“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


On Writing Numbers and Letters

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My handwriting stinks. My grandmother had that quintessential handwriting of women who grew up in a time when they really learned how to write neatly - tiny letters, cursive by the book, a perfect balance of precision and beauty. My mom's handwriting is neat and very nice too, though not quite as neat as Grandma's was.

And then there's mine. I'm lucky if I can even read it, much less anyone else. And there are certain characters that just irk me.

For instance, I hate writing the number 2. Do you write it with the little curlicue on the bottom or without? Written with the curlique, a 2 looks like cursive, but none of the other numbers get a cursive version. What makes the 2 so special? If you have to fill out one of those forms with each character in a separate box, they always tell you, "write the numbers like this," and the two is always so precise with the hanger-like curve at the top perfectly balanced over the slope down to the point at the bottom and the horizontal line that bears the weight of it all. Seriously, a perfect 2 is like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Mine on the other hand are far from perfect and usually come out looking more like a letter Z.

The lower-case letter a is another non-favorite. Do you write it round with a stick on the right side? Or do you put the little awning over the top? I like the awning, but as much as I like it, it seems like I can't stay consistent. Sometimes I write the awning, sometimes not. There's no rhyme or reason. I sometimes think that if a handwriting expert were to evaluate me on the basis of how I wrote the letter a in a sentence, he'd probably think I was schizophrenic.

Cursive L's, on the other hand, are great. I have loved cursive L's since I was just a kid. They are loopy and swirly and elegant and oh so very girly. Even I can write a decent cursive capital L. It really doesn't have to be perfect because with all those lovely loops, it looks pretty no matter how badly you mess it up. You could make a wallpaper decorated with cursive L's. I wouldn't use it because I hate wallpaper, but if I was a wallpaper-user, I might just use one covered in cursive L's.

W got me in trouble in sixth grade. We were making a poster that said "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and it was all in bubble letters. The girls were looking for the person who could draw the best bubble letters. (The boys really didn't care.) We used the W to display our talents and I – who had probably never written a bubble letter in my life, but of course knew what they were – this was sixth grade after all, and I was a girl – bubble letters were very, very important – I was dubbed the best bubble letter writer, based on my W ... until they discovered that the letter W was the only letter I could write well in bubble.

1s are boring. It's a line. A stick. Boring. Boring. Boring. Unless you dress it with the little off-kilter hat and give it a base to stand on. Then it takes on a whole new personality. Like the person you think is quiet and shy and quite dull until one day they tell a joke or a story or show up wearing a ridiculous outfit and you realize that they could be the life of the party. That's the 1 with the hat and base. But you have to be very careful when you use the accessorized 1 or you run the risk of appearing uppity and pretentious, and then you're not the life of the party anymore.

3s rock. Easy, round, anyone can write a nice three. And don't use the one with the pointy top and the round bottom, please. It's like putting Madonna's top on J-Lo's bottom. It doesn't work. In fact, it's just plain wrong. In fact, can someone just erase my memory of this paragraph, please? That's just plain disturbing.

And finally, (Yes, I realize there are many more characters I could discuss, but I really don't think you want me to.) there is the 0. Confusing, huh? Was that a zero, or a capital letter O, or a lower-case letter o? You only know if you see them all together, don't you? 0's and O's and o's are dubious little stinkers. And they're not so simple to write as one might think either. To get that perfect circle or oval shape without leaning too much to one side or the other, or flattening one side and rounding the other - it's all very challenging.

And the point of this post? Well, honestly there isn't one beyond what I just wrote. Writing is strange, and with so many different styles of writing I find it amazing that any of us can even interpret what anyone else is saying when they write by hand. I bet someone, somewhere has written an entire book on this subject. It's probably one of those experts who would diagnose me as schizophrenic based on my handwriting. And based on this post, he may not be so far from wrong.



At 4/19/2010 8:44 PM, Blogger TK wrote:

Heh. My cute little schizo. :-)

At 5/05/2010 8:53 PM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

So I have a few thoughts about this. The first is that I want to write you a snail-mail letter and ask you to give me your opinion of my writing. When I'm in a hurry writing only for me, it's a messy, scary thing. But if I'm writing for others, I like my writing, even though is a hybrid mix of cursive and printing.

I remember when I was a teen I realized that my Zs and Rs (the lowercase version) were awful. I would spend hours just practicing those two letters. I'm not sure why Z was so important to me, but with R being featured predominately in my name, it was required that I make it look nice. I think it still does.

Fun post! Now I want to go find paper and see what I think about the letters you mentioned...

At 5/24/2010 8:15 PM, Anonymous HolyMama! wrote:

i found this to be ABSOLUTELY fascinating.

You can only write bubble Ws? Those would be the hardest, right?!

I love 2s. I do them both ways - curlicues and without.

When I was little, if I didn't like my handwriting on something, i made myself erase it and start over.

That's crazy. I didn't ever notice that til now.


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