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Handwriting and Personality

I recently received a letter from a friend that started with this phrase:

"My handwriting is hard to read. I'm sorry for that but not sorry enough not to send it" :)

This made me smile, and I thought, "good for you! I am so glad it doesn't stop you!"

I do love to receive letters - who doesn't get excited and curious when they see their name handwritten on an envelope in their mailbox?

It took me a little while to become acquainted with my friend's handwriting, I had to look for repetitive patterns, the way she formed her letters, how they appeared in words I could read because I made sense of the phrase, and use that knowledge to understand other words. It was a deep dive into symbols and art; it was fun and exciting! And I was able to read her.

I remember developing my handwriting as a child. Having grown in France, there were lines and lines of cursive writing during my whole elementary school years, and some in middle school too. I also remember imitating others' handwriting as a hobby, writing letters and embodying different personalities, being fascinated by graphology and what it says about someone.

Of course, my approach now about the systems and methods that "tell you who you are" is more cautious, and I take it for what it is: a tool, a bit of information I can add to the other ways I know myself or someone else.

I also realize that I have different handwriting styles. I do not write my weekly grocery list the same way I write my monthly letter or a note for my 10-year old daughter - for whom cursive is difficult to read. I adjust, and maybe that means I have a personality that adapts to the environment - that is certainly true - or perhaps it means that I am a practical person - also true!

Still, it is fascinating to link handwriting to some personality traits, and after some research, I found some interesting reflections on the handwriting of three famous artists by graphologist Kathi McKnight. Remember this is like peeking from an open window - it does not show you the entire house but might give you an idea of what it looks like in there.

Van Gogh wrote a letter to his friend, Australian painter John Peter Russell, in mid-June of 1888, when he was 35. In slightly slanting, elegant script, he relates that he's been meaning to write, but has been consumed by work; it is harvest season in Arles, and he's "always in the fields," which is reflected in the charming line drawing on the left side of the letter.

The artist's personal pronoun I indicates the isolation van Gogh felt. There is an emotional disconnect and distance. Another notable clue is the word "present," which trails off into the far-right margin - a possible sign of depression.

While the artist habitually fails to cross Ts or dot lowercase Is, his signature (located below the drawing on the left) is a point of contrast. When he signs his name - our names are our own individual calling cards - he steps into his personal power. The pressure is strong and clear. He completely remembers to cross his Ts, and with pressure (meaning determination). He dots his I strongly and succinctly in his signature, and precisely above the I stem. The enlarged size of his signature further demonstrates van Gogh's confidence.


In brilliant blue, curlicue letters, O'Keeffe wrote to Edward Forbes, a former director of Harvard University's Fogg Museum, in May 1938, at the age of 50. She expresses her thanks for a letter of congratulations that Forbes had sent her and invites him to visit her and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, the next time he's in New York.

O'Keeffe wrote with an unusual trait that is rarely seen in modern times. Notice the unusual parallel strokes in her letters D and T in the words' honored,' 'lived,' 'about,' and 'sweet.' This stroke is the master craftsman and is associated with one who is a perfectionist in their work.

The artist's T-bars, which is the way she crosses her Ts, are long: thin lines that at times exceed the length of the word (for example, in town, and that). This can be revealing of intermittent periods of extreme confidence and charisma.


Picasso wrote to his friend in Paris, writer and art patron Gertrude Stein in March of 1913. At the time, the artist lived in a French town in the Pyrenees with one of his lovers, Eva Gouel. On the postcard, he writes playfully, joking that the photograph on the front (depicting three Catalan men drinking) includes a "portrait of Matisse as a Catalan." He then asks Stein to write to him, and tells her he will write a review of her literature.

The hasty nature of the handwriting suggests that Picasso trusts himself to shoot from the hip and writes with urgency. His writing lacks the purpose, conscientiousness, and careful, deliberate strokes that can be seen in the handwriting of Michelangelo. He's in a hurry to get his thoughts down on paper, and his mind might work very quickly. The script also suggests Picasso was feeling optimistic at the time.

Like O'Keeffe, the artist crosses his Ts with long, sweeping lines, which reveal definite charisma, confidence, and a lot of emotional energy. Additionally, the tent-like shape of his Ts may indicate stubbornness, while his Ms and Ns point to intelligence.


The Renaissance master Michelangelo wrote the above letter from Rome in June 1508 (as he was beginning work on the Sistine Chapel) to his father, in Florence. In his careful, almost calligraphic script, the artist assures his father that a rumor of his death is untrue and laments that he has not been paid by Pope Julius II, for whom he was working at the time, in over a year.

The nature of Michelangelo's handwriting is artistic, almost musical, and the baseline exacting and even, which can be seen as a sign of stability. The many breaks within words, and between letters, can be a sign of extreme intuitiveness. Additionally, the small, intricate text nods to the artist's powers of concentration.

Many of the ending strokes to the last letters of words go up at a 45-degree angle, which reveals explicitly a mindset of courage and an attitude of not seeing problems, only solutions.

So, will you start looking at your own handwriting differently?

If you are part of my program ReConnect - where we send letters to and receive letters from other participants - will you look at the person's handwriting with new eyes? Will you see it as an extension of their personality on the paper?

And does this make you want to write letters? To take your pen and send someone your handwritten words - a little piece of who you are?

I hope so.


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