The study of people's personalities by their handwriting is called 'graphology'. Although graphology had some early support in the scientific community, the results of most recent surveys show that graphologists’ results fail to match results in standard personality tests. Furthermore, professional graphologists using handwriting analysis were just as ineffective as lay people at predicting performance in job interviews. The British Psychological Society ranks graphology alongside astrology - giving both 'zero validity'.
However, according to the BBC’s science magazine, there are one or two things that your handwriting may give away: whether you are male or female and whether you have suicidal tendencies.
About 3,000 businesses in the UK use graphology as part of their recruitment procedures. It has been argued that this is used as a cover for operating blacklists or disqualifying candidates for inappropriate reasons (age/sex/race/faith etc). It's illegal to use graphology tests in job interviews in the USA because they are potentially discriminatory (against blind people, for instance).
Due to the recent decline in personal handwriting, the spotlight has swung on to typefaces to look for clues to our character traits. The Psychology of Fonts, by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, explains how a typeface will significantly influence what the reader thinks about you. Courier is seen as the choice of 'sensible shoes' type of people or 'anoraks' and curvy fonts like Georgia or Shelly supposedly suggest a more extroverted personality.
'Chirograph' means something 'written by hand'. It generally refers to a signed legal document.
Under US law, graphology can be used to authenticate handwriting (i.e. when looking at forged signatures) but not to comment on the physical or mental condition of the writer.
Handwriting analysis sent Al Capone to prison. Forensic accountant Frank J. Wilson managed to find three ledgers recording the business of an illegal gambling operation. The profits were recorded as going, in part, to a man named as 'A' or 'Al'. But how to prove that 'A' was Capone? For three weeks he collected handwriting samples of every known associate of Capone’s in Chicago. Finally he found a deposit slip from a bank which the handwriting matched. Wilson personally tracked the bookkeeper down, found him at a dog track in Miami, and persuaded him to testify against Capone.
Dick Turpin (1705–39) was also caught thanks to his handwriting. Whilst in prison under the false name John Palmer he wrote to his brother-in-law asking for help. His brother refused to pay the sixpence due on the letter and it was returned to the local post office – where the postmaster - Turpin’s old schoolmaster - recognised his handwriting. His identity was revealed and he was sentenced to death.
'Graphotherapy' is the practice of changing a person's handwriting with the goal of changing features of his or her personality. It was pioneered in France during the 1930s. The therapy consists of a series of exercises similar to those in calligraphy courses. There have been anecdotal reports of these exercises curing everything from drug addiction to anorexia.
The word 'cacography' means bad handwriting (it's the opposite of calligraphy).
You may not be able to read a doctor's handwriting and prescription, but you'll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.
Honoré de Balzac's handwriting was so bad, staff at his printer's would only work on his manuscripts for an hour at a time.
A pencil can draw a continuous line 35 miles long.
Graphologists can identify if someone is male or female by looking at their handwriting.