Monday, April 16, 2012

Apple #579: Graphology

As you may recall, a while ago Daily Apple reader Roxanne asked me a question about graphology. Specifically, she said she'd heard that "left-sloping handwriting means you can't trust someone" and she wanted to know if this is true, or was that related to a more general bad opinion about people who are left-handed. I investigated various facts about left-handedness and we found out that left-handed people are no better or worse than the rest of us. So now I'm ready to tackle the other part of her question, about left-sloping handwriting, and what that means.

Example of left-slanted handwriting
(Image from Michelle Dresbold's site)

Analyzing the slant of someone's handwriting falls under the category of handwriting analysis. There are two types of handwriting analysis. The first, generally more reputable one is called forensic document examination or forensic handwriting analysis. In this type of examination, the investigator will compare the handwriting in one sample against another to determine who wrote it, or if a document has been forged, that sort of thing. Forensic document analysts may be asked to testify in court about their conclusions. This is generally considered a more verifiable science, although recent court cases have questioned its reliability. But compared with graphology, forensic handwriting analysis practically embodies the scientific method.

The other type of handwriting analysis is graphology. It is, as Hermione Granger would say, a very woolly subject. Graphologists examine various characteristics of a person's handwriting and they say those characteristics indicate various features of the writer's personality or future. Lots of spaces between the letters? Why, you must be a lonely person! The dots over your lower case i's are placed far away from the letter itself? Why, you are most certainly a forward thinker! Sign your name with big huge swooping letters? You're an artistic person!

One graphologist says this handwriting indicates unflappability. Oh, and this note happens to have been written by Mata Hari.
(Image from Personality traits in handwriting)

Graphology is reminiscent of astrology or tarot card reading or palmistry, in that some combination of attributes is said to therefore mean x, y, and z about your personality or your future. But if anyone tries to pin this stuff down scientifically, to see if they can create reliable and reproducible results, either the practitioners back away and say you're disturbing the aura or some such thing, or the results fall apart like a house of cards.

I have to admit from the outset that I was quite interested in graphology once upon a time. I read a whole book about it. When I was in the eighth grade.

The Skeptic's Dictionary says it best:
Graphology (graphoanalysis) is the study of handwriting, especially when employed as a means of analyzing character and personality traits. Graphologists examine loops, dotted "i's" and crossed "t's," letter spacing, slants, heights, ending strokes, upslant pressure, downslant pressure, etc., but they believe that such handwriting minutiae are physical manifestations of unconscious mental functions.

However, [according to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association,] "in properly controlled, blind studies, where the handwriting samples contain no content that could provide non-graphological information upon which to base a prediction (e.g., a piece copied from a magazine), graphologists do no better than chance at predicting... personality traits." Even non-experts are able to correctly identify the gender of a writer about 70% of the time.

Since there is no useful theory as to how graphology might work, it is not surprising that there is no empirical evidence that any graphological characteristics significantly correlate with any interesting personality trait.

[Finally he sums it up, and this is my favorite part:] Graphology is another pipe dream of those who want a quick and dirty decision making process to tell them whom to marry, who did the crime, whom they should hire, what career they should seek, where the good hunting is, where the water, oil, or buried treasure is, etc. Graphology is another in a long list of quack substitutes for hard work.

It is appealing to those who are impatient with such troublesome matters as research, evidence analysis, reasoning, logic, and hypothesis testing. If, however, you can live with reasonable probabilities and uncertainty, you might try another method besides graphology to pick a spouse or hire an employee.

Well. Now that we know his opinion about graphology, let's see if the data bears him out.

I decided to look at various websites about graphology and see what they said left-sloping (or left-slanting) handwriting was supposed to mean. Would the various graphologists all agree on what it meant, or would different people have different interpretations? Even astrologers will pretty much agree that people born under such & such a sign are generally supposed to have thus & so traits. Would a similar consistency be true among graphologists? 

