Graphology, or handwriting analysis, has become an increasingly accepted “pseudoscience” over the past several years. Graphology is commonly practiced by experts in the field for a variety of reasons – from psychological evaluations to forensic investigations. While handwriting analysis has certainly proved useful in more serious situations, graphology is also a fascinating pastime for virtually anyone interested in language and communication.

Using handwriting analysis to identify certain personality traits has been a well-known practice for years. But graphology can also be used as a means of identifying a person’s cultural identity – a broad category that may include ethnicity, nationality, age, social class or even religion. While handwriting may not provide a complete overview of one’s cultural identity, it does contain clues to some aspects of an individual’s background.
One very good example lies in the German language. For much of the early-to-mid 20th century, pupils in German schools were taught the distinctive Sütterlin script. Because the teaching of this script came to an end in the 1970s, it’s easy for a German linguist to identify a person using this script as an older individual who attended German schools in the earlier part of the 1900s.

Even when we learn other languages, we still typically retain the practices that we were taught as young people when we learned to write in our native language. Generally speaking, the handwriting of native English speakers, for example, is very fluid – where pen strokes are long and connect one letter to another. On the other hand, native speakers of other languages, such as Japanese or Chinese, often use short pen strokes when writing the characters that form their language. It’s quite common to notice these shorter strokes being used by native speakers of Asian languages even when they write in English.

Unfortunately, cursive handwriting is falling out of favor in many Western countries. This is, at least in part, a negative result of our technological age, when our young students are encouraged to use a computer keyboard rather than taking the time to engage in cursive writing. Years ago, when our grandparents and great-grandparents went to school as young students, teachers placed a great deal of emphasis on cursive handwriting. As more years go by, it will likely become increasingly easier to recognize the age of an individual based on the quality of his or her handwriting: the more attractive the handwriting, the more likely it will be that the writer is an older person who was trained in cursive writing as a child.

Graphology is not only useful for experts in the field, but can also be an interesting exercise for virtually anyone fascinated by language and how it’s expressed. Handwriting can be a window into not only the personality of the individual, but to the writer’s cultural identity and personal history as well.