If you often find yourself apologizing for your hard to read writing, it may be time to start working on your penmanship.

People with elegant writing usually have a natural coordination between rhythm and form. If you are not one of those people, there are many things you can do to improve your writing, starting with learning how to hold your pencil or pen correctly.

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Using a proper grip will give you more control over the appearance of the writing. Holding your pencil in a relaxed yet tight grip will result in more stability. Too loose or tight of a grip can make your writing less presentable although it may still be legible.

First, it’s important to recognize if you are holding your pencil incorrectly. Although there are many different ways to grip a pencil, some are ineffective and can cause pain and fatigue. These are signs of an ineffective grip:

  • Pencil resting on ring finger with the middle and index fingers on top and the thumb resting alongside the pencil
  • A grip with the ring and little fingers held stiffly to the outside
  • The thumb wrapped around or tucked under the index finger
  • Pencil is gripped tightly with the tips of the index finger and thumb causing it to stand straight up instead of resting in the space between thumb and finger
  • Balancing the pencil between the index and ring fingers with the middle finger on top, the thumb is not used at all
  • The hand is wrapped around the pencil in a fist-like position with the thumb on the opposite side
  • Any position with an extremely tight grip

The ideal pencil grip is known as the tripod and begins with using the thumb, index and middle fingers to hold the pencil. Place the thumb pad to one side of the pencil. The weight of the pencil should be resting on the first joint of the middle finger.

The ring and little finger are curled gently into the palm to give the hand stability. These three fingers should be relaxed so they can move freely during writing.

Another way to ensure that you are holding your pencil correctly is called the pinch and flip method. Lay the pencil directly in front of you with the point facing away from your body.

Pick up the pencil at the lead end using a pinch grab with your thumb and index finger. With your other hand, gently grasp the eraser end and flip the pencil so it rests properly between the thumb and index finger, supported by your middle finger, in proper writing position.

When holding your pencil, make sure you keep your hand and fingers relaxed. If you clench your fist, the grip will be too tight and restrictive causing strain and fatigue that will lead to sloppy writing.

Once you put pencil to paper, you should hold the pencil at an angle to the table. Keep the bottom of your thumb in line with your forearm, making sure your elbow does not jut out.

After you have practiced how to grip your pencil correctly, there is still some work that needs to be done to retrain the muscles in your hand. For instance, you can practice writing with a golf pencil or a crayon. The small size has less surface area and requires attention to your grip.

Another trick is to place a marble or other small item between the ring and pinky fingers and your palm. This will keep those fingers out of the grip and train them to relax while you are writing.

If you have spent a lifetime writing with an improper pencil grip, it can be a hard habit to break. Learning the proper pencil grip does take some time, but it is an important part of having neat handwriting.

You may find that this new writing position feels uncomfortable and unnatural at first.  This is because the brain and hand muscles need to be retrained. Every time you notice yourself going back to an improper grip, set your pencil down, mentally review the proper techniques and start over.

It can take weeks and even months for the change to feel natural but with constant practice, it will happen. It will take some work and reminders, but it can be done.

Our Top Pick For Improving Your Handwriting

It's easy to have perfect, legible and beautiful handwriting!

Learn More