To be clear, left-slanting refers to the tilt of the individual letters.

The slope of the lines is something else. While the lines tilt down to the left, this is actually referred to as downward slanting and is something entirely different, according to the graphologists.
(Both samples from AFMag)

Here's a run-down of what various graphology sites say about left-slanting writing.  All errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. are the graphologists'.

  • Extreme left slant: such persons have a repressed childhood and are fearful of the life itself. They are emotionally withdrawn, apprehensive of intimacy and defensive. --Aryabhatt Astrology Services
  • In general interpretation of writing it may be said that the left direction is interpreted as the direction towards the mother as well as the past. Left slant writing is seen more often in women than in men. We often see left slant in people who have a disturbed balance in the parental equilibrium. Writers with left slant are generally much closer to their mothers. -- "The Graphology article of Paralumun New Age Village is wrote by graphologist Daryl Gordon"
  • A left slant tendency shows emotion and reserve. This writer needs to be true to self first and foremost and can be resentful if others try to push for more commitment from them.  --graphology page from
  • If it leans to the left to a large extent, it means that the person tends to be withdrawn to himself. He doesn't like to mix up with the people around.Such a person may have experienced a very bad tragedy earlier in his life and is scared of the future. If you have a left slant , it is recommended that you do something about it immediately. -- Know Your Handwriting, Know Yourself
  • The leftward slant is indicative of people who are emotionally unexpressive, introverted, and even selfish. They literally "pull back" towards themselves when they utilize a left hand slant. Left hand slant is the hardest slant to write with. Using this choice is due to emotional withdrawal and repression. They can be defiant, and very difficult to deal with. They just don't trust other people and don't want them in their life. Thus they make difficult relationship partners. Leftward slant writers are often writers, artists, and poets. These people will often show great emotions in their creative works. I interpret this as an exhibition of their inability to express themselves emotionally in reality; and therefore they sublimate these strong emotions in their writing or art.
  • Left slant: Most writers who write with left slant, are persons who were emotional, sometimes even highly emotional during childhood (natural characteristic) but due to trauma and/or childhood difficulties of all sorts and difficulty to adapt, switched (unconsciously, without awareness) into a more rational mode of thinking, suppressing their emotional issues and avoided dealing with them. They say "no" to the father figure for any possible reason (a weak father, a too stern father, no father at home) and identify with the mother figure (out of love or of identifying with her strength, a strength which might be masked at time). saying nay to the father figure results often in saying nay to authoritative figures in adulthood. --adva weinerman at
  • If the slant is at 100 degrees, it indicates that the person remembers all the good and bad things that have happened in the past. It shows a nature that is suppressed and controlled, and which therefore could collapse when faced with problems and difficulty. If the slant is at 120 degrees, the person is cold and self-centred, and has no respect or regard towards others. --Sheetu Deep

Well, there is some consistency here.  Withdrawn, repressed, unfriendly, prefers the mother.  I wish I wrote with a left slant so I could say whether any of this is accurate.  I don't think I know anyone who writes with a left slant.  Anybody out there with a left slant care to ring in on this and agree or disagree with these interpretations?

These people are being withdrawn and unfriendly. I wonder if either or both of them have left-slanting handwriting.
(Photo from Who the Hell is Eden Hansom???)

I'd like to try another test. I've noticed that a lot of graphologists like to offer analyses of famous people's handwriting as a way to prove their abilities.  And they all seem to want to talk about Bill Clinton's handwriting for some reason.  So I'm going to compare what they say about his handwriting a) one graphologist against another; and b) their interpretations against what graphologists say in general about a key feature.

Here's the same of Bill Clinton's handwriting to which many of the graphologists refer:

Since we just talked about slant, I want to point out that, to me, it looks as if Bill's handwriting is primarily upright, but it does seem to lean a bit to the left.  I'll get into that in more detail in a bit.  First, let's hear how the graphologists interpret Bill's handwriting.
In Clinton's handwriting one can discern two very prominent forces which motivate his activity.

