Dear Queer Diary: It’s Our Very Own International Handwriting Day!

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have extremely small handwriting. If I had a dollar for every time one of my teachers asked me if I was going to turn in a magnifying glass with my in-class essay, I would be living in a historical home in the British isles, writing biweekly checks to the editors of Autostraddle. If college-ruled paper is the one with the smaller lines, I need PhD-ruled composition books.

Get out your bifocals!

Get out your bifocals!

I’m not claiming that I have the smallest handwriting on planet Earth because, yes, my dear queer diarists, I have most definitely encountered smaller. I’m just saying that my letters are more petite than the average. I am also saying that this fact reveals deep, dark, and delicious truths about my psyche.

Graphology (the study of writing) purports to be able to suss out some of those deep psychological truths through the analysis of the way you form your letters. According to some of science’s most reputable sources, if your handwriting slants to the right, you are more likely to enjoy lying around your apartment without pants. If your handwriting slants to the left, you are more likely to curate a blog about root vegetables. If you ask me (or Dr. Barry Beyerstein, PhD), this is kind of like the highly questionable Victorian practice of determining who was likely to be a serial killer by feeling the bumps on their skulls.

If your “n”s look like one-eyed snails, then you’re probably the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Via Rotating Corpse)

If your “n”s look like one-eyed snails, then you’re probably the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Via Rotating Corpse)

Yet, I still believe that my own peculiarities in the realm of the written word correspond to certain elements of my personality. First, the little things — perhaps my small handwriting can be traced to the obsession with saving paper that made me a youthful environmentalist?

I’m just going to say it: sort of like I may or may not believe my left-handedness is some obscure marker of my queerness, I think that my handwriting is secretly gay. Why, you may ask, would I ever say such a thing?

For a start, small handwriting made me stand out in the world of middle school conformity. No big, girly bubble letters for me, my dear queer diarists. Instead of evoking slumber parties and nail polish colors, my small script was reminiscent of ancient monastic records or the fine print at the bottom of the screen during TV drug ads. My handwriting was like my secret nerd code, and I felt proud of it in the same way I felt proud when people poked fun at my obnoxiously large vocabulary.

Penny for scale, obvs.

Penny for scale, obvs.

Of course, perfectionism went hand-in-hand with my nerdiness, engendering a strange and inexplicable desire for secrecy that was another potential factor in the development of my tiny-writing ways.

You see, if you write small enough, it’s pretty hard for the person sitting next to you/across from you/behind you to read what you’re writing. This is important if you, like me, have such a crippling fear of being wrong that the notion of anyone reading your work before you’ve checked and double checked it ten to twenty thousand times makes you break out in an icy sweat. Also, and perhaps more saliently, this is important if you, like me, have a sexual orientation so secret that even you don’t know about it.

Apparently, we missed this year’s National Handwriting Day back on January 23rd, so I guess that just means that I will have to declare today our very own International Handwriting Day. Celebrate by taking out your favorite writing implement and taking a break from the keyboard. Or, revel in the fascinating world of make-your-own handwriting fonts, a realm populated by both free templates and not-free iPad apps.

I will freely admit that this falls into the “too much time on your hands

I will freely admit that this falls into the “too much time on your hands” category of activities. (Via The Cheese Thief)

Share with me your thoughts on your own handwriting, Straddlers. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, send a picture of the handwriting that graces the pages of your journals to maggie[at] I would love to feature the handwriting of my dearest queerest diarists in the next installment of this column rather than scouring Google image search for more pictures of “women writing.” Just sayin’.

Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.


  1. I often sit in a crowded place writing in my diary/journal so this post speaks volumes to me.

    In college I spent a long time altering my “neat” handwriting, (a venture pretty much unheard of in your late teens) since my fast-writing looks like chicken scratch. It’s still legible for me, only others find it hard to read.. kind of like my own cipher but as a by-product of haste and laziness more than anything else!

  2. Oh my gosh, this post speaks to so much of my life. I’m also a perfectionist, and in grade school people also noticed my handwriting for its exceptional neatness (and lack of high-school-girl curlicues). Moreover, it was one of a thousand ways I was different before sexuality ever came into the picture.

  3. And I think it’s interesting that depending on what I’m writing, I know instinctively whether I’m going to draft it by hand or on the computer.

