There are two aspects here: 1) appearance and legibility; 2) speed.
I have to confess that my own handwriting is not the most beautiful in the world, though I can make a fair effort at calligraphy with the right equipment and plenty of time. I was taught handwriting way back in the day’s of steel nibs and inkwells! I also was taught Copperplate! Ball point pens, back then, were considered evil.
My handwriting today is a degenerate version of that!
One tip I was taught still matters: how you hold your pen. See Tips for improving your handwriting.
There is a good series on a site from Iceland, which promises:
“Two weeks,” I said. “You can have legible handwriting in two weeks.”
A senior manager and I had been discussing type design. He changed the subject and said: “I’m ashamed of my scribbles. I can barely manage capital letters. One of the things I most want in life is decent handwriting.”
I suggested zigzag exercises. They worked: his writing improved beyond all his expectations. It wasn’t hard work. A good approach was all he needed.
Some of these letters are hardly recognizable. Capitals weren’t meant for joined writing. That’s why we have lower case letters.
Improving Messy Handwriting by Shawn Landis is useful.
Messy handwriting is not a new thing. Poor penmanship has plagued people across the globe for centuries. The advent of modern technologies such as the typewriter and computer may have negated the importance of good penmanship, but for forms and the occasional hand-written card, postcard or letter, it is important for other people to be able to read what you have written.
Taking calligraphy classes will not necessarily make your writing neater. In many cases it just teaches people with poor penmanship how to write badly in a fancy style.. Buying better pens or the older style fountain pens will likely result in spotted hands and messy clothing…
As for speed: practice makes perfect. If students are going to sit for exams in hand-written form, timed practices — lots of them — really do help. Even small-scale ones, such as analysing a question and then just writing an introduction, a brief dot-point body, and a conclusion can be beneficial; such practices may be done in ten to fifteen minutes each!
MORE FOR TEACHERS
Teachers may be interested in this research (including a downloadable test) on handwriting speed.
I have of course been talking of students whose writing does not require special intervention. Always talk to more experienced colleagues or counsellors if you find yourself teaching someone with serious handwriting problems.
Teachers may be interested in some more specialised information, for example — and I have encountered this — Handwriting problems in children with Asperger Syndrome.
Researchers generally agree that the small motor skill of handwriting, especially cursive/script, should be developed before keyboarding lessons. I like this idea for these reasons:
- Practical – students will be able to generate, in class, content to keyboard – an anti-plagiarism strategy that can begin in elementary school
- Practical – tests are generally taken by hand throughout school
- Pedagogical – there is much learning theory about the connection between writing and reading – there is also research to support the claim that short-circuiting this connection can be disastrous. The formation of letters and the formulation of the concept of letter are directly tied. Reading development, especially in those students who are inherently non-verbal learners or who have language deficiencies, can be interrupted by lack of attention to writing.
- Pedagogical – although not widely studied in terms of automaticity, handwriting is, according to Bloom, (Pable) an automaticity skill. Thus is further evidence that it should be learned without the interference of a competing skill development.
Some may care to try ESL Writing Wizard.
SOME RELEVANT RESEARCH