How much can handwriting matter when schools debate whether to even teach it? And given how rarely most of us put actual pen to paper these days, it seems on its way to becoming a lost art. Let’s hope not, because unlike face or voice, the hand doesn’t lie.
One handwritten warning flag that’s easily spotted is the Felon’s Claw. This backward-hooking stroke can appear in script or print writing. It’s unconsciously scribed by folks who feel guilty including, they say, three-quarters of those incarcerated for felony. (On the bright side, maybe we should feel reassured that so many felons retain a conscience.)
Unless you’re corresponding with No. 231749, however, you might first notice it in the writing of family, friends, colleagues—or your babysitter. If so, good catch because it often appears in the writing of those who feel they have something to hide, like the “good” kid who isn’t so good anymore. Perhaps she cheats on exams, is experimenting with drugs, or is a convincing liar—honestly, she has no idea what happened to all your vodka.
The Felon’s Claw can also appear in the writing of someone who grew up being made to feel guilty and who subconsciously believes he should continue getting punished. Even silent victims of abuse can unwittingly express feelings of guilt and shame via a Claw. If you see the Claw in the writing of someone you know or suspect has been abused, in whatever way at whatever time, it suggests the abuse remains an active burden.
The Felon’s Claw can also appear from the hand of those responding more actively to guilt. You know that guy who seems so nice? However genial he appears, if he writes with the Claw, do your best to stay clear of him. A Claw can reveal a desire to strike back in a way that feeds the writer’s entrenched sense of guilt. It’s considered a hallmark of vindictive types, backstabbers. Whether he’s known for making cutting remarks or for undermining a rival, the risk for trouble is visible when his writing displays a Felon’s Claw.
Next time you see gang graffiti, note how many tags bear a backhanded hook.
Another telltale mark that will be a great loss should handwriting disappear is the Upside-Down Oval. This occurs when letters such as o and a are drawn clockwise rather than counterclockwise—in an underhanded manner. Thieves of all kinds exhibit this form but it’s seen with notable frequency in the handwriting of embezzlers. Who knows whether this is why accountants were routinely asked years ago to submit a writing sample during their job interviews?
While the form is aberrant in adults, young children sometimes draw ovals this way before they are trained to write properly. This begs several questions: First, was the Palmer Method—the handwriting style taught in most schools during the last fifty years—designed to promote legibility, or to avert disaster? And if we no longer teach handwriting, will we be missing a chance to train youngsters away from future thievery, vengeful behavior and deception?
If handwriting continues to grow obsolete, we will also squander our ability to spot an even more negative trait. Letters where the individual strokes don’t touch are called Segmented Letters. When a person writes like this, it’s equivalent to flying the black flag. Forming letters with disconnected strokes is considered visual evidence of dishonest, even dangerous tendencies. Though it can be seen in cursive writing, it’s most often found in segmented printing. When it is—especially when all capital letters are used—there is an even stronger indication of deceit. Think: handwriting on the note a kidnapper leaves behind or a serial killer sends to police. Using exclusively capital letters when that’s not standard in one’s work (as in architecture) is suspect in any case because it suggests an exaggerated effort to control others or their perceptions about the writer.
Despite the wealth of information handwriting offers, few writers seem to incorporate it into their stories. Mysteries featuring graphology are even rarer. In fact, I know of only one writer who features it, and she is a graphologist herself. Sheila Lowe, who wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, also writes a series whose main character, Claudia Rose, is a graphologist.
What a shame for her that fan “mail” is now mostly virtual.
See all of Kate Lincoln’s posts for Criminal Element.