Dictionary of Handwriting Analysis Terms

Airstroke : Unrecorded part of the stroke bridging the gap between the point where the pen is raised to the point it returns to the paper; usually preceded by a trailing off of pressure.

Alignment : Spatial organization of margins, lines, words, and letters; refers to consistent baseline and spacing of other elements of the writing.

Angle : One of four basic connective links in writing, angles force an abrupt change of direction that breaks the flow of the writing movement. Angles may be found within letters or where one letter connects to the following one.

Arcade : One of four basic connective links in writing. An arched stroke resembling the architectural arcade, dosed at the top and open at the bottom.

Arrangement : Manner of distribution and organization of the writing on the page. Total pattern of margins, word space, zonal proportions, and slant.

Balance of writing : Equalized expansion and contraction. Freedom of movement and release is balanced with tension and restraint.

Balance of zones : Similar upper and lower zone extensions giving a balanced look to the writing. Middle zone letters should also be in proportion.

Baseline : Line, real or imagined, established by the writer, upon which the letters rest. May be even, uneven, erratic, or sloped up or down.

Beginning stroke : Initial stroke, may or may not be necessary to the basic letter form. May be a flourish, straight, curved, long, or short stroke; also called lead-in stroke.

Blobs : Dark spots within the stroke caused by an accumulation of ink or lint on the pen point. Soft ink mass appearing more or less consistently throughout the writing, caused by a hesitation in the writing motion. Associated with pastosity.

Break : Gap in letter or word, caused by mental hesitation or lapse of thought; also by crossing t or dotting i.

Buckle : Loop on letter k; also p and s.

Clarity : Distinct and legible writing. Letters open and clearly formed, strokes clean cut and easy to read.

Compressed writing : Squeezed, narrow, or retraced writing. Normal spacing deleted to the point of being hard to read.

Concealed stroke : Stroke superimposed over another stroke; also cover stroke, retraced stroke.

Connectedness : Degree to which letters within a word are connected to each other.

Connective form : Distinctive form of writing structure which connects letters and parts of letters. Most common are garlands, arcades, angles, and thread.

Consistency : Regularity. Repeated pattern or use of individual letter forms. May be monotonous repetition or rhythmic consistency.

Controlled writing : Overly regular letter form, neat t cross and i dot placement. Space is consistent and even.

Diacritic : Element added to certain letters (i dot, t bar, accent mark).

Direction of writing : Modern western writing is ordinarily from left to right. Attributed to man’s preference for right handedness, the custom can be traced back to ancient times.

Duct or ductus : Basic element or track made by the writing instrument; the course of the stroke on the writing surface.

Dynamics : Movement and force used to produce a change of direction in writing; usually made in left to right movement.

Elaboration : Any addition to copybook standard of writing which is not needed as a part of the basic letter form.

Expansion : Judgment of the writing pattern as compared to the writing space. The size of individual letters and the horizontal or vertical proportions determines how much expansion is present.

Expressiveness : Ability or desire to act on feelings, thoughts, or ideas in verbal, written, or creative form; revealed in writing in slant, pressure, originality.

Finals : Final stroke or flourish of a letter or word after completion of the full letter form.

Flexibility : Coordination and suppleness of the writing movement and form.

Fluctuation : Departure from the normal standard in pressure, baseline, size, slant, or space; alternating changes of direction.

Form : Shape of letters, punctuation, and any other writing factor which creates a form or style of writing unique to the individual. Its variations are infinite.

Form level : Quality of writing pattern as judged from the overall appearance. It usually involves organization, color, simplicity of form, rhythm, originality, and dynamic forward movement.

Fullness : Encompasses more of the writing surface than is prescribed by school standards.

Garland : One of four basic connective strokes. Shaped like a cup, connects the downstroke of a letter to the following upstroke with an open curve. Simplest of left to right movements in writing.

Gestalt : German term meaning ‘structure.’ Configuration of the whole picture of the writing; not to be confused with the psychological theory of Gestalt.

Graphodyne : Mechanical device invented by Klara Roman for registering changes in writing speed and pressure during act of writing and drawing.

Harmony : Rhythmic handwriting with free and continuous flow of movement; lack of extremes or imbalances in arrangement, form, or movement.

Horizontal expansion : Expansion of writing from left to right; measurable expanse of 20 units (letter, space, or punctuation mark).

I emphasis : Emphasis shown by size, pressure, or shape of Capital I as opposed to other capitals within the script.

Legibility : Readable, clear writing even when parts are taken out of context.

Libido : Sexual drive ; innate energy stemming from biological urges. Used in interpreting pressure, pastosity, and lower zone activity.

Loop : Writing formation in upper and lower zone letters in which space is enclosed between upstrokes and downstrokes.

Margin : Top, bottom, and side spaces on the page framing the body of written, typed, or printed matter.

Mature writing : Writing showing above average form level, simplification, originality, and rhythm.

