Left-handed writers

By Anna Hornby
Date Added: 17/07/2009


The handwriting of our Western civilization having been evolved by right-handed penmen for a right-handed majority, it is natural that the right-hander has certain advantages: but there is no reason why a left-hander should not write as fluently as a right-hander.

Instead of pulling the pen across the page from left to right with the hand naturally in advance of the wet ink, the left-hander has, more or less, to push the pen and to find a way of holding it whereby the freshly written line is not smudged. This it true whichever writing model is used. It is generally accepted that in writing an italic hand the most satisfying results are obtained when an edged pen is used. This provides the left-hander with an additional problem. Most right-handers use an edged pen with a straight nib, held so that the hairline stroke comes at an angle of about 45 degrees to the writing line. If a left-hander uses a straight pen the thick and thin strokes come in unorthodox places and look completely wrong. To overcome this the left-handed writer must find a pen and pen-hold which will produce the thick and thin strokes in their accepted positions. The angle of nib required and the manner of holding the pen varies with individual left-handers but, in general, the answer is (a) to use the oblique edge pen (oblique, seen as when writing, the left side is shorter than the right): (b) to discover a comfortable pen-hold whereby the hand is kept below the writing line (the writer should NEVER have his hand curled round, writing from above the writing line) : (c) to tilt the paper slightly. The criterion of the combined result being to produce the hairline stroke at about 45 deg. from the writing line.

Diagram showing the writing line and nib angle for left- and right-handed writers

My own experience as a left-handed writer, for what it is worth is : (a) I use a very oblique pen: (b) I keep my hand below the writing line - my hand slightly bent back at the wrist, my elbow close to my side, and the shaft of the pen pointing almost to the centre of my body: (c) to tilt the paper so that the writing line, instead of being square in front of me, is a little higher on the left, and I am writing VERY SLIGHTLY downhill. I know one left-handed writer who has an exceptional method. He uses a straight-edged pen held vertically above the paper.

There seems to be a tendency for some left-handers' writing to slope backwards. This, I imagine, may be partly due to the fact that the easiest stroke for a left-hander to make is a downward-moving diagonal from top left to bottom right. All the same, this is no reason to let one's writing slope backwards.

If any left-hander finds he or she cannot get on with an edged pen it isn't necessary to abandon all hope of writing an italic hand. The proportions and construction of the letter forms and joins are of the first importance, and these can be made with any writing tool. If necessary the left-hander may forgo the qualities inherent in the use of an edged pen and even take to a ball-point! But the use of an edged pen, besides adding considerably to the beauty and liveliness of the writing, has practical qualities, such as being an aid both to legibility and to even spacing. The fact that the most common join - the diagonal - comes on the rising hairline stroke of the pen means that it is the least obtrusive to the eye and it also helps to control the distance between the letters. Left-handers are well advised to give the edged pen a fair trial.

Most of the fountain pens available with edged nibs are now obtainable with either a straight or oblique nib. Dip-pens, for left-handers, of which I know, are: Geo. W. Hughes' RELIANCE No. 0782B, fairly broad, moderate oblique. Geo. W. Hughes' VIOLIN No. 1034, fairly fine, extra steep oblique. British Pens Ltd. ITALIC LEFT HAND SERIES No. 0290, points 1-5.

The ready-made pens will suit many left-banded writers, but others may find it necessary to have a steeper angled oblique pen made specially for them.