5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Handwriting



Learn calligraphy online at calligraphy.org. You’ll learn the basics of pointed pen, flourishing, addressing envelopes and developing your own style. The course comes complete with a beginner kit of supplies and personal coaching from calligraphy experts Melissa Esplin and Erika Paulsen. Click here to find out more.


I was on Studio 5 last week! It’s hard to convey everything I want in a short segment, so in addition to the little video (below), I have great tips on how to improve your handwriting.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s International Correspondence Month. I’ve made a dent with my box of envelopes, but I still have about 15 letters to go before the end of the month (totally doable, if you ask me!). I make goals like this for myself quite frequently, and I’m excited that this one is sticking! Ideally, I’d love to write this many letters all the time, but it’s a matter of carving out the time. It’s not as quick or convenient as sending an email, but it certainly means more to get something hand-written than a quick 2-liner in your inbox. At least, that’s how I feel.


With the rise of the digital age, good penmanship has gone down the crapper. If I had a quarter for every time I heard the whine “I wish my handwriting looked better”, I’d be living it up in my multi-million dollar dream home. It’s an epidemic of bad handwriting! Most schools aren’t teaching cursive, either! I’m glad to be in a state that still requires cursive as part of the third grade curriculum. Not only does it teach kids a slice of history, but it promotes better literacy (often times kids that don’t learn how to write cursive have issues reading script fonts), better fine-motor skills and concentration. It may be impractical to hand-write everything in this modern age. However, we should shift our perception of handwriting from an archaic means of communication to something meditative, meaningful and personal.

Calligraphy and penmanship have very similar foundations. So let’s talk about 5 ways to make your everyday handwriting better.

1- Practice

Handwriting, like any skill, won’t get better without practice. We’re all great at typing, right? It’s because we’re using it ALL the TIME. Why does our handwriting atrophy, you ask? Simply because we are not practicing. It’s not being used in the every day, so if you want to improve your handwriting chops you’re going to have to carve out purposeful practice.


Spend at least 15 minutes a day writing out the alphabet, or writing your to do lists.

2- Use the Right Tools

Handwriting isn’t as tool-intensive as calligraphy, but if you have crappy pens, you’ll have crappy results. You know those cheapie bic pens? Yeah, we don’t have those in our house. They’re awful. The gel-like ink doesn’t flow easily and smoothly off the paper, requiring you to apply more pressure when writing. Also the narrow shaft of the pen requires a tighter grip. Both aspects are a recipe for hand cramping and fatigue. I personally prefer the pilot precise v5. It’s a skinny pen, but the ink flows smoothly from the pen allowing for a light grip and a light touch.


If you want to invest in some pen awesomeness, I would highly recommend the Kaweko Sport or the Lamy Safari. They’re easy-to-use fountain pens with nice weight and grip to them.

If you want something a little more advanced, the Noodler’s Ahab Flex Pen (the green pen in the pictures) is really fun. It’s a fountain pen with a little bit of flex, but you have to know what you’re doing when it comes to inking the pen (more colors and great how-to videos here). Sometimes you can’t control the kind of paper that you use, but if you want to buy a nice paper, try Clairefontaine lined paper. It’s deliciously smooth. You can alternatively use a 90-100GSM high quality color laser paper.

3 – Slow Down

This is something that I tell my calligraphy students constantly. You can’t expect consistent results when you’re going too fast. The key is to go slow enough that you can anticipate the next move before it happens and so you can create consistent movements. I pick on Chris all the time for his handwriting. His handwriting is pretty hard to read because he’s usually rushing to write as fast as he types. Pretty penmanship will never be as convenient or as fast as typing. It’s a fact. So slow down!


I like the quote from Modern Family (“Old Wagon” episode from Season 2), “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” You’re less likely to mess up style or spelling if you’re taking the time to think about each movement. Therefore you’re going to be faster than if you rushed, messed up and had to start over.


4 – Proper Positioning

If you had respectable elementary school teachers, they should have stressed this fact a TON from kindergarten through 6th grade. Holding the pen properly is a big deal. Bigger than you may think. Hold the pen nicely between your thumb and index finger and rest the pen lightly on the spot between the knuckle and tip of your middle finger. This light grasp will keep your hand from cramping and fatiguing which leads to a deterioration in handwriting. See the above video for an example of how that looks.

5 – Consistency

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. You want to practice with guide sheets to maintain consistency. If you can hone in on your consistency, your handwriting will get so much better.


What does this mean exactly? Use guides. Practice with guides. Ruled paper is your best friend. You want your lowercase letters to stay within the same x-height (save for the ascender and descender strokes). You want your uppercase and ascending lowercase letters to be at consistent heights. You want your descenders to have a consistent height. Practicing with guides will help ingrain that consistency into muscle memory. Download cursive and print alphabet guide sheets below to help you practice.

