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Graphology or handwriting analysis is based upon the interpretation of certain signs and symbols to be found in a specimen of handwriting. In the view of a graphologist, the complicated mental, physical, and psychic machinery known as human beings betray so much detail about themselves in their handwriting because the actual process of handwriting begins in the mind, with thought. All handwriting is first an idea that becomes a desire to communicate that thought to paper. Graphologists perceive handwriting analysis as a doorway to the subconscious. As such, not only conscious but subconsciously formed habit patterns and personality traits show up in an individual's handwriting.

Because handwriting reveals the inner person through his or her subconscious, graphologists believe that there are universal symbols that are evident in handwriting, beginning as early as a child's first attempts at writing. For example, if in a child's handwriting analysts were to observe angular patterns formed like the points of arrows or spears, they would have little difficulty recognizing such formations as likely symbols of aggression. There has been some conflict within the ranks of graphology on the question of whether or not pre-writing scribbles may indicate personality traits in children. A scribble, as defined by graphologists, is a spontaneous discharge of energy. It is not meant to convey a message, and children make them for the sheer joy of it. To children, scribbling is simply a means of expression. They leave on the paper, therefore, a record of their prevailing mood, whether joy or unhappiness. Likewise, if they are angry, they may sit down and make motions on a piece of paper resembling the slashing actions of a knife.

Graphologists are convinced that handwriting analysis can reveal an individual's innermost thoughts, motivations, and desires. The handwriting of individuals with an advanced psychosis and extreme neurosis would differ from that of an "average" person. In psychosis, the analyst would see traits that are considered normal, but they would be exaggerated, amplified, carried to such lengths that they would become, then, undesirable traits. For example, in the case of a schizophrenic, where the personality has separated itself from the everyday world and formed another world of its own, a graphologist would expect to see the handwriting symbols for imagination exaggerated to a tremendous degree. In the case of the extreme neurotic, the differences are again quantitative, rather than qualitative, dealing with a blown-up effect on one trait, and perhaps, a diminished, or totally absent, symbol trait which could balance the overemphasized qualities of the other.

Normal handwriting would, therefore, have to show the balance missing in neurotic or psychotic handwriting. A balanced handwriting would be the outward manifestation of a balanced mind. Leftward movement of the handwriting indicates a writer who has a tendency to live in the past and to be of a passive disposition. Rightward movement usually reveals a writer who is future-minded and somewhat aggressive.

The degree to which individuals have balanced their tendencies and personality traits is an invaluable clue to a prospective employer, and many companies and businesses have begun employing a graphologist on their staff. Graphologists maintain that an employer can get an indication as to how an individual will react under stress and determine whether or not a person in their employ would act in a violent, antisocial manner in moments of excitement in dealing with customers. To illustrate the above point, graphologists have shown how prospective embezzlers would give themselves away by their handwriting. The oval lettersthe "o," the "a," and in certain cases, the oval formations on the small letters "p" and "d"would be opened up at the bottom. It would appear as though someone had come along and erased the bottom of these letters, suggesting that the embezzlers want to fill up the holes with some money.

The above signs constitute a general rule and should not be regarded as universal or absolute. A cautious and discreet graphologist would be careful never to make a definite finding on the basis of only a few signs, but many handwriting analysts believe that company executives in charge of hiring could gain helpful information about prospective employees by looking for such signs as the following.

Small writing shows either the ability or the potential for a high degree of concentration. Narrow, peaked connecting strokes between words are an expression of withdrawal.

Introverted people are likely to sign their names far to the left of the main body of a piece of writing, continuing a general leftward trend.

Graphologists believe that even a glance at the white spaces to the left and right and above and below the written matter provides instant insight into the writer's personality. For example, if a left margin starts out narrow and widens as the lines of writing proceed down the page, the body of the writing should normally reveal, among other things, indications of enthusiasm, optimism, and generous spending habits. The left margin represents the beginning point for the writer's activities. If the lines of writing are begun far to the right of the page's left edge, the writer's pen had to make a considerable "leap" before tracing the first word. Individuals who begin writing in this way are also prone to "leap" enthusiastically into their undertakings.

