Have you ever gotten a note from someone who was both thoughtful and handwritten? I know I have, and I probably saved every single one. No matter the handwriting, whether big and loopy or small and abrupt, the handwriting is unique to the person writing. It’s a lot like a fingerprint.
If you’re at a spot in your life where you might want to work on your penmanship a bit, then you are in the right place. Or maybe, you just want to do justice to your nice pens and paper. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about penmanship and calligraphy. And this first post? It’s all about where to start.
Where to Start
What is the difference between penmanship and calligraphy? Penmanship is your specific and unique style of writing. Calligraphy is taking a particular style of writing and basing your strokes directly off of that. It’s that simple.
So to start, we’ll focus on penmanship. Know that you have a unique style of writing and the purpose of working on your penmanship is not to erase that uniqueness, but perhaps just to work the craft a bit more. Spending time on your penmanship results in a style of handwriting that is even more uniquely you—it’s just polished. Think of some of the great painters. They all had a unique way of working with their paintbrushes and paint. They all spent time on their craft. They all had a very distinctive style that was all their own.
You’re all great painters; you just haven’t worked on your craft enough. But the goal of penmanship is not to copy someone else’s style—it is to refine your own.
What Tools Do I Need?
You’ll need a pen and some paper. And no, you don’t have to use a calligraphy-specific pen, any pen will do. I keep plain white notecards and envelopes in my desk drawer at all times for basic correspondence. I also love Rhodia’s Dot Notepads for writing little bits and bobs and for practice. My favorite journal paper can be found in the Moleskine Volants. I love this paper with ballpoints, fountain pens, and pencils equally.
Does the Type of Pen Matter? Does the Type of Paper Matter?
A random piece of my handwriting to analyze the penmanship.
The answer is both yes and no. Personally, when I write something important, I use ‘important’ tools. I pick up a fountain pen rather than a cheap plastic ballpoint pen. There are a few reasons for this, the most important being that a nicer pen will generate a better flow of ink and can show more variation in your strokes. If you write with a ballpoint, the intricacies and nuances of your natural handwriting very often become lost. The same is true for paper. If you are using standard computer paper, you are more likely to run into problems (like tears, bleeding ink, and smudges). Nicer paper is actually designed to hold ink and deal with the point of the pen scratching the surface of the paper.
Finally, it is good practice to find some of your recent handwriting and take an extra minute to notice the details. For me, it’s a to-do list I made last week (pictured). This is my writing in its natural state, written just for me. I will take a look at this and look at some of the letters I naturally (and therefore comfortably) tend to embellish a little. This is what you should do with your writing. Look at your tendencies.
Next time, we’re going to talk more about penmanship and calligraphy from a historical standpoint and where it stands today.
Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.