Yes! Handwriting does matter! Check out this report!
Nan Jay has spent over 30 years in classrooms, studying hand movements. She now has a proven handwriting program especially designed for SPEED, FLOW and LEGIBILITY.
In this episode you will discover:
How important is good, neat handwriting, especially in an official exam?
How to fix legibility
Why do girls write better than boys?
Why do have Doctors have terrible handwriting?
What is the most common mistake or reason for bad illegible handwriting?
How can a student improve quickly their handwriting? Do you know a quick effective fix?
Download the whole episode here, for free, then sign up.
Ben: Hi there IELTS students. In this episode we’re got a handwriting expert. Now if your handwriting is good, don’t worry. If it’s bad probably better listening to this. However, there are reports that say that handwriting doesn’t affect your IELTS score, and there are reports saying that handwriting affects exam scores.
When I made the recording, I was under the impression that it did. I took the logical common sense approach, and I was under strong impression that it does affect your score. Different reports say different things. Personally, I would go with common sense, and I personally believe it does matter. But it’s up to you. I mean, at the end of the day, are you going to write a scrappy essay or a neat essay? You want to be writing a neat essay. That’s my opinion. It just makes life easy for the examiner. Okay. Well, you make your own decision, and have a listen to this podcast and then if you have time a five-star review in iTunes would be perfect. Thank you very much.
Nan Jay Barchowsky she’s a handwriting expert and she’s going to give us some tips. The last few days, I’ve been researching and I’ll just give you a bit of an outline of what I’ve been reading. One report said the findings indicate in general that the quality of handwriting does have an impact on the scores awarded to essays and the increased legibility results in higher ratings.
In all the studies, another report states that raters have to read essays rapidly and these may force them to depend on those characteristics such as handwriting in the essays which are easy to pick out but are irrelevant to true writing ability
And another examiner pointed out that a paper that looks good and is easy to read is likely to create a better impression on a rater than one which is messy or difficult to read. So after reading these reports I felt it was quite important that we get handwriting expert on. So I called up Nan Jay, and she agreed immediately to do it. So welcome to the podcast, Nan Jay. How are you?
Nan Jay: I’m fine thank you. Thank you for hearing me.
Ben: It’s great. It’s great. It’s wonderful. Would you care to just give us a quick overview and tell us about yourself if that’s all right please?
Nan Jay: Well, I have been working with handwriting for almost 40 years and I started out in an elementary school in Maryland. I was asked to do something about the handwriting program at the school and I suggested italic. I’m not a teacher. I’ve become a teacher, I suppose, because I taught handwriting for quite a long time. I had a lot of success with it with the children and so I moved on and decided to publish what I had found out, just observing the easiest way that the hand moves with pen in hand. And I think the italic method really fits that knuckle hand movement better than any other method that’s in common use.
Then I realized that there a lot of older students who needed a little handwriting help, and that’s really where I am now. I’d like to see those people who feel they’re disadvantaged because their handwriting is not up to speed.
Ben: That’s interesting. So could I just ask you how important is good neat handwriting? And consider that the students they have to write with a pen and it’s for an official exam and there’s a lot riding on this exam. There’s university entry, there’s the visa. So how important is neat handwriting?
Nan Jay: It has to be legible and usually if it’s legible, it’s neat and it has to be fast. So the writer needs to – I think the writer needs to prepare himself or herself for writing with automaticity. In other words, they have to able to write a legible hand at the speed that they need to express the thoughts that in their head and they want to get down and they want to enter this university.
Ben: Well, you we were saying before that they have to write about 400 words in one hour and they need to organize it, plan it and write it. So you said before that well they have to write fast under pressure and they have to keep it legible. You said that automaticity. Now, could you just expand on that please?
Nan Jay: Well, one learns letterforms first. Usually, when one’s first learning, they learn to write those letters very slowly and that’s not going to help very much when you are trying to get your wonderful thoughts down on a piece of paper. So you have to – actually I find that doing some little rhythm patterns, scribbling, helps the handwriting a great deal because when one’s scribbling, one can have a relaxed hand and a relaxed hand is very important to being able to write rapidly. And with those people that I know about who have changed their handwriting use my program for changing their handwriting, it looks as though they are quite successful in changing the letterforms.
The way that it’s presented with as I say some patterning, scribbling in preparation and from that point on – in other words, they spend a few weeks – and everybody is different. Everybody learns at a different pace but actually, the age group that you speak about is ideal for learning something new because this is what they’re focused on all the time. They’re always in a situation where they’re constantly learning.
Nan Jay: So therefore, they can gain the speed that they need behind the letterforms and then you start writing faster and faster and faster and I would think the minimum amount of time to do that might be two months. I mean, in other words, it might take a little longer but I think a dedication that one would have when one needs to write those 400 words in an hour is going to encourage them to work rather hard at making this to be automatic.
Ben: Right. Okay.
Nan Jay: Or not thinking about. When you’re writing, you do not think about spelling, punctuation or any of that stuff and you certainly don’t think about the information that you need to put on the paper.