If the left margin of the writing is overly wide, the writer may have erected a facade to conceal true feelings.

Since the hand must travel from left to right to execute a line of writing, a narrow left margin indicates a reluctance to move into the realm of action. The complete absence of a left margin may symbolize the writer's subconscious desire to return to an infantile state of dependency.

Individuals who set themselves apart from others because of snobbishness or pride leave inordinately wide left margins, but the graphologist must be careful, for such margins are also characteristic of the writing of shy persons.

If the left margin widens as the writing proceeds down the page, it is a sign of haste and a nervous nature. If, on the other hand, the left margin narrows as the lines descend, it shows that the writer suffers from fatigue, physical weakness, or perhaps, illness. Such a margin is also the sign of psychological or physiological depression.

The right margin symbolizes destinations reached, goals achieved, and the writer's attitude toward the future. In contrast to the left margin, which corresponds to the false front individuals may use to hide their feelings, the right margin reveals a genuine desire to be close or distant to the other people they contact in the course of living life. A wide right margin shows that the writer actually prefers to remain distant, while a narrow right margin shows a genuine desire for close relationships.

The idea of graphotherapeutics began in the early part of the twentieth century when a number of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors of medicine, and graphologists cooperated in a study of the reciprocal effects of personality and handwriting. They interpreted symbols in handwriting as having been formed by a sort of feedback process. Not only does the mind influence or shape handwriting, but handwriting can also shape the mind. The flow of electrical energy in the form of nerve impulses throughout the nerves and various nerve endings also returns to the mind along other neural pathways. Working under this premise, when people see what they know to be an undesirable trait appearing in their handwriting, they can change the trait by changing their handwriting.

When handwriting experts in police laboratories examine a suspected forger's signature or an alleged note left by a suicide victim, the first problem they face is to determine the writer's special characteristics. Even skilled forgers may not be able to see the subtle marks, pressures, slanting, and shading that an expert graphologist will perceive almost at a glance. The FBI Laboratory and laboratories of state and city police departments keep on file all extortion and ransom notes, all threatening and defamatory letters, and all messages that threaten bombings, arson, or personal attacks on individuals. As strange as it may seem, criminals of all kinds who once put their demands or threats in writing will most often do so again.

A famous case that demonstrates how graphology can be effective in solving crimes occurred on July 4, 1956, when Mrs. Morris Weinberger, a young mother of two, left her 33-day-old baby, Peter, in his carriage on the patio in the backyard of their home in Westbury, Long Island. Although she had been gone for only 15 minutes, when she returned she found the carriage empty and a ransom note that stated a demand for $2,000 and was signed, "Your Baby Sitter." In spite of her broadcast pleas for the return of their child, no further demands were issued by the kidnapper until July 10, when the Weinbergers received a telephone call and a second note.

Under the law at that time, the FBI could not enter a kidnapping case until seven days had passed. Once that time period had been observed, experts began immediately to study the kidnapper's notes. It was decided that the ransom notes had been written on a piece of paper that appeared to have come from a lined tablet designed for use in writing public records. Among distinctive aspects of the kidnapper's writing, there was a peculiarly looped capital "P," a rounded "A" with a short tail, and a capital "Y" that was strangely bold.

Six weeks after little Peter Weinberger had been taken from his carriage, a group of handwriting analysts managed to match the handwriting on the ransom note to that of a signature by a man who had received a suspended sentence. It was the 1,974,544th document that had been studied during the desperate search for baby Peter.

Tragically, the kidnapper, Angelo John LaMarca, who lived five miles from the Weinbergers, had thought he could solve his money problems by snatching a rich family's child. LaMarca had panicked on August 23rd and left the baby in a dense thicket to die. The kidnapper was found guilty of murder and died in the electric chair.