One is a particularly strong and untiring urge to constantly prove himself, up to the point of having difficulty of resting on his laurels and of feeling satisfied with his achievements.

The other force which motivates him is the need to belong. From early childhood Clinton has struggled with a feeling of rejection and of not belonging. It is so important to him to belong that he sees the entire nation as his family.

In addition he is a very sensual person.

It is important to him to touch and to be in contact all the time and only then he feels he belongs.

He does not see himself as 'upper class'.

He feels more as part of the system and therefore it is convenient for him to cooperate in a team framework, to listen, to consult and only then to undertake responsibility and to move forward.

He also has a considerable amount of stubbornness and determination. He does not easily let go of his position and is able to fight for his principles, keeping his self-control and coolness.
--Anna Koren

Hmm, I wonder what she would have said if she'd only seen the handwriting and hadn't known who wrote it.  On to the next one.
Bill Clinton’s handwriting is a mixture of curves and angles: the angles give strength to the curves and the curves soften the angles. Thus, he is an emotional person who feels things deeply, someone who will go to some lengths to create a consensus. Yet, when he strongly believes in something he has the capacity to stand firm in his viewpoint. The overall picture of space is compact, indicating a strong need for social contact and genuine caring for the welfare of others.
Rounded writing is generally seen as a more feminine quality. When it appears in a man’s script it is interpreted as emotional softness, an indicator of one whose heart is easily touched. It can be seen that Clinton both laughs and cries easily and is not ashamed to show his feelings. Another aspect of the round forms exemplified by this handwriting sample is a need for physical contact. He is someone who touches others frequently, and enjoys hugging and holding them close.  
Clinton’s predominantly rounded writing style suggests that his most important motivation is the need to help and serve others. Failing in this would leave him feeling useless and miserable. He needs to know that he has made a difference. The capital B in his signature, which is larger than his surname initial, demonstrates a desire for others to think of him as “Bill,” more than “Mr. Clinton.”
-- Sheila Lowe

I'm willing to bet she is thinking of "I feel your pain."  
(Photo from Carter Fitness Chronicles)

I wonder if a man would interpret Clinton's handwriting differently.
Bill Clinton's handwriting indicates the trait called Surface Thinking. (Yes, he is intelligent, but has a tendency to make quick decisions based on surface information.) Also, Bill's handwriting shows insatiable sex drives, persistence, ambition, caution, anger at women, and even the tendency to lie and have poor ethics. A great actor and good at poker. Could you have predicted that from his writing? I did... four years ago.

Here's another:
The pressure is very heavy. This usually indicates greater accomplishments. Heavy pressure writers' emotions are very strong and long lasting. Bill may be inclined to hold grudges and he will not quickly forget the actions of his friends or enemies. His pressure will amplify all other traits found in his writing.

The slant is vertical. He tries not to show his emotions. He makes decisions based on logic, not emotions (his head rules his heart). Anyone who holds back their emotions makes a conscious effort to do so, causing a certain amount of stress and inner turmoil. Bill's baseline is also very straight, indicating even more control over his emotions. These emotions buildup over time and have to be released.

Bill concentrates on the middle zone (daily activities, running the country, etc.), and the lower zone (desire for material wealth, sex drive, etc.). There is not much going on in the upper zone at all ( Bill has advisors to do his thinking for him).

Clinton's handwriting is smaller than normal, giving him the ability to concentrate. His lower loops are quite large compared to the size of the rest of his script. If you look closely, you will see the lower loops in his g's, p's y's are very fat and are magnified by his deep emotions.

Bill is under emotional pressure and he has to release some steam from time to time. He releases some of this physical desire by running two or three miles, and then stops and has a couple of Big Mac's. But there is the strong sex drive. How does he relieve that?
--Gary Thomas at viewzone

That last one seems to suggest that it's Bill's handwriting that gives him the ability to concentrate.  As opposed to the handwriting being an indication of something.  But that's just the tip of the logical problem iceberg.

