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How to Write: Sympathy Notes

5 Apr

Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. The words inside a sympathy note carry a lot of weight; it’s like they are magnified. These notes are sent when someone we know and care about has experienced pain. The pain of loss. Whether that is the loss of a parent, a pet or otherwise, loss is still loss. It is feeling empty when before you were whole.

What words are ever appropriate at a time like that, right? I don’t know about you, but every time I sit down to write one of these notes, I always think that there are really no words that exist that will actually bring comfort.

And then I remember, that statement is true. A sympathy note is not actually intended to make the situation better because it really can’t make the situation better. Instead, a sympathy note is a way to say ‘Hi, I’m here, and I’m thinking of you.’ It’s a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot.

There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

Just Call

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” or “If there’s anything I can do, just call.”

Those are both very nice sentiments and anyone who says them means well. However, what you are really saying is: “I’ll help, but you have to call me first.” When someone is grieving, the last thing they need is another ball in their court, so to speak. And honestly, they’re not going to call. It’s better to say something like “I’m going to call you next week to check on you” or “I’m going to email you next week to check in with you, in case you need anything.”

When I discovered this tip, I was a little shocked. I said this all the time to people. I’d even post it on Facebook. And I was not the only one. Someone might post that they were sick, and there’d be eight Facebook comments of people saying “If you need something, just call!” It’s just another way of not really saying anything at all.

A Better Place

“They’re better off now,” or “They’re happy now,” or even “They’re in a better place.”

Even if the person you are writing to has said one of the above statements to you, it’s still best not to say it yourself. Honestly, maybe they’re not better off. Perhaps things happened you’re not aware of. The issue with this statement is that it’s not really a comfort to the person that was left behind. The person who died is still dead. They’re still dead whether they’re better off or not. And, the person receiving your sympathy note is probably not better off, definitely not happy now, and likely not in a better place. How can a dead person be better off than the living person you are writing to?

“I Understand”

Be careful when you say you understand or you know how the person feels (particularly when you’ve never been through the same situation). Let me give you an example. When a friend loses a parent, I will usually include a statement like this:

“While I can’t understand what it’s like to lose a parent, I can understand what it’s like to be loved by a parent. I know how much your father loved you. I remember in high school how he’d pick us up after track practice and he’d always kiss you on your cheek, give you a hug, and ask you how your day was when we’d get in the car. I vividly remember how much love your Dad had for you.”

Everything I said was completely and totally true. I didn’t say I knew or I understood when I really don’t know and I really don’t understand. Plus, I was positive. I wasn’t talking about death, I was talking about life.  Be considerate of this when you sit down to write a sympathy note.

Take the Time

Most anything written in a sympathy note has good intentions behind it. However, if you are going to take the time to write one, really pay attention to what you are saying versus what you are meaning. They can be different. If you want to actually do something for the bereaved, say what it is and commit to it. Don’t put anything back on the bereaved. Don’t comment on where the deceased has gone or how the deceased may be doing. Focus on the person you are writing to, the person who is still alive and dealing with the aftermath.

Death is a funny thing. It happens to all of us, and will happen to everyone we know. Yet, many of us struggle with how to act or what to say when it happens. If you stay positive and commit to doing something for the bereaved you’ll stand a much better chance of sending a note that is meaningful, memorable and a true comfort.

Take Charge of Your To-Do Lists

15 Mar

Are you a chronic compiler of sticky notes? Is your wallet stuffed with small scraps of paper? Do scrawl-covered napkins flutter around in your car? If that sounds like you, you might just be a to-do list hoarder.

To-do lists are good. Usually. They help us remember the innumerable tasks we have to tackle for work, home, committees, kids, and more. But if managing – or finding – your to-do lists takes over actually completing the tasks, your lists aren’t helping. Unless you organize or consolidate your responsibilities into a more streamlined system, you’re not being as efficient as you could be.

Here, based on personality types, are a handful of the best ways to organize to-do lists from various aspects of your life – and the products to facilitate your newfound sense of organization.

Moleskine Volant Pocket Ruled Notebook (Set of 2) (3.5 x 5.5)

Moleskine Volant Pocket Ruled Notebook (Set of 2) (3.5 x 5.5)

Separatist

If you strive to keep your professional life separate from your personal life, institute a system that encourages that separation. To help you compartmentalize your various roles and responsibilities, pick up a set of Moleskine Volant notebooks. Dedicate one to work and one to life, and clearly label the two notebooks so that you’re not tempted to grab whichever is closer.