Although handwriting analysis may provide valuable leads that in some cases may lead to the discovery of the perpetrator of a crime and that person's subsequent arrest, the testimony of graphology by itself has not been accepted by appellate courts in the United States. In spite of the claims made by graphologists, the courts have ruled that it does not meet the requirements of the kind of science that may be relied upon in a court of law. In those instances where a person's employment may have hinged upon a graphoanalytical evaluation, plaintiffs may sue an employer who used graphology in an employment decision.

Delving Deeper

"The Legal Implications of Graphology." Washington University Law Quarterly. [Online] 20 May 2002.

Loth, David. Crime Lab. New York: Julian Messner, 1964.

Lowe, Sheila R. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis. New York: Alpha Books, 1999.

McNichol, Andrea. Handwriting Analysis: Putting It to Work for You. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.

Santoy, Claude. The ABC's of Handwriting Analysis: A Guide to Techniques and Interpretations. New York: Marlowe & Co., 2001.

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Handwriting Analysis

Handwriting Analysis

The history of handwriting analysis to assess personality, today called graphology, could be said to extend back to Confucius, who wrote: "Beware of the man whose writing sways like a reed in the wind." The first extensive work on handwriting analysis dates to 1622, when an Italian physician named Camillo Baldi published A Method to Recognize the Nature and Quality of a Writer from His Letters. In this book, Baldi stated the fundamental premise that continues to guide handwriting analysis today: "It is obvious that all persons write in their own peculiar way . . . Characteristic forms . . . cannot be truly imitated by anybody else." In other words, like snowflakes, every person's writing is unique.

Over the following three centuries, Italian, French, and German investigators attempted to place the fledgling science of graphology on a firmer scientific footing. In particular, they linked graphology with Gestalt psychology, maintaining that handwriting originates in the brain and therefore betrays characteristics of the writer's mental makeup, even when done with a writing implement held in the other hand, the mouth, or the toes. They believed that the components of writing, such as pressure, speed, interruptions, variations in emphasis, the length and angle of upstrokes and downstrokes, and the upward or downward slope of writing on the paper, can be quantitatively measured and used to form a psychological profile of the writer.

In the context of modern forensic science , experts sharply distinguish graphology from true handwriting analysis. Graphology, scientists attest, is a pseudoscience, a fun but not scientifically valid parlor game, like palm reading, although many corporations take it seriously enough to hire graphology experts to profile job candidates. While graphology is not regarded as forensic evidence , it is still often used in combination with other techniques to profile criminals to aid authorities in their investigations. In the 1940s and 1950s, for example, graphology may have helped authorities track down George Metesky, the "Mad Bomber" of New York City. During the investigation of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old girl found dead in the basement of her Boulder, Colorado, home in 1996, various experts closely examined the three-page, handwritten ransom note found in the home, attempting to provide a psychological profile of the note's writer and even to identify the killer. In 2002, graphologists had some success profiling the "D.C. sniper" who terrorized the Washington, D.C., area, but skeptics argue that the authorities resorted to graphology out of desperation in trying to break the case.

More commonly, forensic scientists use handwriting analysis for two more limited and defined purposes. One is to authenticate documents such as records, diaries, wills, and signatures. In 1983, for example, a German publisher claimed to have in its possession a collection of sixty-two notebooks that were the handwritten diaries of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Handwriting analysts compared the writing in the diaries with known samples of Hitler's handwriting and concluded that the diaries were authentic. Later analysis of the paper and ink, though, showed that Hitler could not have written them, and investigation revealed that they were the work of a clever forger who was able to imitate Hitler's handwriting (so successfully that one of the known samples used by the handwriting experts was itself a forgery by the same person). A similar case involved the 1991 claim by a man from Liverpool, England, that he had in his possession a sixty-three-page diary and that its author, one James Mayrick, was the infamous Jack the Ripper, who brutally murdered five London prostitutes in 1888. While analysis of the paper and ink showed that the diary was not written with modern materials, handwriting analysts concluded that it was a fake, noting that most of the writing was done in just a few sittings and that some of the flourishes in the handwriting were added later, likely in an effort to make the document look more authentic.