Want to learn more about how to write in calligraphy? Calligraphy and penmanship are related, but different. You use the same basic principals above, however calligraphy is more like drawing than writing. If you’re new here, or in case you didn’t know: I can teach you entirely online. At your own pace. Read more and sign up for the online calligraphy class at calligraphy.org.

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  1. Ali Lewis says:

    Love this. I am going to start practicing. Who would have thought.. maybe if I practice it will get better. :)

  2. shannon says:

    Thanks for posting this! I am printing off 5 as I type. Your handwriting and calligraphy is beautiful!

  3. My handwriting’s the worst! Thanks for sharing these tips. Will get practicing asap.

  4. Victoria says:

    “Hold the pen nicely between your thumb and index finger and rest the pen lightly on the spot between the knuckle and tip of your middle finger. ” Can you show a photo of this?

  5. thanks so much for this! i recently took a calligraphy class and fell head over heels for it. i am now seeking out a fountain pen so i can improve my handwriting— thanks so much for this, i’ve now fallen down the goulet pen videos rabbit hole but i’m excited to learn more about all this and fill up my handmade books with beautiful writing <3

  6. Emily K says:

    Thanks! As someone who grew up loving calligraphy but still somehow had horrible penmanship for everything else, this makes me feel better.

    A friend has a great pen collection and urged me to try out fountain pens, so I purchased a Lamy a Safari last summer and was amazing how much better my handwriting became. It still needs a lot more practice, but that practice is more enjoyable now.

  7. marissa says:

    Love this post. I love good penmanship (I think it’s why I’m drawn to calligraphy; it’s the intersection between having good penmanship and being a good artist). Also, LAMY Safaris are one of my favourite pens! I have about 3 or 4 of them. :)

  8. Ashley Z. says:

    I am trying my best to learn handwritten calligraphy and this is awesome! Thanks :)

  9. natalie malan says:

    yay! I always love your templates! And also the pen suggestions!

  10. Lori Gardner says:

    This is great Melissa…thanks tons!

  11. Stacy says:

    Great job Melissa!!!!!! TV is not easy and you were calm, concise super, conversational and of course the info was GREAT!

  12. Gabby says:

    I randomly came across your site via Pinterest, and I appreciate these tips. I set a goal for this year to write at least one letter a month to a friend. And in my stash if pens, I found that I really like a certain one, which just happens ti be the Pilot pen you recommend! How funny! Mine’s a V7, so it has a thicker tip. But I do prefer thinner ones. I always feel that it seems harder to find .5 tips. Wonder why this is? Thanks again for the tips. Going slow has helped the most! ;PS:Sirry for any typos. On my phone. Hard to see

    • Melissa says:

      I don’t know why it’s harder to find the .5 tips with both mechanical pencils and pens, but for some reason it is! Crazy. I had great luck with finding the .5 pilot at Walgreens, though! Hope that helps. :)

  13. Elizabeth M. says:

    This is GREAT! And so helpful!

  14. Josh says:

    I’m no longer a draftsman of close to 30 years (before CAD took over) and my handwriting is pretty neat and of the “spencarian” type, taught back then in the 50’s when I was a lad. I can mimic copperplate and a few others but in need of much practice. What knocks me flat is the flourishing. (as one writes) this I just CANNOT grasp at the moment. Are there books that show how this is done, ie the do’s and don’t’s?

    Thanks in advance.


    PS: I’m in awe of your skills especially your copperplate….love it!

  15. […] Melissa Esplin, Rukristin, Joelle Charming, K. Werner: The common theme for all of these is you need a lot of practice and to slow down the pace. […]

  16. Michelle says:

    Do you have advice for Lefties? I hold my pencil wrong and my hand does fatige now more often. I just thought that had to do with me writing less and growing older. But it’s hard to see what I am writing if I don’t hold it in a more fist like way. I want to improve my handwriting and style and also teach my son how to write well. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Jessica says:

    I’m a reporter for a community newspaper and while I have a voice recorder, I still take notes the old fashioned way. This means I have to write fast and depending on how long I’m writing my hand starts to hurt because I’m gripping my pen (a cheap ballpoint) so tightly. But I would love to build a pen collection and improve my handwriting when I’m not rushed.

  18. Lou Bluebird says:

    I’m OH SO JEALOUS of your talent for writing and calligraphy! I really need to try to improve my own writing since I’ve wanted to for so long!
    Thank you so much for the tips!

  19. Jordan says:

    Those are some great tips. I have actually had pretty handwriting all my life, but I hold my pens and pencils incorrectly! Maybe I’ll switch it up and practice while holding my pen correctly. [I do practice calligraphy though, which requires I hold the pen correctly].