Minimalist

Rhodia Spiralbound Square Reverse Book (8.25 x 8.25)

Rhodia Spiralbound Square Reverse Book (8.25 x 8.25)

Not everyone can achieve it, but if your goal is simplicity, consolidate all your to-do lists into one single notebook. The trick is to create a habit of always carrying that one notebook with you since everything will be housed together. A side spiral Rhodia will help you keep all your lists in one place. With a sturdy cover and side binding, a Rhodia can be taken in and out of your bag, tossed in your car, and lugged on an airplane and still keep your to-dos together.

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook (5 x 8.25)

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook (5 x 8.25)

Traditionalist

Those who love the Moleskine tradition may balk at the idea of replacing their do-it-all notebook for a different system. With a simple hack, convert your Moleskine into a to-do list organizer. Use your favorite size notebook, and divide it into sections for each task area, like work, life, home, goals, and so on. Tabs can be made from almost anything. For example, fold a small sticky tab in half, write the title on the edge, and tape it into place, or cut up expired gift cards for durable tabulating.

Clairefontaine Classic Extra Large Side Spiralbound Notebook (8.5 x 11)

Clairefontaine X Large Side Spiral Notebook (8.5 x 11)

Goal-Getter

For those with many goals, many tasks, and many to-dos, a large notebook is a must. The Clairefontaine Classic Extra Large Spiralbound Notepad is 8.5- by 11-inches, which gives you enough space to outline all your tasks and related notes. Plus, since the pages are perforated, you can tear them out to file as needed.

Multi-Tasking Mom

For the busy mom on the go, the Exacompta Exafolio Executive will keep all your lists organized in one place. Six file compartments accompany a notebook, which allows you to keep like items – errands, grocery lists, kid-related to-dos, and so on – together.

Whichever product you choose to manage your to-do lists, the ACME Sing Sing 4-Function Pen is the perfect complement to keep your organization streamlined. Instead of cramming multiple implements in your bag or notebook, this one piece has a stylus for your PDA, a pencil, a pen, and a highlighter for convenient note-jotting.

Whatever your personality, there’s a product that can help you organize that never-ending flow of to-dos. Now, if only there was a product to complete those to-dos for you!

Carnival of Pen, Pencil & Paper

6 Mar

Welcome to the March 6, 2012 edition of the Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper! We’re thrilled to host this month’s Carnival and we hope you enjoy the selection!

Notebooks

Nifty Notebook presents Early 1980s “Comp” Pocket Memo Notebooks posted at Notebook Stories, saying, “Some gems from my collection: 1908s spiral notebooks that look like composition books!”

Alex Witte presents (Most of) My Notebook Collection posted at Economy Pens.

Sandra Strait presents Bleedthrumanade in Moleskine & Review of the Moleskine Squared Notebook posted at Life Imitates Doodles, saying, “A review of Moleskine’s Squared notebook showing how it holds up to the alcohol marker.”

Sandra Strait presents New Tangle Pattern Malacca & Review of the Moleskine Volant Journal posted at Life Imitates Doodles, saying, “This could be considered for the art genre as well as notebook because I always do artwork to use in my reviews.”

Sandra Strait presents New tangle pattern Twining & Review of the Rhodia Unlimited Pocket size Notebook posted at Life Imitates Doodles.

@EuroPaper presents The Birth of the Book Letter posted at European Paper Company.

Office Supplies

Charles Chua C K presents All About Living With Life: 10 Office Efficiency Tips posted at All About Living with Life.

Liz Shaw presents You Can’t Make This Stuff Up posted at Liz Andra Shaw, saying, “How the lust for office supplies led one woman into a funny situation.”

Pens

Cheryl from Writer’s Bloc presents STAEDTLER Mars Draft 924 Technical Ballpoint Pen Review posted at Writer’s Bloc Blog.

Okami0731 presents Featured Pen – Waterman 42 Safety posted at Whatever.

Heather presents Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm Black posted at A Penchant for Paper.

Miscellaneous

Tiger Pens presents The Fountain Pen Rest Stop posted at Tiger Pens’ Blog.

Charles Chua C K presents All About Living With Life: Office Feng Shui – 5 Great Tips posted at All About Living with Life.

Clement Dionglay presents Ink Review: J. Herbin Ambre de Birmanie posted at Rants of the Archer.