Monotony : Consistent repetition or excessive regularity of any letter form.

Movement : Major premise in analysis. Involves qualities of expansion, coordination, speed, pressure, direction, and rhythm.

Muddiness : Coarse, untidy, and smudged writing; loops and ovals may be flooded with ink. Pastosity.

Narrowness : Upper and lower zone loops are less than half the width of the middle zone height. Ovals are thin and compressed. Space between letters and words is less than middle zone height.

Natural writing : Free-flowing, spontaneous, expressive, alive, and unpretentious.

Organization : Qualities of balance, rhythm, and harmonyfound in a writing sample. Includes harmonious arrangement of margins, letter form, and word and line space.

Originality : Consistently different from copybook standard without impairing legibility or aesthetics; contains original forms and unusual connections.

Pastosity : Writing strokes made with a relaxed manipulation of the pen, resulting in an excessive flow of ink. Pasty, muddy, or blurred stroke with equal thickness in both upstroke and downstroke. Made with little pressure, it may be regarded as the opposite of sharpness.

Patched : Mended, touched up letters originally written incorrectly; attempt to make a letter form more legible.

Pattern : Arrangement, form, and movement of the writing which presents a specific picture value.

Periodicity : Rhythmic pattern of downstrokes, loops, or other writing features appearing with obvious regularity.

Pressure : Third dimension’ of writing (vertical and horizontal are other two). Energy applied to writing instrument producing an impression on the paper and revealing embossing on the back side. Produces thickness, darkness, sharpness, and shading in the writing.

Psychogram : Term coined by Hollingworth in 1922. Best know example is the circular chart developed by Klara Roman and George Staempfli to measure 40 writing factors as a means to construct a personality profile from the writing.

Regularity : Consistency in middle zone height, in the distance between down-strokes, and in the slant of the writing.

Release : Freedom of movement in the writing, as opposed to contraction. Use of the extensor muscles provides writing release.

Rhythm : Complex feature reflecting the natural heartbeat and pulse within the writing. Graphologically found in balance and symmetry of the writing pattern. Harmony in arrangement, form, and movement presents a rhythmic picture value.

Rigidity : Inflexible writing; straight, stiff strokes and other formations give an im¬pression of immovability.

School model : Writing standard taught in schools, generally known as ‘copybook.’ Each country has its own school model.

Shading : Contrasting pressure between thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes or vice versa. Formerly called Copperplate; developed to an art in Spencerian writing style.

Sharpness : Sharp, clear edges to writing stroke. Strokes may be thick or thin and executed with or without pressure.

Simplification : Simple writing form minus non-essential strokes including initials and finals. Streamlined letter forms for speed and clarity; printed forms, especially block printing, show this economy of motion.

Size of writing : Relative term judged by size of the middle zone; standard copybook middle zone height is 3mm or 1/8 inch. Upper and lower zones are measured in proportion to middle zone.

Slant : Left or right direction of writing as it separates from the baseline. Degree can be measured on a protractor scale. Upstroke and downstroke slant are measured differently; consistency is the key factor for both.

Spacing : Arrangement of the writing on the page; relative spacing of margins, letters, words, and lines.

Speed : Tempo of writing movement. Depends on many factors; affected by nervous temperament, training, and practice with writing instrument.

Stroke : Single writing movement beginning with a dot and continuing until direction is changed. Six basic strokes are dot, line, curve, hook, circle, loop. Strokes may be long, short, curved, straight, thick, thin, blunt, or pointed.

Style : Any distinctive form and movement in writing (cursive, printing, artistic, copybook, simplified, elaborated, etc). Support stroke Beginning stroke which is long and resembles a prop.

Syndrome : Cluster or group of graphic characteristics that commonly occur together.

Tension : Contraction within the writing; restraint. Revealed in cramped letters, re-tracings, narrowness, and close spacing.

Thread : One of four basic connective forms; indistinct connective tapering to sinuous, wavy, or threadlike stroke.

Tic : Short, involuntary inflexible stroke at beginning or end of word or letter. Sometimes called ‘temper tics.’

Trend : Sufficient number of writing characteristics to create a pattern; includes direction of writing movement, formation of letters, and spacing on the page.

Trizonal letters : Writing movement encompassing all three zones; letter f is only natural standard of this.

Upper zone dynamics : Left to right movement in the upper zone; those exerted with pressure have most emphasis.

Zones : Division of writing into three zones was developed in the 1920s by Max Pulver, Swiss graphologist. Middle zone measured from baseline to top of letter (such as a, o, etc.); includes emotional expression of feelings, ego, habit, everyday social contacts. Upper zone reaches above middle zone (such as 1, h, etc.); includes intellectual expression of theoretical thinking, intangible ideas, spiritual ideals, and cultural tastes. Lower zone falls below baseline (such as g, y, etc.); includes physical expression involving actions, material needs, biological urges, and instinctual drives.

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