Graphology is the study of handwriting, which for hundreds of years has been recognized as being unique to each individual.
Through the centuries, starting with Suetonius, the Roman historian, scholars like Shakespeare and Walter Scott believed that personality is reflected in the style of writing. The scientific establishment began to compile evidence and theories proving this as early as the 17th century.
Early work in Italy and France was taken forward in Germany, and the basis of today’s methods were set down during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This makes graphology a relatively new science, which perhaps explains why many remain sceptical.
The term ‘graphology’ was first used by the Frenchman, Michon, in 1875, from the Greek ‘grapho’ meaning I write, and ‘logos’ meaning theory. Graphology is now widely used in fields ranging from education, recruitment and human resources, to criminal psychology and illness diagnosis.
Further reading on the subject is available in many books including:
What your handwriting reveals
M Gullan Whur
Manual of Graphology
Character indicated by handwriting
The psychology of handwriting
Allen & Unwin
P’s and Q’s
Self-knowledge through handwriting
Dent & Sons
At its most complex, graphology is a large and dynamic subject. At its basic level however, it is relatively easy to understand and to begin to apply. Used as a simple guide, graphology can provide useful indicators to the writer’s personality, whether you are analysing yourself or those around you.
N.B. Experimenting with analysis is interesting, enjoyable and a good way to learn, but do not to attempt formal analysis of others, particularly staff reporting to you, until and unless you become expert in the use of graphology and preferably receive some certification or accreditation to that effect.
The basic features of handwriting
Write a few sentences freely on a level surface. Now look for the main features of the writing:
Now follow the basic analysis process below, which you can use on other samples. The more you practice, the more you become able to analyse without referring to the written guidelines:
That is, has the style of the writing been affected by any external influences? e.g. an uneven writing surface; an awkward writing position; or written on the move (in a car or train, etc.). You cannot analyse a sample that is not reliable. For the purpose of checking slope and coverage it is more difficult to analyse samples that have been written on lined paper.
Large rounded and dominant central case (see the later explanation of ‘cases’) letters indicate a friendly and sociable personality.
Thoughtful, considered people will have fewer linked letters and no linked words.
The three cases – divisions of the personality
An essential aspect to analyse is the bias of the writing towards upper, central and lower cases. The upper case is the area in which the extended up-strokes are found in the tall letters like b, d, f, h, l, t, etc. The central or middle case is the central region occupied by letters with neither long up-strokes nor long down-strokes, such as a, c, e, m, n, o, etc. Which obviously means that the lower case is the area occupied by the extended down-strokes of letters such as g, j, p, q, etc.
The central case contains most of the writing. The upper and lower cases are those which extend above and below the central body of each letter. The three cases represent the three aspects of our personality. If it helps you to assess the relative dominance of the three cases draw a horizontal set of ‘tram-lines’ through some lines of writing to mark the division between the three cases. Look at the relative dominance and extent of each of the cases.
Upper our ‘higher’ selves, and thinking about religion and philosophy
Central our mental and social approach to life
Lower our physical aptitudes and attitudes
Look where the writing is mainly concentrated, and where the emphasis is; this is where the emphasis of the personality is too. Look for any encroachment from upper case to the line above or from lower case to the line below – it’s a sure indication that the encroaching case is dominant. Also look at the central case to see if there is an upward or downward pull. An upward pull is best spotted if you see an arched pattern running through the central case. A downward pull is best spotted by seeing a pattern of troughs through the central case. The pull pattern in the central case also indicates the emphasis of the personality.
Some other simple indicators:
Position and style of ‘i’ dots show different things:
and in general – You should try to build up a picture of the person you are analysing using as many different indicators as possible. Also try to use other psychometric tests and systems to build up a multi-dimensional picture; the more perspectives you can use the better.
If this brief introduction interests you then get hold of a book or two on the subject and teach yourself more. It’s a fascinating subject and a useful additional way of providing insight into your own personality and those around you.
(c) alan chapman 2002. www.businessballs.com
This tool was developed by alan chapman consultancy and you may use it personally or within your organisation provided copyright and www.businessballs.com is acknowledged. Publication in any form or use in provision of business services to a third party is not allowed without permission from alan chapman. Support and advice on using this system is available from alan chapman via email firstname.lastname@example.org. More free online training resources are at www.businessballs.com.
Graphology – how graphology experts analyse handwriting
Graphology – the study of handwriting and handwriting analysis – is now an accepted and increasingly used technique for assessment of people in organizations. Handwriting analysis is an effective and reliable indicator of personality and behaviour, and so is a useful tool for many organizational processes, for example: recruitment, interviewing and selection, team-building, counselling, and career-planning.
Here is a free introductory guide to graphology, with examples of techniques that graphologists and handwriting analysis experts use to analyse a person’s personality from a sample of handwriting.