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Thanks so much for joining us! Use this shortlink to share this post: http://wp.me/p1PnL4-og

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of pen, pencil and paper using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

The Birth of the Book Letter

16 Feb

Two of my favorite things on the planet are books and letters. About two years ago, I created a way to combine them—a Book Letter. It sounds simple enough, and it can be as elaborate or straightforward as you’d like to make it, but I promise it will be something treasured forever by the recipient of your choice.

What is a Book Letter?

I love writing letters and far prefer the long missive that goes on for some pages, like a long, in-depth conversation with someone you enjoy spending time with. Short notes have their place, of course, but long letters are definitely more of a treasure to hold onto and re-read. However, long letters take time and thought, and in this busy age of quick text messages and emails, it is quite rare for people to write extremely long letters, especially in one sitting.

Enter the Book Letter. Basically, you take a small notebook (2 by 4 inches, or pocket-sized, which is 3.5 by 5.5 inches), dedicate it to one person, and start writing letters in it whenever you get a chance. They can be long or short, and once the book is filled up, it’s time to send it off to the lucky person. This is the first iteration of the Book Letter—simple, efficient, and practical.

If you’d like to develop a more complex Book Letter, give it some depth. Keep an eye out during your daily routine for items the recipient would like. Perhaps such items like a newspaper clipping of a review for a play they like; snippets of a friendship poem you came across online; a quote that reminded you of the person, some funny cartoons and other small paper “tuck-ins.” These can be glued into the small notebook, taped onto a page, or just tucked in.

Once you get the hang of it, each Book Letter will be easier and quicker to create. Start deciding ahead of time what else will go in your Book Letter other than just your handwritten letters. Keep a small collection of items to tuck in the next Book Letter, as well as some small notebooks whenever the feeling grabs you to start a new one.

My Book Letter Process

Personally, when I start a new Book Letter to someone, the first thing I do is decorate the inside page with the name of the person I am sending the letter to. I typically use calligraphy pens and stickers to do this and often add the date.

Next, I choose a theme for the book letter—anything from Victorian elegance or going “green” to highlighting a specific season or holiday.  (I use scrapbooking supplies for much of this.) Once I’ve chosen the theme, I go through the notebook, page by page, and add stickers and borders. If I was remotely artistic, I would add sketches and drawings. So if you are artistic, this is a great place to show off your talent.

Now it’s time to decide what “tuck ins” will go with this letter. Maybe it’s pictures of my kids opening their Christmas presents or watering the plants in the garden. Maybe it’s a newspaper article or a magazine column of interest. It might be a funny cartoon that made you laugh or a copy of a quote from a book that had an impact on you. Truly, there are no limits. Just choose something that reflects who you are and who you are writing to.

Finally, I start writing the letter itself, skipping around the tuck-ins and filling up the pages.  I write a few pages and then put the letter away for a day or two before adding more words. Eventually the Book Letter is ready—a true gift for whomever it is sent to.

Ready to try your own book letter? Start by choosing a small notebook. Some great examples include Apica’s CD-10, 11 and 15 Series, Moleskine’s Volant Notebooks, and Rhodia’s Pocket Unlimited Notebooks. These notebooks come in all sizes, with as few as 10-12 pages or as many as 150. They can be lined or unlined. What kind you choose is up to you, but remember that filling up much more than 30 pages or so can be challenging. I recommend starting small.

This is a book letter Leah (the editor of this blog) is working on for her beau right now!

Book Letter Tips

Next, add stickers, pictures, drawings/illustrations, whatever you would like to decorate your pages. Finally, start writing. You might write two pages today, put it away for a week and then add a few more. I’ve been known to complete a book letter in one sitting—and take almost a month.

Remember that a book letter is like an art project – there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is simply YOUR way of doing it. It will reflect your thoughts and your time and there are few gifts as worthwhile as that.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, EPC

14 Feb

Top:
Meadowbrook Farm Blog’s “Manual is a Must
Dottie Angel’s “Have a Heart” How-To

Middle:
MyPipSqueak’s “I’m so in love with you journal”
EPC’s Moleskine Love Stack

Bottom:
Design Sponge’s “DIY Heart-Shaped Paper Clips”

10 Letter Writing Tips

31 Jan

Writing a letter might seem like an art that no one follows anymore, like speaking Latin or doing the jitterbug (and where else can you find a comparison between those activities but here at EPC?), but there are many enthusiasts still out there. You’ll recognize us if you look closely. We sit in coffee shops with pens and paper in front of us instead of laptops. We walk into office supply stores and head over to the fountain pen ink refills instead of the printer ink refills.  We know how much an extra ounce costs, the price of an international stamp, and how much we can squeeze into a first class priority box before it explodes.

Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets

Yes, I am one of them (and proud of it!), and I write hundreds of letters every year. My free time is spent with pen in hand talking with friends near and far. When I walk out to the mailbox every day, I know more than bills and advertisements are waiting for me.

Of course, to GET letters, you have to SEND letters. So, here are the 10 best letter writing tips I know, based on hundreds of letters written (and received) every year. These tips refer to both personal and professional correspondence.  The first six tips are must-do’s; the second four are options to consider.

  1. When you are going to write a letter, make sure you have enough time to do so. A rushed letter feels like a rushed letter, and typically, handwriting takes longer than you remember. If you aren’t sure you can find a free half hour or hour, combine your writing with other activities like watching a movie, waiting for the dryer to finish or sipping that morning cup of java.
  2. As you begin writing, refer to your last visit, conversation or letter with that person. Mention where you were, something that was said, or another statement that reconnects the two of you.
  3. Date the letter. I know that might not seem very important, but when the person reads the letter, re-reads it, and keeps it for ages, that date is very important. I recently dug through some old boxes and found all of the letters my mother wrote me while I was in college. She is no longer living, so these letters are truly precious to me. I organized them in the order she wrote them and put them in folders. The dates were essential.
  4. Write legibly. I know, I know. Duh, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people have almost illegible handwriting. They either try to be fancy or they simply haven’t dusted off their penmanship skills in a long time.  If you have trouble with cursive, print. If that doesn’t work well, type. Make it easy on your reader.
  5. Ask the person questions.  A letter that just tells a person all about you-you-you and then says goodbye at the end is not much fun to read and often very difficult to respond to. Ask the person questions, such as: How is work? How are the children? Where have you traveled? What are you reading lately? They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but obviously keep your reader in mind regarding the type of personal questions you may ask. This will inspire the person to want to sit down and write back to you.
  6. Follow the simple rules of good writing. Always double-check that you spelled their name correctly and make sure you have the right address for the envelope. You aren’t being graded here, so you don’t need topic sentences and appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs (yes, I used to be an English teacher!), but make sure you aren’t writing in such a manner that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

Those were the “must-do’s” of letter writing. Here are four more tips to consider implementing as you write more.

  1. Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

    Mudlark Eco Hayden Leigh Memento Boxed Note Cards

    Use attractive paper and cards for your letter. The European Paper Company carries many lovely options, including boxed notecards, a wide selection of eco stationery, and much more. Sure, lined notebook paper is nice, but it can be dull. A letter on fine stationery is often much appreciated, but if all you have is lined notebook paper dress it up a bit to make it special.

  2. Include fun little tuck-ins. Getting a letter is fun – getting a letter with surprises tucked inside it is even better. It can be photos, newspaper clippings, comics, bookmarks – whatever you want. These little extras can make letter writing even more enjoyable.
  3. Respond to letters quickly, but not TOO quickly. If your letter is in response to one sent to you, don’t let it sit around for more than two to four weeks before answering it. If too much time goes by, the person may forget what he wrote or think you have decided not to respond at all.  If I haven’t heard from someone in more than a month, I also send a quick postcard making sure all is well with them. On the flip side, it might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend responding to someone the day or day after you get a letter. That might be so quick that it makes the receiver feel pressured.
  4. Finally, if all of this sounds wonderful but you’re stumped on who to write to, do some homework and check out organizations. If you don’t have family and friends that would be interested in writing letters, go to the The Letter Writer’s Alliance and The Letter Exchange online. They both offer wonderful connections to other crazy letter writers like me. EPC also lists web sites for letter writers to connect (check out the blogroll in the right column of this blog). Believe me—we are out there and waiting by our mailboxes. Write!

Penmanship & Calligraphy: Reader Spotlight! + Swashes & Flourishes

12 Jan

Hopefully, Library Hand was a bit of a challenge for you. (Read the 4th post in the series all about Library Hand here.) Sure, it looks simple, but it can be difficult to actually put the components of Library Hand into practice.

In this final installment, I’m going to share two reader submissions, make a few suggestions and introduce you to the wonderful world of swashes and flourishes.

The first sample comes to us from reader Stephanie and she did an excellent job. I only have one suggestion here and this is actually the most common tweak practitioners may need to make in their own writing: angle!

Click to enlarge.