Gosh, how could that guy tell from that handwriting sample that Bill Clinton likes Big Macs?
(Photo from Fox News)

Interesting that all of them talked about Bill's sex drive or at least, his need to touch people often. Let's summarize each one and see how they compare:
  • Reading 1 says he needs to belong, needs to be touched, is stubborn and will fight for his principles but he keeps his cool. 
  • Reading 2 says he can stand firm in his viewpoint, genuinely cares about others, needs to serve others or he's unhappy.  He's an emotional person, cries easily, is not ashamed to show his feelings.
  • Reading 3 says he's ambitious, intelligent but prone to making quick decisions, has an insatiable sex drive and anger toward women, plus a tendency to lie and have poor ethics.
  • Reading 4 says his emotions are strong and long-lasting, he holds grudges, he doesn't do any thinking for himself, he does not show his emotions but makes decisions based on logic, but his emotions will build up and he has to let them out at some point.

If I read those four descriptions completely out of context, I'm not sure whether I would guess that they were all an attempt to describe the same person.

I've paid particular attention to what they say about his emotional situation because, having just talked about slant, the first thing I noticed about Bill's writing was that its slant is pretty much upright though it does lean slightly to the left.

As we just learned, a leftward slant suggests being withdrawn, repressed to the point of being unfriendly, and prefers one's mother.  I don't think we can say any of these things about Bill Clinton, not even a little bit.  

But since the slant is primarily upright, let's cut the graphologists some slack for a moment.  What do they say about an upright slant? In the interests of brevity, I'll give you just a few.

  • This handwriting is indicator of independent, self controlled, self restrained and self reliant. Their head controls heart. --Aryabhatt Astrology Services

  • If it is vertically upright or very slightly leaning towards right , this person is ruled by his head and not by heart. This is a very positive trait one can have. Emotions have no or very less roll to play in the decisions he makes. All his decisions are based on logic and thinking. There is no need for this person to express emotions. When someone asks him a favour or asks him to buy something, he needs to know all the facts , any emotional stories will have no effect on the writer. -- Know Your Handwriting, Know Yourself 
  • If the slant is more upright; then we have a self-reliant person who is reserved emotionally. Upright slanted writers suppress their emotions. This person neither "reaches" out; nor "pull back". Because of their reserve, they have an uncanny ability to remain calm under pressure. Here is where they have an advantage over the emotionally expressive person. People with upright slants or slighty left make good employees in pressure packed situations like an airline pilot, or paramedic, firefighter, or police officer as example. They think and act with their "head". These people are "head over heart". They use logic and reason to make decisions. They "think things out" rather than rely on any intuition or gut feelings.
  • If the slant is right-angled at 90 degrees, it shows a selfish nature. These people are analytic and unemotional, but could also be sincere and reliable. They always recognise obligations and hence prove good friends. --Sheetu Deep

These graphologists all seem to agree that an upright slant suggests "head over heart" and that the writer is self-controlled and emotionally reserved.  That is certainly not anything like what any of those graphologists said about Bill Clinton.

Funny how that worked out, isn't it?

Bill Clinton on a visit to Haiti in 2010.  A guy who likes to touch people, or an emotionally reserved person?  Graphology will tell us.
(Photo from Permaculture)

I also want to point out something else about the vertical slant.  A friend of mine in high school was from England, and she wrote with a very vertical slant (or non-slant) to her handwriting.  I have since noticed this is true of lots of people educated in England.

Sample of British vertical handwriting
(Image from Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor)

It turns out, at some point in the history of British education, teachers thought that vertically slanted handwriting was more legible and took up less space, so that's how they began teaching British children to write. So the suggestion that all people are "head over heart" and emotionally reserved seems like a load of hogwash.  Because that would mean that nearly every Brisih-educated person is like that.  Or does it just mean that graphologists are only perpetuating the cliche about the British?  Stiff upper lip and all that?  Either way, I say, bunk.

