice all
other good qualities of beauty, regularity and grace, for the
quality of legibility, or plainness. With some older persons
this legibility is considered of very little consequence, and
is obscured by all manner of meaningless flourishes, in which
the writer takes pride. In the estimation of the business man,
writing is injured by shades and flourishes. The demand of this
practical time is a plain, regular style that can be written
rapidly, and read at a glance.
By a careless habit, which many persons allow themselves to
fall into, they omit to attend to the little things in writing.
Good penmanship consists in attention to small details, each
letter and word correctly formed, makes the beautiful page. By
inattention to the finish of one letter, or part of a letter of
a word, oftentimes the word is mistaken for another, and the
entire meaning changed. Particular attention should be devoted
to the finish of some of the small letters, such as the dotting
of the i, or crossing of the t. Blending the lines which form a
loop, often causes the letter to become a stem, similar to the
t or d, or an e to become an i. In many of the capital letters,
the want of attention to the finish of the letter converts it
into another or destroys its identity, such, for instance, as
the small cross on the capital F, which, if left off, makes the
letter a T. The W often becomes an M, or vice versa, and
the I a J. Mistakes in this regard are more the result of
carelessness and inattention than anything else. By careful
practice a person will acquire a settled habit of giving a
perfection to each letter and word, and then it is no longer a
task, but is performed naturally and almost involuntarily,
while the difference in the appearance of the written page, as
well as the exactness and certainty of the meaning conveyed,
may be incalculably great.
While practicing penmanship, or while endeavoring to correct
a careless habit in writing, the mind must be upon the work in
hand, and not be allowed to wander into fields of thought or
imagination; by thus confining the attention, any defect or
imperfection in the formation of letters may be soon mastered
POSITION OF THE HAND AND PEN
The right arm should rest on the muscles just below the
elbow, and wrist should be elevated so as to move free from
paper and desk. Turn the hand so that the wrist will be level,
or so that the back of the hand will face the ceiling. The
third and fourth fingers turned slightly underneath the hand
will form its support, and the pen, these fingers and the
muscles of the arm near the elbow form the only points of rest
or contact on desk or paper. The pen should point over the
shoulder, and should be so held that it may pass the root of
the nail on the second finger, and about opposite the knuckle
of the hand. An unnatural or cramped position of the hand, like
such a position of the body, is opposed to good writing, and
after many years of observation and study, all teachers concur
in the one position above described, as being the most natural,
easy and graceful for the writer, and as affording the most
freedom and strength of movement.
Avoid getting the hand in an awkward or tiresome position,
rolling it over to one side, or drawing the fore finger up into
a crooked shape. Hold the pen firmly but lightly, not with a
grip as if it were about to escape from service. Do not say, "I
can't" hold the pen correctly. Habits are strong, but will may
be stronger, and if you hold the pen correctly in spite of old
habits, for a few lessons, all will then be easy, and the pen
will take its position at each writing exercise, with no effort
whatever. Everything being in readiness, and the proper
position assumed, the writer must now obtain complete control
of hand and pen, by practice in movement.
One of the essentials of a practical business style of
writing must be rapidity of execution, in order to be of any
avail in the necessities and press of a business position. The
demand of the merchant is, that his clerk shall not only write
well, but with rapidity, and the volume of letters to be
answered, bills to be made out, or items to be entered on the
books of account, compel the clerk to move the pen with
dexterity and rapidity, as well as skill. While there is great
diversity among persons as to the rapidity as well as quality
of their penmanship, some being naturally more alert and active
than others, yet by securing the proper position of the hand,
arm and body, favorable to ease and freedom of execution, then
following this with careful practice in movement, until all the
varied motions necessary in writing are thoroughly mastered,
the person may, with suitable effort, acquire the quality of
rapidity in writing, gradually increasing the speed until the
desired rate is accomplished.
In the handwriting, as in other things, beauty is largely a
matter of taste and education. To the man of business, the most
beautiful handwriting is that which is written with ease, and
expresses plainly and neatly the thought of the writer. To the
professional or artistic taste, while such a hand may be
regarded as "a good business hand," it would not be considered
as beautiful, because it conforms to no rule as to proportion,
shade, and spacing. In the practical art of writing, it is not
very unfair to measure its beauty largely by its
Finger movement, or writing by the use of the fingers as the
motive power, is entirely inadequate to the requirements of
business. The fingers soon become tired, the hand becomes
cramped, the writing shows a labored effort, and lacks freedom
and ease so essential to good business penmanship. In the
office or counting-room, where the clerk or correspondent must
write from morning till night, the finger movement of course
cannot be used.
What is designated by writing teachers as the Whole Arm, or
Free Arm Movement, in which the arm is lifted free from the
desk and completes the letter with a dash or a swoop, is
necessary in ornamental penmanship and flourishing, but has no
place in a practical style of business writing. The man of
business would hardly stop, in the midst of his writing, to
raise the arm, and execute an "off-hand capital," while
customers are waiting.