Hopefully you can see my red lines; do you see the variation? We have straight up and down, leaning to the right and a few characters that lean to the left. Take note of the angle you are writing at and make sure it is consistent throughout.

This next submission comes from Sandra of Life Imitates Doodles. An excellent submission – see her original post here. The suggestion I have here is to slow down in the print form. Printing will likely take this user a little longer than cursive as I’m guessing that might come more natural to her.

If you still have something for me to look at, please just leave a comment with a link to your sample and I’ll take a look!

Now, on to the fun stuff. Swashes and flourishes!  (Click on any image to enlarge it; then you can use it for practice.)

Most use the terms interchangeably, but the main difference is that a swash is an embellishment on a letter (like an exaggerated serif) while a flourish can be totally separate from a letter or word.

Let’s take the letter N to start with. You’ll see I take it through the basic letterform, add a swash and then add a flourish. You can do the same!

The J got a flourish up top:

We are not limited to just letters. You can embellish shapes too and use them in your letter writing or journaling.

One of my most-used flourishes is extremely simple to learn. This is a great place to start.

You can tweak the ‘bubbles’ in the simple flourish to get this effect:

And then you can take this flourish and use it! I almost always turn it on its side and shimmy it up against my addresses on outgoing mail.

Another easy flourish comes from the curlique:

There are no rules in swashes or flourishes. There are more traditional designs, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be more modern ones! Take a look at my ‘flourish girl’ and my ‘flourish fish.’

One quick note to help you get the most out of swashes and flourishes: use the right tools! A flex nib or calligraphy tip works wonders. In the samples above, I used a Kaweco Sport with a Medium nib (purple ink) and I used a Kaweco Calligraphy Sport with a 1.1 nib (blue ink). You can see subtle differences in the line work.

Finally, stay aware of the angle you hold your writing utensil at. Try changing it to create different effects.

Thanks to everyone for reading (and participating) in this 6 part series. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I hope it’s been useful!

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Editor’s Note: This is Article #6 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others here:
Article #1 “Where to Start
Article  #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles
Article #4 “
Library Hand + Call for Submissions
Article #5 “Tips & Resources

 

10 Uses for Last Year’s Planner

3 Jan

Most people stick their old planner on a shelf, wait a couple of years, and then toss it out. If that works for you, go for it! But if you want to try something different with last year’s planner, consider one of these 10 suggestions – all with minimal DIY know-how required.

  1. File it. Okay, so some people do need to file their old planners. Before you do, though, make it useful. Label the spine with the year. Mark pages that had important events or critical phone numbers. Make it navigable before you stick it on that shelf, and it’s more likely you’ll actually reference it in 2012.
  2. Make a secret box.Love the pretty cover of your 2011 planner? Use it! Flip open the front cover. With a straightedge and a pen, measure out a square on the first page of your 2011 planner leaving at least a half-inch margin the whole way around. Use a razor or X-Acto knife to cut out the square (through all the pages).
    Planner party decor.

    #3: Planner party decor.

    You now have a secret trinket box that will look pretty on your desk or nightstand.

  3. Planner party decor. Coat the pages with colorful or glittery paint. Once dry, shred and use as confetti.
  4. Gaze at your year as a decorative paper wreath. Follow this simple Book Page Wreath Tutorial with your planner pages to create chic decor out of 2011.
  5. Day planner to art journal conversion.Without having to rip, cut, or shred the pages, your planner can be the base for a fabulous art journal. Create works of art on each page using images from magazines, stamps, paint, decoupage, or whatever your preferred medium.

    The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book.

    The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book.

  6. The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book. Hand it to a young child along with a box of markers, chalk, or Crayons. They’ll know what to do.
  7. Hardcover hack. Convert a hardcover into a PDA/eReader cover. You’ll need a knife, scrap fabric, a few inches of elastic, and glue. Remove the pages with a knife, but don’t damage the spine. Cut an old t-shirt or scrap of fabric to the fit the inside cover. Set your device on top of one piece of fabric. Stretch a piece of elastic over the device’s corner to the back of the fabric. Secure the elastic in place with hot glue, a couple of stitches, or even a staple. Repeat for all four corners. Adhere the fabric to the planner cover, and you’re done! Just make sure everything is totally dry before you insert your device.
  8. Shred the pages of your 2011 planner and use them as package stuffing.
  9. Great year? Turn your planner into a “Yay, me!” file. Mark all the highlights from your year with colorful sticky tabs. Landed a huge account? Tab the day you scored the client. Received a promotion? Flag that day. When you hit a rough spot in 2012, flip through your tabbed planner and remember all your wins from the previous year.
  10. Bad year? Build an effigy to a horrible 2011. Tear out the pages and toss them into a bonfire or fireplace. Say goodbye to each bad day so you can face 2012 with a clean slate!

