THE BRAIN CONNECTION
As debates continue to rage about whether or not cursive writing should be included in school curriculums, many experts remain adamant that learning cursive writing is essential to optimal brain development in children.
Research and peer-reviewed studies support this stance, including work done by Jane Yank, Ph.D. The conclusions strongly suggest that children who learn to write by hand, particularly in cursive, have better skills in a host of areas. Among these are language learning, spelling, abstract and complex thought processes, cognitive flexibility, information synthesis and retention; and reading — including faster letter recognition, identification, comprehension and retention.
Further research shows that children who learn to write words and numbers have better-developed math skills and understanding. Research by Yank and other experts reveals that initiating the use of keyboards prior to the establishment of reading skills reduces the development of literacy; while attaining skills in writing has a positive effect on memory and mental acuity. Whipple adds that writing by hand also improves self-confidence, creativity and problem-solving skills.
ADVENTURES IN FORENSICS
Multiple areas of study have to do with the art of handwriting: chirography is the study of style and character; diplomatics refers to determining the provenance of written documents; graphonomics is the scientific pursuit of the process of handwriting; and palaeography is the analysis of script. The science connecting an individual to their handwriting is so strong that handwriting analysis experts are often key witnesses in court cases requiring document authentication and in establishing the presence of forgery.
Forensic document examiner Richard L. Orsini is a certified graphologist, document examiner and diplomate with the American Board of Forensic Examiners. He is also a licensed private investigator and the author of numerous books. During his extensive career, Orsini’s expertise as a forensic graphologist has made him the key examiner and handwriting profiler of thousands of documents and an expert court witness on more
than 100 occasions.
The professional analysis of handwriting is invaluable in many criminal cases. If you’re considering the possibility of becoming a fabulously successful forger who dashes through Europe in a vintage Jaguar while evading capture, you may want to worry that Orsini — or someone like him — will be hired to track you down.
“Your handwriting is as unique to you as your fingerprint,” notes Orsini. “It’s so unique that a person is unable to exactly duplicate their own signature. Take a blank sheet of unlined paper and a ball point pen. Write your name 10 times and your signature will always be different; the spaces between letters, the crest line and base line; even the writing pressure will vary. You simply cannot duplicate your own signature.”
Though other variants including writing surface, type of pen, or state of mind can affect an individual’s handwriting from one moment to the next, there’s still a forensic link that connects the written word to a specific person.
“Consider that the purpose of handwriting is to communicate,” Orsini continues. “If the writing is illegible, the person may be uncommunicative or trying to hide something. People who write left of the margin are often accident prone. Smooshing words on the right means the same thing. Wide spacing between words generally indicates a loner who lacks social skills.”
Happily, when you do something to change aspects of your handwriting to make it better, you can shift the negative trait associated with it. According to Orsini, a loner who deliberately works to close up those large gaps between words can subconsciously and psychologically help themselves to be more social.
By now, you should be ready to break out your best stationary and favorite pen. If your supplies are low, stock up before National Handwriting Day on Jan. 23 when penmanship is celebrated. This nationally recognized day was created in 1977 by The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association out of concern that handwriting was becoming a lost art.
It’s an observance that was a long time coming, if you consider that the origin of handwriting dates back to around 3,400 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Back then, writing by hand was a sign of social status, restricted to members of royal families; and later, to trained scribes.
Today, those limits no longer exist. So pick up a pen or pencil, and find something lovely to scribble on. Remember
that your letter or card is likely to be saved and treasured, and perhaps re-read many times over the coming years. Ample reasons, if you needed any, to send someone you care about a letter written in your own hand.