Ben: Right. Okay. One question. When you said scribbling, what did you mean by scribbling? Just random shapes or as you’re just going over forms?
Nan Jay: You know, if you’re bored while you’re talking on the telephone on to somebody that you don’t necessarily want to talk to. You sit there when you have a pencil in your hand or a pen in your hand and you just kind of make little marks.
Ben: Okay, doodling.
Nan Jay: Yes, doodling. Not that you would really draw anything. People do that.
Ben: That’s a good method to increase your handwriting ability. It relaxes your hand.
Nan Jay: Yes, it does because your hand is not tense when you’re doing that. Your hand’s open and you’re holding the pen lightly and just tight enough to keep it from falling out of your hand.
Nan Jay: It’s really unconscious.
Ben: Right. Okay.
Nan Jay: Actually, I do prescribe certain patterns that are letter-related that help one to get that speed going.
Nan Jay: [Inaudible 9:43] of course.
Ben: What kind of pattern are they? Are they like figure of 8’s just joined up? Is it that? I remember doing those.
Nan Jay: Yes, although I think it’s wise – maybe if you’re relaxed enough you can do figure 8’s and keep going without them distorting but usually, if you do, if I do a whole string of them they distort very quickly. I need to lift my pen every once in a while and start a new figure 8.
Ben: One other thing, and you said fix legibility.
Nan Jay: That’s establishing the legibility and I think it’s important for one to start out by looking at one’s own handwriting and saying “Okay.” Maybe even having a red pencil or something, saying, “Okay. That’s something that other people can’t really” and sometimes I can’t even read myself when I come back. And checking what is wrong with that. In other words doing a little self-analysis of one’s handwriting.
Nan Jay: Does that make sense?
Ben: Yes, definitely. And what’s the next step after that they self-analyse their work. They read it to themselves, they check it, they go through the red pen. Then what’s the next step?
Nan Jay: I’m recommending two separate ways of increasing speed and one of those ways is there are many people who write in a print form but they connect a lot of the letters in order to increase the speed which will work based on that analysis to find those letters that don’t work. So the easiest way for those people who usually print would be to do the analysis and correct those letters that are giving them a problem with legibility and then go on from there. And of course, as I have said before, I advocate the italic method so following the analysis, one would go on to changing their handwriting somewhat according to the italic letterforms which are very simple and very much as I think I said earlier, they’re very much in tune with the natural movement of the hand. So it’s pretty easy to get going that way.
In fact, I am absolutely amazed at how rapidly some people can pick this up and go forward with it. I totally mean that. I’m amazed at how fast some people can pick this up and go.
Ben: And they just need like the right guidance just to show them what to do and how to do it.
Nan Jay: I think so. Yes. For example, the people who’ve used my publications, I have not done any one-on-one tutoring but anyway. They’d just simply gone ahead with you know, with what it says in the book and it works.
Ben: Okay. Great. I’m going to send you my handwriting after this, aye? Okay, Right then. And you said as well when we were talking before that short sessions are the best way to do it.
Nan Jay: Absolutely because if you try to practice your handwriting for half an hour, your hand’s going to get tense and you cannot write easily or rapidly or legibly with a tense hand. It just doesn’t work. So if you limit your sessions to 10 or 15 minutes, it’ll work better. It also will work better because you avoid frustration because for example, if you try to write the letter ‘A’ 50 times, the first one is apt to look better than the last one. And you think, “Oh, my gosh. What am I doing wrong here? This isn’t working.”
Well, you need to write several different letters and you need not to just repeat the same thing over and over because one gets frustrated.
Ben: And so I’m just remembering now. When I do my writing the first page looks awesome and it’s really good. Then by the second or third page, it starts to look really scrappy and it’s that plus the reason because my hand’s not relaxed. It’s just tired. So the writing’s worse.
Nan Jay: Oh, that’s right because you should be able to write for a couple of hours without getting tired.
Ben: Right. Okay. It’s just me then [Inaudible 15:17]
Nan Jay: They could try to send them still. If you just practice for 10 minutes in a session and repeat that maybe twice a day and you go back, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of improvement because you are building up the ability to have a relaxed hand while you’re writing.
Can I tell you about a little trick that I found really works well?
Nan Jay: There are these well funny little things that they sell almost they’re almost like same things as worry beads. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Nan Jay: But it’s something you hold in your hand and you just kind of squeeze it when you’re anxious. Well, if you get one of those put it in the palm of your hand, it keeps the hand, it keeps the palm of the hand open. Because you’re holding it with your ring finger and your little finger and your other, your thumb your index and your third finger are free to hold the pen, and it really works wonders for a having a relaxed hand and having the pen held well.
Ben: That’s interesting. I’m going to try that. Could you even do it like with a pen top or anything? Just something that keeps those two fingers pinned back.
Nan Jay: It used to be something malleable, something, a couple of balls of cotton or something of that sort.
Nan Jay: One time I had some leftover yarn and I just wound that up for students into a ball that fit the palm of their hand and tape it. But it ought to be soft.