I maintain an organized shelf of past planners, all labeled and flagged. Yet, as I compiled this list, I realized that I rarely (never?) reference them. In January, I’m going to create a paper wreath with my 2011 planner, and I converted my 2010 into an art journal. Now that I have this list, I will start finding fun uses for all my past planners that have been collecting dust.

Penmanship & Calligraphy: Tips & Resources

29 Dec

Spend all the time in the world you want tracing letterforms and copying words from calligraphy books; ultimately that is not where your ability to write well will come from. Certain principles will aid you in writing well if you follow them; I’m going to share my five core penmanship principles. If you put these into play, your penmanship will improve and your natural style will shine.

Write Often

An occasional birthday card and thank you note is just not going to cut it. If you really want to improve your penmanship and/or be able to write in a calligraphic style of some sort, you need to be writing regularly. And by regularly I mean basically all the time.

That grocery list is a chance to practice, as is the ‘honey do’ list. In fact, those are wonderful practice spaces because you are not only writing something useful, but if you make a mistake it is not a big deal. Whereas making a mistake on your last sheet of fine cotton paper is definitely a problem.

I can also tell you that practicing your penmanship on things that have no use (like just writing out poems or tracing letterforms) tends to discourage practitioners rather than encourage them. We all want to write well and we all want to see our work in use. A notebook full of alphabets written 20 times is not much motivation.

Tip: Great penmanship goes anywhere.

Slow Down

If everyone just slowed down when they wrote, we’d all see improvement. Letters would become more defined and our natural style would become more visible. When we write fast, letters tend to blend into one another and legibility is reduced.

Let’s not forget the very basic purpose of writing: to communicate. When we write fast and hurried, lots of the message is lost.

For example, receiving a birthday card with a scrawled message inside looks, well, scrawled. It looks hurried, it looks rushed. It looks like my friend wrote on the inside of the card literally as it was being put into the envelope.

Tip: Slow down!

Notice Symmetry

If you write often and slow down, you might notice some things about the way you write. Maybe you dot your i’s funny or your h’s have a neat hook at the top. These are not bad things. Notice what you do naturally and carry it through your writing like you are creating a personal alphabet. Your own style of calligraphy.

Strip everything away and then slowly add in. Do not start out by working on swashes and curlicues, zigs and zags. Build your foundation first, and then add on the decorations.

When you write a ‘w’, is the bottom rounded? Or pointed? Does it look like two ‘u’s stuck together or two ‘v’s? If you round your ‘w’ maybe you should see if you can round the bottoms of some other letters. Like the lowercase ‘t’ for example. Can you put a little hook in the bottom of your ‘t’ to mimic the ‘w’?

Tip: Look for what you do naturally and then repeat it.

Use the Right Tools

This one is a little tricky. How do you know you are using the right tools? Trial and error. If you write often, slow down, and notice symmetry, you can then determine what type of paper or writing utensil might be best for you. If you write small, you’ll probably want to go with a fine-tipped pen so your writing becomes more legible. If you write in a very simple, minimalistic way without much embellishment, you might want to try writing with a stub-nibbed fountain pen or a chisel-tipped pen just to see how that might change your writing.

Aside from the visual effect a certain pen or paper would have on your writing, the ‘right’ tool for you is also determined by the natural way you hold your pen.

Most Americans tend to grip their pens and pencils really tight. I was one of those people! I used to have calluses on my fingers from where I held the pen. When I switched to a fountain pen and loosened my grip, I saw immediate improvement and felt immediate improvement. I am partial to fountain pens because they do all the work; your hand is merely a guide.

Tip: Consider how you grip the writing utensil and try loosening your grip or holding the pen at a different angle.

Don’t Compare

The way I write is not the way you write. Someone else will always have better handwriting than you if you are looking for it.

These are five of my most important tips for writing well and I hope you’ll give a few of them a try. If you want a little more fuel to add to your penmanship fire, I’m including some of my favorite haunts on the web for you to peruse.

Editor’s Note: This is Article #5 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others so far here:
Article #1 “Where to Start
Article  #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles
Article #4 “
Library Hand + Call for Submissions

 

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