By: Sara Hudson, OTD, OTR/L, Handwriting Without Tears® Certified Handwriting Specialist

Handwriting is an essential skill for academic success and communicating. It has a big impact on areas of the brain related to literacy development such as reading, writing, critical thinking, and language use. As children progress through school, handwriting demands increase; therefore, it is important to have a strong foundation of writing skills in order to write with increased speed and precision.

Writing with good legibility requires eight different components.

  1. Memory – Remembering and writing dictated letters and numbers
    • Without the ability to recall what letters and numbers look like quickly, one’s production, speed, and accuracy is significantly affected.
  2. Orientation – Writing letters and numbers facing the correct direction
    • It is typical for beginning writers to demonstrate reversals, but these should disappear by the time a child turns seven. Errors with number and letter directionality cause spelling mistakes and legibility problems.
  3. Placement – Placing letters and numbers on the baseline of writing paper
    • Writing on a line is vital to filling out worksheets and paperwork with good legibility. Without good placement, writing will look messy and immature.
  4. Size – Writing with age appropriate size
    • Writing too large causes issues with writing fluency and writing too small can affect readability.
  5. Start – Beginning writing each letter or number in the correct location
    • Letters and numbers in the English language are designed to start at the top as it allows writers to maintain legibility even when writing fast.
  6. Sequence – Formulating letters and numbers with the correct order and stroke direction
    • In all types of handwriting curriculum, there is a designated way to compose letters and numbers to aid in speed and neatness. It is essential that writers are taught the proper sequence of writing via direct classroom and/or therapy instruction.
  7. Control – Neatness
    • Difficulties with control are characteristically caused by poor habits involving an awkward or immature pencil grip or decreased hand strength.
  8. Spacing –The amount of space between words when composing sentences
    • Spacing is needed between words to aid in readability of written work.

By being aware of the components of handwriting, you can make sure your child is on the path to being effective with written communication. If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting, talk to your child’s teacher and doctor. Occupational therapy may be suggested which is one way to help remediate students with poor writing skills.

Information gathered and adapted from: