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Improving Your Child's Writing

Jan 3, 2008
Almost everybody starts out with some interest in penmanship and a desire for a legible handwriting. But somehow there seems to appear a vague notion that handwriting and personality are so closely connected as to be too sacred to touch. "The illegible, sloppy handwriting portrays a complex character, so it is best not to try to change either." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The home and the school working together can make immeasurable strides in both how to write and what to write. The parent and the child can together generate a natural and lasting desire for correctness and neatness, and this can result from observation and suggestion - accepted and appreciated by the child as adult interest (and the young try very hard to interest their elders).

The parent can implant much that will become a lasting effect by simply having the child practice making numbers and letters with a regulation size pencil on regulation lined paper from the very beginning of school. Oversized numbers and letters on unlined paper only breed habits of carelessness and disorder which are painfully corrected later.

Here are some aspects of penmanship which you could bring to your child's attention.

Extreme forward slant, backward slant, and irregular slant are hard to read. A slant guide placed under your writing paper may help you develop regular slant.

Allow a space equal to the width of a small letter between words. Don't crowd your writing. There should be enough white space showing between letters.

Even-sized letters increase legibility. If you slur certain letters, it may appear that the word is spelled incorrectly. Capitals and loop letters should be at least twice as high as the others and should also be even in size.

Keep your writing on the line. A paper with heavily ruled guide lines under your paper will help you get into the habit of writing in a straight line on unruled paper.

The loops of your loop letters should be open, but neither too fat nor too thin. Keep the long stems straight and not curved.

Stems are the backbones or straight down strokes which are part of most letters. They should be written as slanted, parallel lines.

Letters like m, n, v, u, h and y have rounded tops or bottoms. They should not come to a point. If they do, they may be illegible. Slow up a little when you are writing such letters.

Retracing means carefully writing over a part of a letter which you wrote before, particularly in such letters as the "d" and "t."

Making fancy endings doesn't improve your writing and may affect its legibility. Make your endings come to the height of a small letter.

If you write capital letters poorly, select one style and practice it until you can write it well. There are many acceptable forms of capital letters.

Excepting the proper use of time, the habit of neatness in writing has probably the most influence upon the student. It stimulates a sense of pride and develops an interest in perfection. This sense of neatness in the child becomes self-respect, application, and integrity in the adult later. The philosopher, William James, put it so aptly: "Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone."

Though some psychologists suggest that there might be regression after the zenith of neatness is reached at sixth grade level, the child who has been encouraged to write his papers neatly until a habit has been formed will never regress much; for the pattern of neatness is pleasant and enjoyable to all, and once established becomes part of character.
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