This free article is contributed by Elaine Quigley BA Hons., MBIG Dip, a leading expert graphologist, and chair of the British Institute of graphologists.
Elaine describes graphology as ‘brainwriting’ – the handwriting comes directly from the writer in a uniquely personal and individual way, irrespective of how the person has been taught to write: an expert graphologist understands the styles of the different countries and languages and makes allowances for ‘taught’ influences. Also largely irrelevant to the actual analysis is the content of the written text.
The science of graphology uses at least 300 different handwriting features in its investigative approach. The graphologist’s interpretation skill is in the psychological art of understanding the particular blend of handwriting features – an expert is able to see the writer ‘step off the page’.
Graphology theory and history
A person’s handwriting – the script – and its placing on the page express the unique impulses of the individual: logically, the brain sends signals along the muscles to the writing implement they control. By examining a handwriting sample, an expert graphologist is able to identify relevant features of the handwritten script, and the way the features interact. The features, and interaction between them, provide the information for the analysis. (No single handwriting sample will exhibit all 300 different features of course – a typical analysis will involve far less).
No single handwriting feature proves anything specific or absolute by itself; a single feature alone can only identify a trend. It is the combination of features, and the interaction between them that enable a full and clear interpretation.
Graphology is actually a very old and respected science – the study of handwriting and its analysis was first developed by the Chinese 3,000 years ago. The Romans used graphology, and through the centuries since then various civilisations and cultures have analysed handwriting to identify the essence of the person who produced it.
The modern approach to handwriting analysis was established by a group of French clerics, led by Abbe Michon, who defined key aspects of the science in the 1870s, after 30 years of study. This work formed the basis of modern graphology, although the science is still being researched and expanded today.
Professional graphologists operate to a strict code of ethics, and these experts are constantly in demand; those who use it recognise its value in the workplace as an additional method of understanding character. It is therefore an extremely useful tool in identifying the quality and capacity of an individual’s talents and potential, particularly in career guidance and improving relationships. Like other powerful behavioural or intuitive models, it is not easy to explain how and why graphology works, nevertheless it continues to be used, respected and appreciated by many because it achieves a high level of results.
Graphology – an introductory guide to handwriting features
As previously stated there are around 300 features – this introductory article attempts to explain some of the basic ones that can be readily understood and which give interesting information.
Right slant indicates a response to communication, but not how it takes place. For example, the writer may wish to be friendly, manipulative, responsive, intrusive, to sell, to control, to be loving, supportive, just to name some possibilities.
If the handwriting is generally upright, this indicates independence.
A left slant tendency shows emotion and reserve. This writer needs to be true to self first and foremost and can be resentful if others try to push for more commitment from them.
Handwriting is made up of three zones – or cases – middle, upper and lower. A basic average measure – or benchmark – by which size can be judged is 3mm per zone. This gives a benchmark for a non-remarkable full height of 9mm. More than this is large; less than this is small.
Large size handwriting can mean extrovert and outgoing, or it can mean that the writer puts on an act of confidence, although this behaviour might not be exhibited to strangers.
Small size can, logically, mean the opposite. Small size handwriting can also indicate a thinker and an academic, depending upon other features in the script. If the writing is small and delicate, the writer is unlikely to be a good communicator with anyone other than those on their own particular wavelength. These people do not generally find it easy to break new ground socially.
Heavy pressure indicates commitment and taking things seriously, but if the pressure is excessively heavy, that writer gets very uptight at times and can react quickly to what they might see as criticism, even though none may have been intended. These writers react first and ask questions afterwards.
Light pressure shows sensitivity to atmosphere and empathy to people, but can also, if the pressure is uneven, show lack of vitality.
upper zone or case (as in L, T, H, etc)
Tall upper strokes are reaching towards goals and ambitions or, if they are very extended, there may be unrealistic expectations of what the person feels they must achieve.
If there are reasonably proportioned upper zone loops, this indicates someone who likes to think things through and use their imagination in a sensible way. Wider upper zone loops indicate more of a tendency to dream up ideas and mull them over.
If the up-stroke goes up and then returns on top of itself, the writer may be squeezing out imagination and keeping to the basic requirement of getting down to the job in hand.
lower zone (as in G, Y, P, etc)
Lower loops are also varied and have different meanings.
For example a straight stroke shows impatience to get the job done.
A ‘cradle’ lower stroke suggests an avoidance of aggression and confrontation.
A full loop with heavy pressure indicates energy/money-making/sensuality possibilities, subject to correlation with other features.
A full lower loop with light pressure indicates a need or wish for security.
If there are many and varied shapes in the lower zone, the writer may feel unsettled and unfocused emotionally. Again the handwriting analyst would look for this to be indicated by other features in the script.
The benchmark by which to judge wide or narrow spacing between words is the width of one letter of the person’s handwriting.
Wide spaces between words are saying – ‘give me breathing space’.
Narrow spaces between words indicate a wish to be with others, but such writers may also crowd people and be intrusive, notably if the writing lacks finesse.
