If you have ever wondered if it’s possible to improve your sloppy handwriting, the answer is yes. Perhaps you think it’s too late because you’re an older teen or adult. The truth is, it’s never too late to improve. The only thing you really need is some motivation and practice.

Young teens who struggle with poor handwriting really can improve their handwriting with just a few exercises that build up their fine motor skills. Plus, it’s also a good idea for the adult in charge (parent or teacher) of that young teen to explore reasons why they are struggling with poor handwriting.

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Of course, older teens and adults can also benefit from these fine motor skill exercises. The exercises you find below will help you to slow down and direct your focus on making sure your handwriting is legible.

Mistakes to avoid

When you decide that you want to improve your handwriting, or you wish to help a child improve theirs before the bad habits are set, there are a few very basic things that need to be avoided. These common mistakes are as follows:

  • Never use a handwriting manual that has been designed with children in mind. These will usually tell you to write in large letters, which really isn’t helpful for an adult or teen. You already know how to write, so these guides are really not helpful. Consider something such as Master Handwriting to help you improve your penmanship
  • Avoid copying a script that you find online, and don’t simply write the alphabet in cursive, joining them together. You need to be writing natural sentences. Of course, if you are struggling with what to write, you can practice something like “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” You will see that every letter of the alphabet is in this sentence, and is an actual sentence, not nonsensical scribbles.

What you will need

Purchase a notebook or some loose-leaf paper that is college-rule (narrow-rule). Of course, you’re probably thinking: “Why in the world should I be using narrow-rule paper? That doesn’t give me much room to work with.” This is because it will force you to make your letters smaller, which typically means less messy. Then, skip lines, which will make it easier for you to make your words/letters neat without crowding them.

Choose a writing instrument that is comfortable for you, and if necessary, consider using pencil grippers to help you keep hold of it.

Finally, you will need a slant board because when you write at an angle, you are forced to tilt your wrist upward, which means you have to move your fingers instead of your wrist/hand.

Practice drills for good penmanship

Vertical Lines

Start by filling up a page with nothing but (vertical) parallel lines. Make sure that you are focused on making sure they are all parallel and are the same length. Practicing these lines will help you make sure that the down strokes of your letters are parallel, instead of tilting back and forth.

Horizontal lines

After you have filled up a few pages with nothing but vertical lines, start filling some pages with horizontal lines.

Focus on fitting three horizontal lines on each line of the paper, while trying to make sure they are parallel and the same length. This will help you keep control of your writing instrument.


This may sound a bit silly, but it’s actually much more difficult than you might expect. You are making little clouds on the paper. Try to make each set of clouds fit between the college-rule lines. This will help you to make curves, as well as make sure the letters are all the same height.

These are just three basic exercises and barely scratch the surface of penmanship practice. You may want to work with these for a few weeks before you dive into a handwriting course such as Master Handwriting. Then, even after you have advanced to the more complex exercises, you may want to revisit these every now and then.

Remember, no matter what your age, it is possible to improve your penmanship. There really are only two things that you need, but you must have plenty of them: motivation and practice.

Find out why

As mentioned earlier, if you are the parent or teacher of an older child or teen who is struggling with bad penmanship, or even yourself for that matter, it helps to dig deeper to find out why.

Pay attention to the speed in which they are completing their tasks—do they tend to rush? This would be a completely separate issue that would need to be addressed.

Pay attention to whether they always write messy or they can be neat; it could be an issue of motivation. Perhaps they don’t really like school or they’re not interested in certain subjects.

Finally, could it be an issue of difficulty with fine motor skills? If this is the case, it helps to practice these.

Our Top Pick For Improving Your Handwriting

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

Learn More