Ben: Right. Okay.
Nan Jay: The top of a pen would be hard.
Ben: Right. What that does it just keeps the palm open. So it keeps the hand more relaxed. Yeah.
Nan Jay: Yes.
Ben: Right. Okay. I better try that. And would the type of pen have an influence as well?
Nan Jay: Oh, yes. Skinny, fat ones I don’t like ball points very much because or [Inaudible 17:46] if we announce that because they tend to make your hand tense when you’re writing. The way you hold it for the fluid to come out of the pen, it seems to me an upright position and that tends to cause the hand to be more tense.
But almost anything else that will make a mark and it feels comfortable in your hand is good. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fountain pen or a gel pen or all kinds of markers.
Ben: So it’s like it’s a just a case of experiment and seeing which ones work for you
Nan Jay: Yes.
Ben: Yeah. All right.
Nan Jay: I have a favourite pen that I have owned for 50 or 60 years I guess.
Nan Jay: It’s a fountain pen but it is the one that really writes and my handwriting looks a lot better when I use it than anything else.
Ben: Funny that you should say that because my favourite pen is the Bic which is a ball point pen and I seem to prefer those. Okay. The next question: Why do girls have better handwriting than guys?
Nan Jay: Well, I’m going to sound very sexist when I answer you because little girls are much more interested in their appearance and being fussy of their appearance, and their handwriting is part of all of that. Little boys could care less. They want to go out and muddy and play baseball. Yeah. Soc. They have don’t have the time for it. Then one more thing.
Nan Jay: Before we move on from that. You mentioned that you had students from the Middle East and the Far East. These people may have been taught to write in an entirely different manner. They might have learned Arabic which is most entirely different from our Western alphabet. So therefore, it may be a little –much more of a challenge for them to write in English than it would be for someone else.
Ben: Could you give any tips for them?
Nan Jay: I would certainly advise them to go with a cursive italic. I think it has a little bit more of an attractive appearance. I think Arabic writing is beautiful. I really love it. I think it’s just lovely.
Nan Jay: So I see it from the standpoint of the beauty of the writing. They might be better just starting off with italic and it would be simple to do because the letters are really very easy to form.
Ben: And my other question was is there a reason why medical students are famous for bad handwriting? Or not medical students but especially doctors in the West, they are really famous for terrible handwriting. Could you explain that?
Nan Jay: It is the big joke. It’s not a joke because the reason that we say doctors – you know, we really focus on the bad handwriting of doctors is because some of the results were so tragic in that there are so many cases where orders had been misinterpreted, diagnosis has misinterpreted and prescriptions are misinterpreted by the pharmacists and slowly, very slowly from what I know we’re moving toward computer-generated orders.
Nan Jay: Of course even there, you can have a typo if and doctors are in a hurry.
Ben: Exactly. Yeah.
Nan Jay: They have long hours and they are very, very busy people. And so they write as fast as they possibly can and they probably have had poor initial instruction. May I tell you a short story?
Ben: Yeah, go for it. Go for it.
Nan Jay: About a year ago, some nurses got together and gave a doctor my handwriting program for Christmas. And he emailed me about a month, month and a half afterwards. And he said, “You wouldn’t believe how happy my nurses are with my handwriting.”
Ben: Yeah. I’m just thinking that that has to have this – those nurses were extremely happy. I could only imagine IELTS examiners being this and just this happy. When they get these clean neat pieces of paper they can just breathe through and they’re like give them – give the students the max they deserve instead of just having to battle with it. And it just makes life so much difficult, so much more difficult.
Nan Jay: For one, one can’t help but be prejudiced when looking at papers that are well-written and papers that are messy. You can’t be prejudiced by that.
Nan Jay: [Inaudible 23:57]
Ben: Yeah, exactly. At the end of the day if you’ve got like 30 or 50 exam papers to correct and you have to do it under pressure you’ve got a time limit and if somebody gives you something where you just can’t breeze through and just go right tick, tick, tick tick, cross, cross, whatever, if you can’t do that and you’re forced to read it three times and you’re under pressure it’s not going to put you in a good frame of mind, does it? It’s just a matter of facts.
Nan Jay: Yes, absolutely.
Ben: And would you recommend to like as a start, copying somebody’s handwriting if it’s really neat. Would you recommend doing that?
Nan Jay: I don’t think so. I think you need to try to – you need to go with whatever will get your own personal way of writing. Not somebody else’s way of writing but your own personal way of writing. I don’t advocate that if you were, for example, if you were following my book, you wouldn’t be tracing big or little sentences there. And you would be writing those sentences trying to follow the instructions that have been given prior to those sentences. You don’t want to get distracted by trying to replicate. You want to develop your own as fast as possible.
Ben: Right then. Well, thank you very much for agreeing to do the interview. You’ve been a great help, Nan and which I very much appreciate it.
Nan Jay: Well, it’s been very interesting talking with you and I thank you for getting in touch with me.
Ben: And could you just tell us which is your website, again?
Nan Jay: www.B-F-H handwriting.com
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