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Mission 2020: Revive the Dying Art of Penmanship


One with the skill of good penmanship, it is said that Year 8 student Prakriti Malla in Nepal has the most beautiful handwriting in the world. Image source:

Some people’s penmanship skills are truly amazing and fine – it defines art at one’s fingertips and beautiful structure of information at the same time. In case, you are not sure about the meaning of penmanship, Merriam-Webster defines it as the art or practice of writing with the pen or quality or style of handwriting

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And here are some samples of beautiful cursive writing by those who have great penmanship skills:-

penmanship 1


penmanship 2


penmanship 2


When I was in primary school, the idea of writing beautifully was enforced right from the start. The teachers expected us to write well and if they spotted any “doctors” or very bad handwriting (in Malay, we say cakar ayam), they made sure our parents were aware of it and get us to work on our handwritings at home. The school got us to start writing in cursive writing from the very start – in fact; we had a separate exercise book that focussed on practising cursive writing.

Maybe because of that, I dare say that I have better handwriting (people had commented on it) but personally, it is not the best. The best handwriting that I ever noticed was by my classmate Francis Lee Wei Chiang – he had a better pen back those days and he was always had steady hands when writing (looking back now, I also think he was the first to have a mechanical pencil in my class).

During school days, I tried to maintain my penmanship skills as best as possible since there were high expectations from the parents & teachers. But when I moved on to secondary school, it was getting a bit tougher to maintain good level penmanship.

The reason being we had to write a lot of things in a very short span of time. It got worse once I am in college doing law and I have to write 4-5 pages of answers for 4 out of 8 questions within 3 hours (or was it 4 hours?). There was plenty to write but not enough time to write all down – so imagine how bad the writing going to be!!

I always said that with the age of computing, the art of penmanship is a dying art as most of us are using our smartphones or laptop to compose letters and jotting down reminders. Jotting down notes is also easier with voice recorders. Now since in office, I have more time to write things down – I can go back to my school days when I use cursive to write things down.

And I wish my kids to take up this skill from me. Forget of relying on the schools to enforce students to write beautifully – there are no special classes that focus on writing alone. So that leaves me to take up the challenge.

There are ways to improve one’s writing styles and it always includes the element of practice, practice and more practice. Things to do, tasks for the days, minutes of the meeting, filling up the forms for school and even doing up the monthly Tesco shopping list – there are always an opportunity to practice and sharpen my penmanship skills

Of course, in addition to practice writing, there is also the important factor of having the right techniques & tools – Lindsey Bugbee in her post, outlined 8 great tips to improve your handwriting namely (please click on the link to read the details of the tips):-

Use a Nice Pen

The adjective “nice” is subjective — you’ll have to hunt to find the pen that works for you! My choice of pen for everyday writing is the Pilot G2 05 because of the stroke width, the grip, and the jet black ink. I also like that it’s so responsive; I don’t have to exert a lot of pressure on the pen to ensure consistent ink flow.

You can find thousands of pens on the market, so I encourage you to shop around. Pick up a pen here and there, and give it a try! It doesn’t matter if you prefer gel pens, fountain pens, ballpoint pens … whatever you connect with the best is perfect.

Maintain a Relaxed Grip

A nice, relaxed grip is one of the main things that will improve your handwriting. A “relaxed grip” means that none of the muscles in your hand are overly flexed, and your fingernails shouldn’t be white from squeezing the pen’s barrel.

Experiment with Paper Rotations

As children, we are generally taught to keep our paper in a vertical position in front of us. If that works for you, great! If not, feel free to experiment with different paper rotations. Keeping the paper at a certain angle can go a long way in helping you to improve your handwriting!

Write on Lined Paper or Use a Template

Writing nice, even words are a big shortcut to neat handwriting! If you want to write a letter to someone, you can put a piece of notebook paper under printer paper. More than likely, you’ll be able to see the notebook paper lines through the printer paper, and you can use those lines as guidelines for even writing. Or, if you don’t mind the lines, you can write someone a letter directly on notebook paper.


Using the right pen is actually the MAIN tips of all – you may have the right penmanship skill but if you don’t have the right pen, forget of seeing your writing coming down with the right style & class. Personally I prefer any pen that is fine and smooth flowing. It does not have to be an expensive pen – in fact, I am using a cheap ballpoint Stabilo Liner 808 F pen to do my writings.

Different people have a different style – some do well with relaxed grip but I rather hold it firm but it has to be in one continuous stroke. This is why having the right pen is very important. Paper rotation is true as well especially when it comes to writing cursive. I opt for a 45-degree rotation – that makes my cursive writing to be more lined instead of going north or south.

Indeed penmanship is a dying art especially for those who had left school and it needs a strong revival to keep this art alive. Start with yourself to write anything beautifully and then pass that skill and passion to your children. Beautiful writing is appreciated at any time of the day and in any circumstances.

Keep writing and improve your penmanship skills!!

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