Handwriting samples are always best on unlined paper, and particularly for exhibiting line-spacing features.
Wide-spaced lines of handwriting show a wish to stand back and take a long view.
Closely spaced lines indicates that that the writer operates close to the action. For writers who do this and who have writing that is rather loose in structure, the discipline of having to keep cool under pressure brings out the best in them.
The sides of the page each have a meaning.
The left side margin shows the roots and beginnings/family.
The right side shows other people and the future.
The top is goals and ambitions.
The foot of the page shows energy, instincts and practicality.
Therefore margins are very informative.
If the writer has a wide left margin, the interest is in moving on. If it is narrow, caution and wanting to avoid being pushed before they are ready is indicated.
Narrow right margin shows impatience and eagerness to get out there and on with things.
Wide right margin shows that there may be some fear of the unknown.
middle zone or case (as in A, C, E, etc)
These middle zone shapes can give some particularly interesting information.
The middle zone in the script represents the ego – from it we get a lot of information as to how the writer feels and acts in public settings – what makes them tick socially and at work.
Some people’s handwriting consists of only one single style, but many people will have a mixture of two handwriting styles or more.
Again this provides useful information.
All of these features have potentially positive and negative connotations; the analyst uses the flow and facility (ease, smoothness) of the script to infer a positive or negative interpretation.
This means that the middle zone of the writing is humped and rounded at the top like a series of arches. It is in the basic style of copy-book, though it is not taught in all schools. Writers who use this can be loyal, protective, independent, trustworthy and methodical, but negatively they can be secretive, stubborn and hypocritical when they choose. The most important characteristic is group solidarity against outsiders.
Garland is like an inverted ‘arcade’ and is a people-orientated script. These writers make their m’s, n’s and h’s in the opposite way to the arcade writer, like cups, or troughs, into which people can pour their troubles or just give information. The garland writer enjoys being helpful and likes to be involved.
Angled middle zone is the analytical style, the sharp points, rather than curves, give the impression of probing. The angle writer, is better employing talents at work and for business or project purposes, rather than nurturing, which is the strength of the garland writer.
As with any indicators of personality style, the interpretation doesn’t mean that each writer needs to be categorised and prevented or dissuaded from spreading their talents and interests, but the analysis can helpfully show where the person’s strengths can be best employed.
Thread handwriting is like unravelled wool, waiting to be made up into something fresh. These writers are mentally alert and adaptable, but can also be elusive and lack patience. They are responders, rather than initiators. They can be very clever at drawing together strands of information and making something of them. Therefore they observe and bide their time, so that decisions are made at the most appropriate moment.
Wavyline handwriting is often an amalgam of all or most of the other forms and is usually written by people who are mentally mature and skilful. It shows that they can call on a variety of responses, to suit the occasion and indicates good coping mechanisms. They are adaptable and resourceful.
These features and interpretations provide a small but useful guide as to the way people behave, and particularly how they handle their social requirements. Check your own handwriting against these pointers to see what you can learn or confirm about yourself, and see also how effective even just a few simple graphology techniques can be in revealing personality style.
Understanding the personality through handwriting is a valuable way of making the best of both personal awareness and interpersonal situations for the benefit of all concerned.
The aim in using graphology to analyse a person’s handwriting must always be positive. The interpretation should enable people analysed to use the understanding gained, to help them live their lives to the highest level of satisfaction that they choose. In a professional or organizational context, graphology can play an important part in enabling working relationships to be forged that will enhance the quality of the group or team performance.
As a child you were taught to write, but it’s not likely that you still write in the way you were taught. The fact that you don’t helps to explain the reason graphology exists and why graphology can be used to interpret personality.
Elaine Quigley BA Hons., MBIG (Dip) is a leading graphologist, psychologist and past chairman of the British Institute of Graphologists. (She now edits the Institute’s journal). Elaine offers advice for staff selection, counselling, lecturing, exhibition presentations, public speaking, and for TV, radio and newspaper articles. Elaine’s background in dealing with individual clients and national companies has given her the flexibility and experience to provide valuable support in decision-making and interpersonal perception.
The use of this material is free provided copyright (Elaine Quigley text 2004, Alan Chapman edit, code and design 1995-2006) is acknowledged and reference or link is made to the www.businessballs.com website. This material may not be sold, or published in any form. Disclaimer: Reliance on information, material, advice, or other linked or recommended resources, received from Alan Chapman, shall be at your sole risk, and Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors, omissions, or damages arising. Users of this website are encouraged to confirm information received with other sources, and to seek local qualified advice if embarking on any actions that could carry personal or organisational liabilities. Managing people and relationships are sensitive activities; the free material and advice available via this website do not provide all necessary safeguards and checks. Please retain this notice on all copies.
(c) elaine quigley text 2004, alan chapman edit, code and design 1995-2006