    Natalie Goldberg says: “Writing is physical and is affected by the equipment you use. In typing, your fingers hit keys and the result is block, black letters: a different aspect of yourself may come out. I have found that when I am writing something emotional, I must write it the first time directly with hand on paper. Handwriting is more connected to the movement of the heart.”

    As a total side note, I am sad to report that the link to the Cheese Thief template doesn’t work.

  4. Wow, graphology is so fascinating! Also I love the penny for scale.

    Brb going to write in my journal.

  5. I find it fascinating to go back and look at what I’ve written because I invariably switch between printing and cursive, sometimes in the middle of words. I can usually tell what kind of mood I was in, just looking at how I’ve written.

    • We love that you can tell, Carolyne! Handwriting does have variations according to your mood. We ofter say “know your handwriting, know thyself” and you seem to be a great example of that ;-)

  6. fun fact: cyrilic (Russian) cursive can sometimes look like a string of endless m’s and w’s.

    i have the handwriting of a t-rex or serial killer (it’s bad, people) and since i work in a lab, i pretend that this is a secret code for all of my mad scientist evil machinations. Actually boring buffer formulae, with drawings of dinobots in the margins, since my research will never matter enough for anyone else to actually read my logbook (*lolsob*).

    • i love russian cursive. it looks like something a small (english speaking) human would write and say, “YES LOOK CURSIVE”

    • Becky, often the “less appealing” handwriting speaks more wonderful things of its author than “neat” handwriting. This is true (we know).
      Now we go back to imagining a T-rex trying to hold a pencil.

  7. I also have tiny, non-bubbly handwriting! People always comment on it, but I had the last laugh in high school and college when we got one index card to bring into a test and I managed to fit most of the curriculum on mine.

    If you ever come across “PhD-ruled” paper please let me know! I always feel like I’m wasting space when I use college-ruled.

  8. my handwriting is huge, well extremely legible. For two reasons that stand out the most, one because if I’m going to read it again I hate sitting there wondering what the hell i was trying to say. Two, i am extremely short sighted. So i guess i agree in a way that you can see my personality in my writing. I hate ambiguity. Writing is a form of communicating right? So, if no one can read what is written what was the point? maybe thats why i’m not on twitter…. holy crap it is why I’m not on twitter

  9. There’s a Also Mead used to make grad-school ruled paper, but I’m not sure they do anymore.

  10. My handwriting tends to vary a good bit from day to day (or sometimes from page to page) but one of the only consistent traits it has is that my lowercase d’s are loopy. Maybe I’m turning a phallic letter into a yonic one…?

    • Because handwriting is your brain writing! Any new emotion, feeling or situation that affects you, affects how you handwriting looks… Even by the tiniest bit :-)

  11. I love the idea of handwriting being secretly gay and I think you’re right about yours.

    Hmm yes in high school I remember people constantly “misgendering” me when my essays went up on the projector (teacher always hid the names) and it’s probably because my handwriting is a mess, like my pencil is a nasty snake worm that I have to wrestle into submission. No loopy girly letters for me either.

  12. Hi, Maggie!
    Well, we’ve just found out about AutoStraddle thanks to your post and immediately joined. Your article is wonderful even when you did miss International Handwriting day (tsk tsk tsk). As far as we’re concerned, handwriting day should be every day.

    You write about believing that your “own peculiarities in the realm of the written word correspond to certain elements of my personality”. Oh, how very right you are. These peculiarities say a lot about individuals, as well as how these peculiarities combine in a same handwriting sample.

    We have been surprised to find out how people are extremely apologetic about their own handwriting -at least on our Twitter searches. Even, wonderful Jimmy Fallon a few days ago when writing a real “Thank You”on the Tonight Show. He was not only apologetic, but actually wrote about how hard it was to understand.
    How little they know!

    A handwriting may be hard to understand or it may not look like a calligraphy book but that doesn’t speak poorly of its author. Most of the time is quite the contrary. (And, yes, that includes your doctor’s handwriting.
    We often say “handwriting is your brain writing”: The way you chose to do each shape and line reflects something of your most inner self. Understanding it is not only fascinating, but it can also assist decision making in your life, as it assist hiring choices for many top companies. It’s truly fascinating.

    If you want to know a bit more about your own handwriting, Maggie, drop us a line. It’ll be on the house :-)
    Or feel free to use our site ScanMyHandwriting to request your own personal handwriting analysis. It’s quite enlightening and a lot of fun.

    Love that handwriting is getting supporters still!
    We’re sharing this wonderful article!