The second purpose for which handwriting analysis is used is to link a specimen of handwriting with a crime suspect by comparing the suspect's handwriting with, for example, the handwriting on a ransom note or other communication linked to a crime. The purpose is not to profile the writer but to determine if the same hand produced a document known to have been written by the suspect, called an exemplar or standard, and the document in question. One of the first noteworthy cases in which handwriting analysis of this type was used was the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr., the infant son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh. During the investigation, Lindbergh received fourteen notes from the kidnapper. Handwriting analysis later linked these notes to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was convicted and executed for the crime.

Handwriting analysts try to maintain a strict protocol with criminal suspects. They do not show the suspect the questioned document. They do not tell the suspect how to spell certain words or how to use punctuation. The suspect is to use writing materials similar to those of the questioned document. The dictated text should in some respects match the content of the questioned document so that the spelling and handwriting of certain words and phrases can be compared. The text the suspect is to write out should be dictated at least three times. And a witness should observe the procedure.

In either type of casewhether authenticating documents or investigating criminal suspectshandwriting analysts begin from the premise that while most people learn to write using a certain system, such as the Palmer or Zaner-Blosser system, they develop idiosyncrasies in the way they form letters and words. These idiosyncrasies become fixed and remain constant over time, even when the person is attempting to disguise his or her writing.

For comparison, analysts generally focus on four categories of factors that define a person's writing. The first is form: the shape of letters, their proportion, slant, lines, angles, retracing, connection, and curves. One writer, for example, might begin a t at the top and make a single straight line down, while another may begin at the bottom and form a loop. Similarly, a writer may form the vertical line of a d with an upstroke, then retrace downward to finish the letter, while another writer may form a loop rather than retracing. One person's capital A might be round and fat, another's thin and angular. One person's cross on a t may slope up, another's may be horizontal, and yet another's may slope downward. The second category is line quality, which results from the pressure exerted and the type of writing instrument and includes the continuity and flow of the writing. Thus, pauses can be discerned, and these pauses tend to take place in predictable patterns. The third category is arrangement, which includes spacing, alignment, formatting, and punctuation. Document examiners also look at a final category, content, which includes spelling, phrasing, grammar, sentence formation, and the like.

The central question is whether handwriting analysis is a valid forensic technique. The Hitler Diaries showed that even trained document examiners can be fooled, but for three decades it was regarded as valid and reliable evidence in court under the so-called Frye standard, which said that judges had to accept any form of expert testimony, including that of handwriting analysts, based on techniques generally accepted by scientists. The existence of such groups as the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners suggest that a community of scientists generally accepted the premises and techniques of handwriting analysis. Further, the U.S. Secret Service and the German law enforcement agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, maintain that their computer databases, the Forensic Information System for Handwriting (FISH), prove that among a large sample of writers, no two share the same combination of handwriting characteristics.

Since 1993, though, the admissibility of handwriting analysis has come under intense scrutiny. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, created the stricter Daubert standard, which gives federal judges under the Federal Rules of Evidence more discretion in admitting or excluding scientific testimony. Specifically, it requires judges to determine whether a theory or technique has been tested, whether it has been submitted to peer review, whether standards exist for applying the technique, and what its error rate is. Under this stricter standard, virtually any forensic technique, including handwriting analysis and even such venerable tools as fingerprint comparison, could be questioned and excluded.