  20. […] you want to get some technique under your belt, check out 5 Easy Steps for Improving Your Handwriting, or take my calligraphy […]

  21. Ericka says:

    I loved this video. I am a bit obsessed with my handwriting. I am a teacher. I feel obligated to write so that my students will understand. Handwriting isn’t taught much anymore, but some ask me what they can do to write better. I will be sharing your site. :)

  22. Amy says:

    I hold my pen between my pointer and middle fingers! It’s weird, but it works for me!

  23. sharif says:

    i want to helpe for me my handwriting is poor

  24. Onatolu says:

    i got a job that make me to write a lot but my hand writing is very poor

  25. […] 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Handwriting (via Melissa Esplin) […]

  26. Rudranath says:

    I want to make my handwriting very fascinating.Is there any idea to make handwriting very smart?

  27. […] start lettering. This goes quickly. Unlike calligraphy and penmanship, you can go relatively fast through this process. Any time you stroke downward, add pressure for a […]

  28. Catrina says:

    First of all, your handwriting is lovely and your tips appreciated. However, you may want to adjust some of them so they are suitable for left-handed people as well. For example, fountain pens do not work for left-handers as we push the pen across the paper rather than pull the pen as right-handers do. Maybe you could suggest a fountain pen specifically made for left-handers, which have the nib made differently.
    Just a suggestion…

  29. bheemesh says:

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have good hand writing but not very good.your tips helped me to get better hand writing


  30. Naaja-leh says:

    This was very helpful. Thank u some much.

  31. JENNIFER says:

    THANK YOU! These are awesome tips. Guess I need to get a good pen. In my job I use all types of creative pens because they brighten my space up. Thanks again.

  32. jose says:

    Iam40 yrs my handwriting worse can I improve this with this ztep

  33. David says:

    Slowing down is the only way I can make mine legible. I carefully draw each letter. The speed is one to two words per minute. It is still ragged and painful to look at, but others can read it.

  34. Shantanu Wagh says:

    Iam not getting time to complete my English Paper, so write it very quickly, but because of writing quickly my handwriting spoils. So what should I do?

  35. Sinan says:

    My handwriting was so worst ….
    Now I will practice this handwriting. And your handwriting is the best……..

  36. Dee says:

    Thank for your help, I have typed and laminated and will use with my lightpad and paper over and over again

  37. […] mention, these tips require no calligraphy experience whatsoever. Neat handwriting helps, and here’s a post to help you with that. Want to learn calligraphy? I do that, too. Sign up for my class right here. Just gonna toot my own […]

  38. […] unión de letras y espacios / 2. Hoja con guías para caligrafía / 3. Hojas de práctica de diferentes estilos de letra / 4. Set de hojas para practicar caligrafía […]

  39. Azhar says:

    i will lightpad and paper over and over again

  40. […] Melissa Esplin shares her tips for making great handwriting permanent. Download her free print and cursive […]

  41. teresa toledo says:

    I’ve been ‘practicing’ for about a year now. Definitely slowing down was key for me! I find myself having a problem with writing at an angle or straight up and down. I will start at an angle and then switch a couple letters into it. Or vice versa! How do I correct this…or is that just my own unique way of lettering???
    It is such a soothing hobby for me. I love it. ♥

  42. […] start lettering. This goes quickly. Unlike calligraphy and penmanship, you can go relatively fast through this process. Any time you stroke downward, add pressure […]

  43. […] 5 easy tips for improving your handwriting. Free printable print and cursive alphabet guide sheets included. melissaesplin.com… […]

  44. trudy leonard says:

    I am very new to pinterest. I like your hand writing information. I thought that Imightt be able to get your email address so that I can find you again. I don’t know how to use Pinterest to save information. Thank you for your time. tl

  45. Fati says:

    I want to improve my writing can yew plzzz snd me sum sheets??

  46. Fati says:

    I want to improve my writing can yew plzzz snd me sum sheets for practicing daily??

    • Melissa says:

      Check out the free downloads in the post above and if you’d like to learn more, check out calligraphy.org! I teach online and offer personal coaching.

  47. […] if your penmanship sucks? Check out my free penmanship tutorial and download right here. Want to learn brush lettering? Check out my online class right here!! Use code BRUSHLETTERING for […]

  48. Eduardo Minga says:

    “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” that´s a beatiful type of handwriting, does anybody know the name of it?

  49. […] if your penmanship sucks? Don’t worry. Here’s a quick freebie on how to improve your penmanship. But if you want to learn calligraphy (good penmanship isn’t a pre-requisite), check out […]

  50. Florine says:

    Hey there ! Thanks for the tips, it will definitely help me. I’m trying to change my handwriting (becoming a schoolteacher, so I need my handwriting to match my job) and I didn’t really know what was wrong with what I was doing. Can’t wait to practice now !

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