Ask Anything: 10 questions with handwriting expert Regina Undorfer
Posted August 18, 2009 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT
Editor's note: Handwriting expert Regina Undorfer agreed to analyze handwriting samples from three WRAL anchors – David Crabtree, Bill Leslie and Debra Morgan.
How did you learn how to do handwriting analysis, and how accurate is the process? – Judith Glover, Rocky Mount
Judith, I studied graphology from two great masters. The work of Felix Klein (deceased) in Gestalt Theory of Graphology and Dr. Erika Karohs, in Advanced and Contemporary Graphology of California.
I continue studying through my organization the American Association of Handwriting Analysts, Inc. I became a certified member with that organization. Handwriting analysis is an interpretive exercise; so the interpretation is only as good as the interpreter’s skill and background.
Statistics on accuracy are hard to come by, but the best judge of the accuracy of an analysis (in my opinion), is the client themselves. It is hard to hold up a mirror and objectively observe what is there, but if the person is open to hearing objective findings, they are the best judge for the quality or accuracy of the report.
I find my handwriting often changes quite a bit depending on my mood or the purpose of the document. I would expect maybe others are this way as well. How do you account for this when analyzing handwriting? Can this throw your analysis off? – Catherine, Raleigh
Catherine, the fact that your handwriting changes is absolutely normal. Handwriting is a neuromuscular action we have been taught to put our communication down on paper. Just as with our speech or our gait (two other physical actions very unique to individuals) our emotional state influences the outcome.
If you are upset, despite your ability to control your tone, a professional will pick up variances in the verbal expression; next time you are upset, notice how your step may be different too. Our bodies react to our feelings, so handwriting equally is affected by mood. If it wasn’t, you would be mechanical.
In handwriting, we look at the most predominant patterns, we allow for the emotional component, and best we like to see several samples of handwriting to compare if there is an overwhelming show of emotional extremes of traits or elements.
What advice would you give for a novice who's checking out someone's handwriting? What are some simple things to look for that might give some insight about a person through their handwriting? – Carey, Durham
Carey, my best advice is to resist that urge. There is danger in a little knowledge, especially if it is shared with others and it is about them. The most important ethical consideration that handwriting specialist have to respect is “do no harm." Giving a “quickie” interpretation of someone’s writing can cause harm.
I suggest you study handwriting and join a good organization that can support you and help you grow in understanding of the benefits of analysis. Here is a free tip for you: Never believe that a person can tell you about your personality from looking at just your signature ... impossible.
That would be like me looking at your nose and describing your whole body ... very mistaken. You need to examine a body of handwriting, a good sample of handwriting and in addition the signature to truly evaluate personality traits in handwriting.
Are there any connections between handwriting and parents and children? I have a distinct, hard-to-read handwriting style that looks a lot like my father's handwriting. Just curious. – Denise, Raleigh
Denise, this is a good question. What we have seen in handwriting is that personality traits that are shared by family members are reflected in handwriting. For example, your father is extroverted and you are extroverted, both your handwritings will show the elements of extroversion.
The “hard-to-read” style tells the analyst something specific, but needs to be taken in context with the writing sample and having not seen your writing, I cannot address it. What we also see though, is that children can forge (or replicate) their parent’s handwriting easier than a stranger; many successful forgeries are done by family members.
Is there a difference between left-handed and right-handed individuals that requires you to adjust your renderings? How about people who write in a second language? – Diana Parham, Littleton
Handedness does not bias handwriting analysis. Handedness, gender, age, and race are not distinguished by writing, so a good analyst will ask the handedness, age, and gender of the writer for an accurate analysis. The left-handed writer has had to make adjustments to write in a conventionally right handed world. When we see a sample of well-adjusted handwriting, we give that writer an extra plus for desire and accomplishment.
I was wondering if handwriting indicates traits that correlate with a given profession. For example, someone can have really neat "teacher's handwriting" and it turns out they are a teacher. – Stephanie Padrick, Morrisville
What we have seen with stereotypes is that there are individuals who are conventional. Those who will not depart from the expected manner so will stick to the format. Handwriting that departs from the schoolbook model (what you are taught in school) shows a writer whose evolution has allowed facets of their personality to show up in the writing. Why do all doctors (stereotype) write illegibly? Partly because they have been told this is how they write, giving them permission to write illegibly. If medical school demanded that they must write legibly or cannot become doctors, I guarantee you they would
I had a full blown stroke 12 years ago. My handwriting is the only thing that didn't come back. It is a mess!!! Would that change my handwriting analysis? – Barbara Cheroke, Cary
Barbara, the simple answer is yes. The stroke has changed your writing skill understandably. An analysis would be difficult but not impossible. It would be limited to only certain elements and would be best compared to some old writing before your stroke. There is study and good research being done with handwriting and stroke victims in the handwriting community.
Has handwriting, as interpreted by an analyst, ever been used as evidence in court? – John Ellis, Wilson
Yes, I have colleagues in my organization who have testified in court for handwriting analysis. Not all States in the U.S. allow this. I believe it is maybe 10 states that allow testimony of handwriting analysis regarding an individual’s mental status.
We have a coworker in our office who does not draw the line when making the letter "i". He only puts the dot. We have all wondered what this means and have done searches on the web before but have never heard mention of this. Could you please give meaning to this strange habit? – Jennifer West, Oxford
Jennifer, that is idiosyncratic to the writer. Any eccentric trait in handwriting should be evaluated with the entire body of writing; finding reductive or intensifying traits to support what it may implicate.
In the trait-stroke theory, attention to detail comes into question. In this case, parts are missing; I would be curious to see what else is left out or repressed in the overall writing.
Again, studying one trait is not a good analysis. You need to study traits in the total context of the writing taking into account all the other elements of writing (movement, arrangement, form, to mention a few).
With more and more people making use of computers and handheld devices to communicate, I've noticed a large decrease in the quality of handwriting in general. Does this deterioration affect your analysis? – Pete Walters, Dunn
I was hoping someone would ask this question ... YES! Penmanship has gone the way of “home economics” classes of yester year. Children are taught to print before or instead of cursive writing and now computers have even jeopardized the little writing exercise students get. It is a tremendous loss at so many levels (physical, emotional, developmental). We are seeing new trends in writing micrographia (small and diminishing writing) that will demand research for causal effects. Much analysis done with handwriting of low skill level reflect a deficiency of fine motor development and execution; what you are referring to “decrease in the quality of handwriting in general” is seen as low skill level.