One federal ruling dealt a severe blow to the admissibility of handwriting analysis. In United States v. Saelee (2001), a federal court ruled that handwriting analysis had never been adequately tested, raising "serious questions about the reliability of methods currently in use" (162 F.Supp.2d 1097 [D.Alaska 2001]). The court went on to say that "the technique of comparing known writings with questioned documents appears to be entirely subjective and entirely lacking in controlling standards." In later cases, however, such as United States v. Prime (220 F.Supp.2d 1203 [W.D. Wash., 2002]), the courts examined the issue and ruled that such testimony was admissible under the Daubert standard.

see also Criminal profiling; Document forgery; Expert witnesses; Federal Rules of Evidence; Frye standard; Hitler Diaries; Howard Hughes' will; Lindbergh kidnapping and murder; Pseudoscience and forensics; Questioned documents.

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The study of handwriting, involving the interpretation of character and personality traits. Empirical interpretation of handwriting dates back to ancient times. Aristotle claimed that he could define a person's soul by his way of writing. Suetonius noted that Emperor Augustus did not separate his words when writing and concluded that this demonstrated a neglect of detail when forming a picture of a whole situation.

In the seventeenth century Camillo Baldi published a small Latin treatise called De Signis ex Epistolis (1622). Graphology was systematized in nineteenth-century France when the Abbé Flandrin (1809-64) made a detailed study of autographs. In 1872 Adolphe Desbarolles published Les mystères de l'écriture; art de juger les hommes sur leurs autographes. Since then there have been many books on graphology, often falling somewhere between scientific principle and popular occultism.

Although modern graphologists have evolved a scientific rationale that assigns particular significance to the slope of handwriting, the formation of individual letters, size of characters, joinings and disjoinings of letters, and so on, interpretation remains largely subjective and allows considerable room for the practitioner's psychic ability to operate and add material. Some graphologists allow the handwriting itself to convey impressions in much the same way as objects function in psychometry. Perhaps one's signature is the most characteristic piece of handwriting, for consciously or unconsciously it becomes a kind of symbolic self-portrait, indicating the personality as a whole. In this it resembles the magic sigil of celestial intelligences. Part of the perennial attraction of autograph collecting and book signing is the emotional association with great or famous individuals as represented by their signatures.

Graphology is to be sharply delineated from handwriting analysis. The latter is concerned with establishing the authenticity of writing and signatures, and such analysts are frequently called upon to make judgments in legal situations. Graphology has made some progress toward respectability, however. Some corporations now employ graphologists to elucidate staff applications, and police authorities have been known to hire graphologists to analyze the writing of criminals.


Byrd, Anita. Handwriting Analysis: A Guide to Personality. New York: Arco, 1982.

Casewit, Curtis. Graphology Handbook. Rockport, Mass.: Para Research, 1980.

Friedenhain, Paula. Write and Reveal: Interpretation of Handwriting. London, 1959.

Golson, K. K. Presidents Are People. New York: Carlton Press, 1964.

Jacoby, H. J. Analysis of Handwriting. London: Allen & Unwin, 1929.

Kurdsen, Stephen. Graphology: The New Science. Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Books, 1971.

Lowengard, Manfred. How to Analyze Your Handwriting. London: Marshall Cavendish, 1975.

Marcuse, Irene. The Key to Handwriting Analysis. New York: R. M. McBride, 1959.

Moretti, Girolamo M. The Saints Through Their Handwriting. New York: Macmillan, 1964.

Schang, F. C. Visiting Cards of Celebrities. Paris: Gale Research, 1973.

Solomon, Shirl. How to Really Know Yourself Through Your Handwriting. New York: Taplinger, 1974. Reprint, London: Coronet, 1975.

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graph·ol·o·gy / graˈfäləjē/ • n. 1. the study of handwriting, for example, as used to infer a person's character. 2. Linguistics the study of written and printed symbols and of writing systems. DERIVATIVES: graph·o·log·i·cal / ˌgrafəˈläjikəl/ adj. graph·ol·o·gist / -jist/ n.

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"graphology." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 28 Apr. 2017 <>.

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