Finally, I tried one last test. I found one site that promised to give me an online analysis, free of charge.  It told me to find a sample of my handwriting (cursive) and then answer some questions about its various characteristics.  For each attribute, it gave three options to choose from, and I had to choose which one of the three was most similar to my handwriting.

I went through the whole thing and at the end, it asked for my name and e-mail address.  For the cause of research I obliged.  I received an e-mail within seconds.  I will post the full content of the message for you here.  Now, totally unedited and unaltered, here is what it said:

Dear apple lady,

Here is your personal handwriting analysis!  This will be a general reading of your handwriting, and what it says about you and your personality.  Enjoy.

We hope that gives you a little more insight into your personality, and your handwriting.  Thanks for visiting us.

Your friend,
The OFE Graphologist

Oh, boy, that cracks me up. 

The Skeptic's Dictionary, graphology (graphoanalysis)
 Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor, Why Britain Made a Change to Vertical Handwriting


  1. Finish this quickly please! I need to know whether I should marry my sweetheart or not!!

  2. This is too funny. Someone posted a spam comment on this entry (I have removed it because no one likes that crap). Whoever wrote it clearly has a poor grasp of the English language, first of all, but also either did not notice or did not care that my entry was all about what a scam graphology is.

    I know that spam comments are really just a fake shell to hold the real gem they're after, which is the link to whatever stupid useless site they're promoting. But it's still funny. I'll reproduce the commnet for you, sans link:

    "Hey, It sounds great! I [have] read about it many times - my handwriting analysis expert advice [instead of advised] me to have me and my partner [verb missing here] handwriting analysis. I go through for this [go through what for this? fire, perhaps?] and now I can say what my partner is feeling now days [nowadays] and can help him in its [this partner is apparently suddenly neuter] emoticons.

    Yes, that's right. This person thinks that handwriting analysis helps with one's emoticons.

    Who wouldn't want that?

  3. Haha, and it continues. The entry basically says that graphology is bunk. In the comments, I make fun of spam commenters, and still, the graphology spammers post more comments. Great blog! they say. Wonderful information! Totally ignoring the actual words in front of their face. Which may be what graphology-believers do too.

  4. Apple Lady,

    You write as though you have a childish "chip on your shoulder". My - My, People like you never cease to amaze. You have the arrogance to make statements about things that you know nothing you know about, and yet come off so arrogant with an attitude of a "Know it All" - that is sad.

    My question is, Have you ever studied Handwriting analysis? Probably not. Oh you pick apart everything about the subject but not one time have you ever mentioned that you studied the Science. Do you have any Certifications? Schools on Handwriting? Number of Years as an Intern and with Who? Names of Schools?

    The fact is, you cannot, because you are a fraud yourself.

    Your Investigation is lame and weak with no verification or proof, and it is bits and pieces from other sources and nothing of your original thoughts, but copied information that you write down. This make you a Fake!

    You run your bug mouth but cannot back it up. If you are going to be critical and be little others, at least have the Damn guts to become Handwriting Analyst first before you open your mouth.

    Otherwise just Shut Up and Take your Stupid Apple Lady down. What you have to say about Handwriting Analysis is so far off base, it is filled with liberal lies and deceit.

    Get a Life!

  5. Wow. That's quite the invective, Anonymous. I'll have to watch my "bug mouth" in the future.

    I might take your remarks seriously if you could present any evidence that handwriting evidence is at all accurate on a consistent basis. Instead, you resorted to insults and name-calling.

    You also seem not to realize that I was citing sources and providing my commentary and analysis of those sources. Had I been merely copying, as you allege, I don't think you would have had such an emotional response to the entry.

    I'll leave your comment up for a while, to see if you care to present any actual evidence. If not, I'll remove your comment.

    Have a nice day!


If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!