mardi 1 juin 2010

L'écriture française

L'écriture française

This is a post I've been meaning to write for months and months but I just had no idea where to start.

I remember comments from people, comments on blogs and noticing myself that French (and European) peoples' handwriting is different from mine/ours. But then again, all countries seem to have their own subtle differences.

For example, in Australia, the main difference in the way I was taught to write is that we didn't have a cursive lowercase 'r', and the uppercase letters did not have a cursive version either. It was only when I was a teenager and became more and more exposed to American things (and having an American penpal) that this lowercase 'r' became more and more noticeable.

I think I even tried to use it sometimes too and well, lately, I've been trying to make my handwriting become more "French-like" because I thought, "Why the heck not?" If I'm going to live there one day I might as well try to blend in. Besides, I think it's just really beautiful.

When it comes to handwriting I can be a chameleon and mimic almost any handwriting. Also, I have so many different styles depending on my mood. I can write ridiculously neatly if I have to but then when I'm tired or in a hurry it can also be ridiculously messy and almost illegible.

When I was about 14 or so, I picked up a book about graphology in the library (by accident) and I became hooked ever since. Ever since then I amassed quite a number of books on graphology as I find it immensely interesting. I also read that French people sometimes ask you to handwrite job cover letters so they can analyse your personality from it. It may seem "wrong" but I think using graphology is far more accurate than using an interview because for most people they cannot 'fake' their handwriting, and it reveals so much about who they are honestly whereas one could say whatever they wanted in an interview in an effort to get the job.

In most cases you can also tell if that person is right or left-handed by looking at their handwriting (notably how they cross their t's) and that is another insight into their personality as left-handed people are supposed to be more creative and more this and that (although that is obviously not a hard and fast rule as 90% of people are right-handed and there are plenty of creative right-handers!)

I read on someone's blog (I don't remember which one now and I can't find it again for the life of me) of an expat mother sending her son back to school during La Rentrée and she discovered that in France little kids go straight to learning cursive writing and don't learn the printed form first. For me, I didn't learn cursive until I was in 3rd grade (aged 8).

Anyway, below I've attached some handwriting examples and my own just for fun. (yes I'm one of those people that keeps everything). The Australian copybook handwriting has changed somewhat since I was a kid (to become more simplified, more angular and uglier)!

French handwriting - Apprentissage de l'écriture en France

My handwriting in 1st grade (aged 6) 
(dictation, with line guide under the paper)

My handwriting in 5th grade (aged 10)
(Quite hilarious to read!! A mixture of print and cursive as I obviously couldn't make up my mind. I also noticed a handful of errors which the teacher didn't even pick up!)

My copybook handwriting in 5th grade (aged 10) with guidelines
(Perfect spelling from a dictation ;) )

My handwriting in 6th grade (aged 11)

My handwriting in Year 7/7th grade/6e (aged 12)
(my handwriting was incredibly small which probably had something to do with me trying to adapt from primary to secondary school)

My handwriting in Year 8/8th grade/5e (aged 13)

My handwriting in Year 9/9th grade/4e (aged 14)
(Ah.. isn't this the age where every girl tries to start experimenting with different aspects of herself (such as hairstyle) but also her handwriting. This is the first time I've veered away from the schoolbook style to form my own new style, which is entirely printed and with the typed-style lowercase a's. Usually at this age some girls will start to dot their lowercase i's with circles or small hearts).

I'm not attaching a copy of my current handwriting (maybe I will later down the track) but I will say that my handwriting has always been upright. I sometimes very slightly slant to the right but generally it's almost upright. The rightward slant is the most popular amongst the general population. 

So, apparently, upright slanters "have a way of dealing with the world and reality is more independent and rational."

"A vertical or upright slant requires self-control and self-discipline to be maintained. Try standing up straight for an hour and see what a strain it will be. Handwriting is like body language. The very straight and upright is projecting a rather austere manner and indicates how problem solving is approached. The closer to upright the writing, the more the writer curbs her initial impulses. Few women will write like this because such a writer lives by logic."

I'm not sure how true that is of me but hey, it's pretty positive :)

And now, some examples of real-life French handwriting:

(note the circles over the lowercase i's ;) )

And I've saved the best for last! My sister bought this book in France many years ago. It is a sweet book featuring scanned letters and drawings from children addressed to the president of France. It's fun to read what they have to say but I was drooling over the wonderful handwriting samples from these cute youngsters :) It's a book called Cher Président, j'ai des questions à te dire: Lettres d'enfants au président de la République. You can buy it from or

And then, watch this awesome 13 min video from about how handwriting is taught in France (in French with English subtitles).

The sad thing about all of this, of course, is that handwriting (in any language) is a dying art thanks to computers and the electronic age. I guess that's why letters from a hundred years ago are always so interesting to look at, not just for their content but for the person's beautiful calligraphic-style handwriting.

une majuscule - upper case/capital letter
une minuscule - lowercase letter
un droitier - a right-handed person
un gaucher - a left-handed person
la graphologie - graphology (art of handwriting analysis)

Useful links

RIP Handwriting goodbye
Adopting a French approach to teaching handwriting
Free French style fonts

To be continued... if I later find some more interesting examples or links I'll add them.


Polly Danger a dit…

This is such a handy post and I'm so grateful for the inclusion of all the fantastic examples of handwriting! I've been searching for a French handwriting guide for ages!!

Also, it's so difficult to hear people say that handwriting is a dying art, because I think it's only true if we let it be true. I read about an experiment where a group of children were only taught to write on typewriters, never to write with a pen or pencil. Can you imagine not knowing how to hold a pencil? Creepy, isn't it? I think that as long as we need to use pens and pencils our hands will gravitate towards something cursive-esque.

Vive le handwriting!

Anonyme a dit…

Fascinating! The numbers are different too--especially 1,7 and 9. I love all the examples you provided- merci!

Nathan a dit…

Thanks for the blog. I ran across this in a search for handwriting samples. I am a French teacher who still teaches all my students at the very least to recognize and become familiar with the French handwriting. It is still important today--your café samples are just one example of this!

With my own children my wife and I prefer by FAR the French handwriting system to any Anglophone one we've ever seen. It is more systematic, more beautiful and is easy to teach to even the youngest children (Think four years old.) There are plenty of resources in French--from pre-writing curls and lines, to 5-year old minuscules, etc. but not many in the English language, and it is not easy to properly learn the writing without the correct number and spacing of lines (three above and two below). This is by far the biggest difference I find between the French and other cursives- the ratio of the small letters to the ascenders/descenders.

The French also have the advantage that cursive is still in use everywhere, despite the computer age. Children's books are still printed with cursive handwriting, menus everywhere use it and schools still teach it.

Vive la belle écriture!

P a dit…

Thanks for your comment Nathan. Glad you found my blogpost useful :)

Yumnah a dit…

Just Wow.. What a writing at 5th Grade

Xenophod a dit…
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