But adapted to the practical purposes of business is the
muscular movement, in which the arm moves freely on the
muscles below the elbow, and in cases of precise writing, or in
the more extended letters, such as f, is assisted by a slight
movement of the fingers. The third and fourth fingers may
remain stationary on the paper, and be moved from time to time,
or between words, where careful and accurate writing is
desired, but in more rapid, free and flowing penmanship, the
fingers should slide over the paper.
Having everything in readiness, the student may begin his
practice on movement exercises, the object of which is to
obtain control of the pen and train the muscles. Circular
motion, as in the capital O, reversed as in the capital W,
vertical movement as in f, long s and capital J, and the
lateral motion as in small letters, must each be practiced in
order to be able to move the pen in any direction, up, down, or
The simplest exercise in movement. Try to follow around in
the same line as nearly as possible. Do not shade.
The same exercise, only with ovals drawn out and and slight
shade added to each down stroke.
Sides of ovals should be even, forming as nearly a straight
line as possible. Reverse the movement as in third form.
The following three exercises embrace the essential elements
in capital letters, and should at first be made large for
purposes of movement:
Capital O, down strokes parallel.
Capital stem. Down stroke a compound curve. Shade low.
Finish with a dash.
Capital loop. Curves parallel. First curve highest.
Having succeeded to some extent with these exercises, the
learner may next undertake the vertical movement. In order to
obtain the lateral movement, which enables one to write long
words without lifting the pen, and move easily and gracefully
across the page, exercises like the following should be
Down strokes straight. Even and resting on line.
In all movement exercises the third and fourth fingers
should slide on the paper, and the finger movement should be
carefully avoided. The different movements having been
practiced, they may now be combined in various forms
Lateral and rolling movement combined. Vertical movement and
rolling movement combined.
Do not shade the circles. Lines should be parallel.
Movement exercises may be multiplied almost indefinitely by
studying the forms used in writing and their combinations.
Repeating many of the small letters, such as m, u, e, r, s, a,
d, h and c, also capitals D, J, P, etc., forms an excellent
exercise for the learner.
PRINCIPLES IN WRITING.
In order to enable the learner to examine, analyze and
criticise his writing, the following principles are given as
his standards of measurements and form. By combining them in
various ways the essential part of all letters in the alphabet
may be formed.
The principles must be first carefully studied, and
separated into the primary lines which compose them and the
form of each principle well understood. The student may then
form a scale like the one following, by
dividing the distance between
the blue lines on the paper into four equal spaces, with a
lightly ruled line. The letters of the small alphabet should
then be placed in the scale and the
of each letter fixed in the mind.
Notice that the contracted letters, or those which occupy
only one space, as a, m, n, o, s, v, w and e, and that part of
d, g, h, q and y, found in the first space, are all well
rounded and developed. These letters and parts of letters,
found in the first space, form the essential part of all
writing, and therefore deserve especial care. Also notice that
the loop letters, above the line, such as b, f, h, k and l,
extend two and one-half spaces above the blue line, while the
loop below the line, such as g, f, j, q, y and z, extend one
and one-half spaces below the blue line, thus two and one-half
and one and one-half making the four spaces of the scale, and
the upper loops on one line will just meet the lower loops of
the line above, but never conflict, to the destruction of neat
body writing. Notice the type of the printer. The extensions
above the shorter letters are quite insignificant, and are only
used to save the letter from resembling some other letter of
the alphabet. They never conflict, and how legible they
The Types. A Resemblance. An Absurdity.
Besides, to make long loops, requires more time, and more
power with the pen, while shorter loops are in every way easier
to acquire, quicker, and better. Telegraph operators, some of
whom are among our best business penmen, make all extended
letters very short, while accountants, and business men, favor
the style of short loops, well developed letters, and small
In order to practice capital letters to advantage, as well
as to study them, collect in a group or family all those
letters which have some one form or principle as an essential
part. Take first the 6th principle, or oval, and we group the
letters as follows:
The excellence of an oval depends largely on its fullness
and roundness. No corners or flat
In the capital loop, or 8th principle, another oval may be
made within the large turn at the top, but for practical
purposes the letter is perhaps better without it, and may be
simplified even more, as in the N below.
Make figures small, neat, and of form exact. Each figure
must show for itself, and cannot be known by those which
precede or follow it, as is the case with letters. The common
tendency is to make figures too large and coarse. Mind the
ovals in figures and have them full and round. The chief
excellence of the zero lies in its roundness; the 3, 5, 6 or 9,
without care in making the ovals, may degenerate into a
straight line, or simply a meaningless hook, which it would
hardly be safe to use in expressing sums of money, ordering
goods, or the transaction of other business.
COPIES FOR PRACTICE
Having proceeded thus far in the study and practice of
writing, and having obtained the proper control of the pen
through the movement exercises, all that is necessary now in
order to secure a good handwriting, is continued and
$1100.00 Chicago, Jan. 10./80.
Due Henry Harrington, on order, Eleven
Hundred Dollars in Merchandise, value rec'd
No. 43. Newton P. Kelley, Sr.