  13. I hand write a lot and notice how much my mood, my writing implement, my writing surface, my purpose and my location affect it. Graph that graphology.

    • Graphology graphs it!
      You are right… All those details have an impact on your handwriting.

  14. It’s weird because if i think about it my handwriting’s changed a ton over the years. I think in middle school it was the girliest? By which, of course, i mean it conformed to stereotypical ways of gendering handwriting because the letters were often embellished in some way– the lowercase Ys had inversely hooked tails; the lowercase Es looked like hooked half-moons. At some point in high school my handwriting became miniscule. Now i think it’s fairly medium-sized, unless i need or want to write tiny.

    I remember my 5th grade math teacher, Mr. Jones, would have us do cursive handwriting sheets when we were finished whatever it was we had for classwork. I also remember once that a teacher at some point kind of mocked a fellow classmate for their handwriting being a mix of print & cursive, & i do remember being proud of myself for having mine be distinctly different. My handwriting now? Is a mix of print & cursive. Shut up, younger me. Wipe that self-important smile off your face. Brat.

    It’s also funny because if you’ve ever taken a foreign language class that uses a different manner of writing, you can see your handwriting change & remember it really well. I’m kind of sad that i gave away my 6th grade hiragana/katakana writing book to someone, because those were my handwriting baby steps in Japanese class. My hiragana kas especially used to look so awkward, with the final stroke living so far down in the right. Now i can write some exceptionally messy words in Japanese, even if my grammatical skill sucks. : p

    • It’s actually really interesting how language effects handwriting — or where you learn it. I’m from Queensland Australia, where we learnt to print before cursive, but I did my first six months of schooling in Victoria, where they start with cursive and shape Bs and Ps differently, even though we’re all in the one country.

      Now I’m in France, where there is a very different style of cursive. Not only do people write differently, they take notes differently — more paragraphs, fewer dot points. The cursive is lovely and I find myself copying it in French, although my handwriting in English hasn’t changed.

    • My hiragana and katakana are so ugly. Let’s not even talk about my kanji. Everything I write in Japanese is malformed, but I would say it looks very much like my English handwriting; the quirks of my romaji are the same as the quirks of my hiragana, especially. Would you say that’s the same for you?

    • Hi Caitlin! Well… It’s not that a kid’s handwriting doesn’t “say” anything. But the truth is that because most people learn handwriting by imitation of our teacher, calligraphy books and those around us, handwriting doesn’t really become a personal staple, and representative of an individual’s true self until adulthood.
      Your point on foreign languages is very interesting. Parts of the brain do make certain adjustments when speaking, thinking or writing in a new language, so it’s only logical the handwriting adjusts to the changes of its “main” creator ;-)
      We send you and your “bratty” younger you a hug.

  15. People always tell me I have nice writing if it’s in CAPS. My normal writing varies from neat to scrawls depending on my mood and time of the day.

  16. PhD lined? My handwriting is so massive that I feel constrained by any sort of lines and prefer to write only on copy paper from the printer at work. I got the tip from a professional development talk about how to teach writing – have students work on one side of unlined paper so they can literally cut and paste the paragraphs – and now I’m like, “stop it, lines! your cramping my creative freedom!” (I do write on both sides to save paper.)

    I wonder if my handwriting is a bit queer, too: I modeled a lot of my letterforms based on how Harriet writes in Harriet the Spy (the 1996 movie) and that movie (and the book) is pretty queer.

  17. We love the idea of handwriting being able to reveal bits and pieces of an individual’s sexual orientation. Particularly, we’ve studied the handwriting of THOUSANDS of doctors, and do see similar traits pop up.
    Maybe this is a study we ought to carry!

  18. What handwriting? The carefully, soullessly photocopied school cursive patterns? Or the hand-drawn typeface letters embellished with a superficial 101 graphological ‘legend’ – which is what i normally use. Some do not have a ‘handwriting’.

  19. One of the weirdest things about my handwriting is that when I write on a chalkboard or whiteboard, it is (luckily for my students) effortlessly tidy and legible, but when I write on paper it is, unless I put in great effort, a demented illegible scrawl.

    Also, on a board I can write with my left hand almost as easily as with my right, but on paper my left-handed letters are shaky (although actually neater than my right, but only due to the fact that I’m forced to slow down and be super-attentive).

  20. “If your “n”s look like one-eyed snails…” I can’t see the one-eyed snails you were talking about and it’s driving me mad trying to picture it.

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