Handwriting samples in a text message era

Handwriting samples in a text message era

Sargur Srihari, a professor of computer science and engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo, has determined that there are significant differences in handwriting between those under 24 (top) and those over 45 (bottom).


With 82 percent accuracy, Srihari's computer program can determine which group a writer belongs to based on how they form the characters b, d, h, l, v, or x.

To see which school of cursive you are closer to, swiftly write down the following words (case sensitive) on a piece of paper before reading the rest of this gallery:


Credit: Sargur Srihari


Believe it or not, the word at the top is the average sample of "the," as written by someone under 24. Below it is a sample "the" from the average writer over 45 years old. The "h" characters show the most differences.

Srihari collected three distinct writing samples from more than 1,000 people representative of the U.S. population. The samples were scanned into a computer and analyzed for characteristics like the degree of slant, the presents of loops, comparative height to other letters, presence of corners, size of strokes, and distance between characters and connectedness.


While those under 24 (top row) are too young to be medical doctors, it seems that they are well on their way to having the handwriting for it. Notice the difference in the "d" and "x" characters between the under-24 and over-45 writer (bottom row).



Class of 2005 or Class of 1965? The under-24 (top row) samples have characters closer to printing with a loop in the "e," no loop in the "l" and a sharp "v." The over-45 samples show influences of the Palmer Method of teaching handwriting by constantly connecting letters and introducing loops. The letters also appear softer, as with the "u"-like "v."


While the b characters are, again, distinct in different schools of cursive training, it looks like both age groups could use some work on their "y" characters.

This word is "Rubey," as written by the average under-24 (left) versus over-45 writer.


Alphabet in methods

The differences between the cursive of under-24 and over-45 writers could be attributed to the shift in handwriting education. When they attended elementary school, most baby boomers and older generations learned about the tails and connections recommended by the Palmer Method (top) or the similar Zaner-Bloser method when they learned cursive writing.

Today, a variety of cursive fonts are taught, depending on the teacher's preference, and less time is spent perfecting penmanship to make time for other instruction, such as typing on a keyboard.

Handwriting Without Tears (middle) emphasizes consistent and legible letters but does not restrict students to particular strokes. D'Nealian (bottom) recommends particular strokes, but the characters are a print-cursive hybrid.



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